Monday, July 09, 2012

Unhappy Hour

At the weekend I learned of a pub in England where they have a weekly 'Unhappy Hour'. The idea is that moaners should vent their feelings about whatever menaces their God-given entitlement to be contented, and this with passion and eloquence. The customer deemed to have delivered the most grandiose grip is rewarded with a half-full pint glass of the landlord's finest brew. Which, of course, raises the question of whether said glass is perhaps half-empty?

Your e-book is reading you!

At Unhappy Hour I might protest loudly, railing against a further encroachment upon our right to privacy, how 'in my day' such a thing would have been unthinkable.

Some context... The WSJ has an article here, including the following paragraph. 
"The major new players in e-book publishing... Amazon, Apple and Google... can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading."

Fiendish, no? Amazon knows that I read most often between 19 and 22 hours of an evening, that I commonly complete the reading of an e-book on three consecutive evenings, that I do not use bookmarks or highlight passages... they don't know much more than that. That at the same time I am drinking Chateau Tetrapak and munching Swiss whole-wheat crackers with Swiss cheese (Appenzeller or Greyerzer preferably) and assuredly not dressed in a manner appropriate for receiving visitors... that they still do not know!

As the WSJ story reports, there are many who feel that this collection of data regarding reader behaviour is somehow improper. I fail to share their concern.

Were I to learn as a writer that a significant number of readers tend to end their session at a particular point in my manuscript might I not learn something about the structure of my storytelling? When I was producing soap opera we did our best to mine the minute-by-minute ratings data in our quest to have some knowledge of our audience.

So I guess I wouldn't win at Unhappy Hour. And my glasses are always half-full!

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