Show me the data!

Last month, BookNet Canada (BNC) hosted its fifth annual tech forum, this year themed “Implementing digital: Putting the plan into practice”.

The folks at BNC always put together interesting programs, and they continue to draw a diverse book publishing audience. I particularly liked hearing from Patrick Brown, community manager at Goodreads, whose talk was titled “Reading is social: Building communities of readers online”.

Patrick’s talk reminded me of a Goodreads post that I had put aside about a month earlier. A member of the staff had mapped data sets that included member density, likelihood of reading Michael Pollan versus Stephaie Meyer, and reading differences across metropolitan areas.

From a statistical or a cartographic point of view, the post is not exactly pristine. However, the maps illustrate the potential to learn much more about reading habits and reader engagement than ever before.

You can see that engagement in the comments. Readers applaud the illustrations and begin to offer their own ideas about what might be going on in various areas. The conversation underscores how we want to know more about how we are alike, as well as how much we differ.

A number of social-reading services have been launched in the last few years. These include Goodreads, BookGlutton, ReadSocialAPI, LibraryThing, weRead, Bookjetty and Shelfari, as well as the platform-driven offerings from Kobo and Copia. These sites remind me of the “convening power” of national associations.

Social reading sites offer their own “convening power”, gathering data about readers and books that no one member can acquire on his or her own. As data becomes even more readily available and open, it seems likely that the analysis will migrate from the sites to the members. That could be the tipping point for truly social reading.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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