Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Shorter chapters increase the book completion rate by 25%

New data sources possibly on the horizon to shed some light on reading habits and processes according to an article in the New York Times published on Christmas Eve; As New Services Track Habits, the E-Books Are Reading You by David Streitfeld

The report is about two nascent businesses through which you subscribe to a library of e-books on a monthly basis, unlimited access. This gives the companies the capacity to begin to answer all sorts of questions about reading that have not been easily accessible before. For example, it has long been known that there is a fairly high abandonment rate (transaction begun but not completed) in the book reading process, i.e. how often does a reader actually complete the book they start? I have seen estimated abandonment rates as low as 10% and as high as 70% for the number of books readers begin but don’t complete.

These services, since they are digitized books, are able to glean transactional data. They know when you begin and when you finish, the interruptions between readings, the points where you abandon the book (if you do), etc. With this type of information you could answer all sorts of question. Examples from the article:
• “The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it.”
• “People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of yoga is all they need.”
• “They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.”
• The abandonment rate varies: What Women Want has a 0% abandonment rate. The Cycles of American History by Arthur Schlesinger has a 99% abandonment rate.
• Shorter chapters increase the book completion rate by 25%.
• Buzz is a poor correlate to reader completion: one romance with few reviews had a 40% abandonment rate. Another had hundreds of Amazon reviews but also had a 60% abandonment rate.
• In the romance with the 60% abandonment rate, apparently the abandonment occurred when the author veered into fantasy.
All sorts of caveats (the services are new and might not survive, e-reading patterns may be different than traditional reading, etc.).

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