Andrew Rhomberg: How and Why We Measure a Book’s Audience

JellybooksIn his workshop at Digital Book World 2016 titled “Data-Smart Publishing,” Jellybooks Founder Andrew Rhomberg described the process by which his company measures reader analytics, and also explained why publishers should be paying more attention to this growing field.

The problem, Rhomberg said, is that authors and publishers cannot effectively measure reader engagement. “We still know almost nothing about readers, according to Rhomberg, “especially in trade publishing.”

Put simply, many publishers are under the impression that they don’t need to fully understand who’s buying their books or even why. The only thing they really care about is simply that readers are in fact buying their books.

But according to Rhomberg, there’s much more to the story that publishers could be uncovering, and by better understanding their audiences, publishers can better target them, increase recommendations and, by extension, improve overall sales.

Ebook reading occurs offline, Rhomberg said, and all the reading takes place in third-party platforms, which the publishers cannot see. Amazon, Apple and Google therefore gather a ton of reader data that publishers are not privy to.

What Jellybooks offers is a way to get around that.

Calling the company’s service basically “Google Analytics for ebooks,” Jellybooks embeds a javascript into EPUB 3-based ebooks to track readers. All readers who are tracked are fully aware, having received the ebook for free in exchange for access to their data.

The mechanism by which the readers are tracked is simple: at the end of each chapter, as well as at the end of the book, readers just click a button that connects them online to sync.

The two primary ways Jellybooks engages readers to participate is through a closed email list mailing and an invite-only webpage asking them to sign up.

Among the data that Jellybooks tracks for are three key performance indicators (KPIs) that are of special significance to publishers: completion rate (how many readers actually finish the book), velocity (how quickly readers finish the book) and recommendation factor (for those who finished the book, how likely it is that they would recommend it).

The last KPI is perhaps the most important, as, according to Rhomberg, “people who do not finish books do not recommend them”—an important reason why publishers need to better understand how readers are reading their books.

The service currently works in Apple iBooks, Adobe Digital Editions and Ebook Reader.


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2 thoughts on “Andrew Rhomberg: How and Why We Measure a Book’s Audience

  1. Barbara Miller

    It’s never been clear to me that this type of minutiae makes a difference in the long run. VCs invest and track –and to some degree, success, even of a good product, or book, is not always predictable.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Miller

    Some other thoughts . . . Folks who read regularly just move on to the next book whether they do or don’t like or finish a book. A negative comment is worse than no comment. One who hears a comment or reads a review needs to be aware of who is commenting. This is more of an issue for those who either don’t read regularly or are not in a network of readers.

    Reply

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