Big Kindle is watching you - Macleans.ca

Big Kindle is watching you

Amazon knows what readers are highlighting

by

As Amazon explains on its site, “The Amazon Kindle, Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for iPad each provide a very simple mechanism for adding highlights” and this information is available to Amazon, which, as the company says itself, it uses to “combine the highlights of all Kindle customers and identify the passages with the most highlights.” Why? To “help readers to focus on passages that are meaningful to the greatest number of people.” So what is the most popular passage highlighted by Kindle readers? It’s the following not-quite-a-full-sentence from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which was highlighted by 1,700 readers: “… three things–autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward–are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.” The next eleven places on the list are for passages from either William P. Young’s The Shack, or Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. No other book enters the list until number 12, when Mitch Albom’s bon mots from Have a Little Faith start getting highlighted. Commentators are split on just how creepy this is. Rebekah Denn wrote, “I do find the idea that such information is being tracked post-purchase a little odd, almost as if the supermarkets tracking my food-buying habits were also measuring whether I made omelets or scrambles once I got my eggs home. But I also admit to being curious about just what the information means.” Others, however, have been a little less equivocal in their opinion—as a report at Gigaom.com notes, “Several users have expressed surprise at the move, calling it ’scary,’ as well as ‘nasty’ and ’spooky.’” At Bnet.com, Damon Brown agrees: “This bold, unnecessary move,” he says, “may erode consumer trust and hurt Kindle book sales, two things Amazon can’t afford as it wages war against Apple.” Brown notes that “Amazon is publishing what are, essentially, readers’ private thoughts.”

Melville House Publishing

Filed under: