eBook publishers are spying on us

More and more people are enjoying the convenience of books in electronic form, whether you use dedicated devices like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, or software solutions like Google’s reader. Indeed, Forrester Research has said that sales of eBooks has surpassed that of printed books in the first quarter of 2012. If you use these electronic solutions, the Wall Street Journal wants to remind you that companies are gathering data about you.

When reading a physical book, publishers have no idea what passages you enjoy, how long it takes you to read, or what you do once you finish the book. Now that many people are reading digital books, companies are acquiring a plethora of data that can be mined in order to gain better insights into what people want. As an example, Barnes and Noble now knows that the first thing most people do after finishing the first Hunger Games book is to go online and buy the second book.

This information, while helpful to publishers and marketers, has a negative side as well. More personal data is being collected about individual than ever before and with the advancement of data mining and big data tools, the ability to boil behaviors down into simple mathematical numbers is becoming easier and easier. Because of this, many people feel that companies should not be allowed to record book reading habits. Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said, “There's a societal ideal that what you read is nobody else's business. Right now, there's no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I don't want you to track what I'm reading." There’s also the legal aspect to consider. Right now, law enforcement can demand the reading history from any customer without court approval, something that EFF wants to change.

Technology does a great job giving us information at our fingertips, but it’s been at the expense of personal privacy. It remains to be seen whether convenience or privacy will win out in the long term.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Image via: Anne K. Albert

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