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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 27
Jan
2011

Metrics

What Max Reckons I can’t believe people keep getting surprised by Facebook. They use your personal information to make money. They have no financial interest in your privacy but a huge one in eroding it. It’s been like that since forever. I saw a guy post that he was “continuously shocked” by Facebook’s privacy invasions. How can you be continuously shocked? At some point, don’t you realize this is simply the way it is?

Anyway. I didn’t mean to write about Facebook. I meant to write about technology. I’m allowed to do more geeky blogs this year, because I have a book coming out about cyborgs. So check this out. This is Amazon’s AuthorCentral Metrics. It shows how many of my books are being sold and where:

This is a free service to authors. There’s also a history:

Last time I had a book published, I had to wait ten months for a royalty statement to find out whether anyone bought it. Machine Man I’ll be able to follow in almost-real-time. I’m not sure whether that’s useful for anything, other than satisfying impatience. But still.

Here’s what I really want. The screenshot below is from YouTube. A while back I uploaded a video of my daughter being incredibly cute. YouTube tracks whether people watch all the way to the end, and, if not, where they give up, to create a graph of “attention.”

I want this for books. I would kill for it. I want to know at which point people are putting my books down, or giving up on them, so I can write better ones next time. I want to know which parts they re-read. It’s got to be possible now, with e-readers. Get on that, Amazon.

Comments

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Mark (#2176)

Location: Ohio, USA
Posted: 3184 days ago

Very simple answer to your question. I read the entire book!
Can't wait for Machine Man to come out in hardback. I have
Everyone of your books in first editions. Love them all
and they are proudly displayed in my bookcase.
Mark in Ohio USA.

DewKnight (#815)

Location: WP, CO,USA
Quote: "Booyah"
Posted: 3184 days ago

Colorado loves your books! Or maybe just me, I may have purchased a ton of copies...

Billy McMahon (#4690)

Location: Variable
Quote: "revolution"
Posted: 3184 days ago

Glad I refused to join Facebook. Little benefit, in my opinion, and a large window into one's private life, where some are judged not only by their words and deeds, but by those of people marginally affiliated with them.

As for the map, I'll claim contribution towards Florida, though not the #14 region... I was on the east coast of Florida when I got your 3 books from Amazon.

Do you really want to know where people stop reading? It's going to be different for so many people who decide to quit. Furthermore, you would have to find a line to draw between "taking a break for sleep" and "never going to finish". Where to put it? Surely, I've put down a book for a day, a week, once or twice even for several months or years (though that usually merits a restart). I would then assume for it to be considered "User 2943619B stopped reading your book on page 118," a significant period of time would have passed to warrant such a judgment, which can't be wholly accurate in all cases (consider also loosing an ebook reader, falling ill, dying, etc, which would render a similar result). This large amount of time for the small, very scattered statistics to start trickling in seems counter to what you expressed wanting with instant observation of other things. Maybe if readers would just press a "I'm done with this book" button at a certain point, it would work. Anyway, it's an interesting idea.

Machine Man subscriber SRD (#2889)

Location: Ogden, Utah
Posted: 3184 days ago

Like.

Machine Man subscriber Michael Crider (#3054)

Location: Colorado, United States
Posted: 3184 days ago

Amazon's already keeping track of this in their Kindle infrastructure. When I read on my smartphone or tablet, a progress bar shows haw far I am in each book:

gumshoedesigns.squarespace.com/storage/snap20110128_002554.png
I'm halfway through Altered Carbon, and I'm likely to stay that way.

Now I don't know if this information goes anywhere but my Droid (and since you didn't include it, Max, I'm assuming that you certainly don't have access to anything like it), but I'm sure it all exists in some Orwellian database somewhere.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 3184 days ago

I just like the opportunity to skew Max's figures.... muhahahaha!

Michael Lederman (#4778)

Location: United States
Quote: "I read therefore I am"
Posted: 3184 days ago

Max,
Since we communicated some few years ago, before this blog I told you my one and only complaint with you and that is your not nearly prolific enough to suit me. Call me an arrogant American but if I was your publisher I'd chain you to a desk 24/7 and have your meals delivered just to have you write.

I've introduced dozens, (I'm being modest here) to your work and have yet to find a single person who upon reading one of your books, isn't clamoring for more. Your writing style is amazing and your imagination is without par in todays world of fiction.

To the point, you wonder when people who pick up your book, will then put it down. I can answer this query for you from personal knowledge. Anyone who picks up your books will no doubt put them down upon FINISHING THEM. This will include the times they wake their spouse to read a particularly amusing passage only to realize that said spouse has fallen back to sleep in the middle since you didn't know when to stop as each additional passage was again worty of reading aloud.

No I'm not getting a divorce any time soon but upon second thought perhaps your rate of writing is what is keeping that from happening.

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 3184 days ago

Don't be silly, Max. No one puts your books down.

Machine Man subscriber Chemical Rascal (#3964)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Don't read this. It's not relevant to anything. Go away."
Posted: 3184 days ago

You know, it wouldn't really be all that hard to do, provided you can work it into one of the formats - Simply record the last-most page that was read. The issue is, though, that unlike video, people might have a tendency to skip over certain segments, and that can't really be determined.

Unless the Kindle 4 tracks iris movement, that is.

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: the Stygian Empire
Quote: "Flesh is a design flaw."
Posted: 3184 days ago

Don't forget audiobooks. Syrup was pretty impressive as an audiobook (granted it was free with my Audible trial).

Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 3184 days ago

Those stats really are pretty cool. And yeah, Facebook more or less exists to exploit your privacy, so considering that, they actually give you a LOT of options for controlling its exploitation. Fairly impressive, I'd say.

Daniel DiFranco (#243)

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: "Panic Years, a novel, out Spring 2018."
Posted: 3184 days ago

Hey Max,

It seems that the e-reader folks are already on top of that. Though, it seems they're not telling. Even Mr. Stephen King has put in his two cents.

www.npr.org/2010/12/15/132058735/is-your-e-book-reading-up-on-you

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "people are kind of overrated "
Posted: 3184 days ago

I only happen to put it down if I have to work, eat, sleep, you know the necessities.
I read Company in a day.
So tell us, Max, when will Machine Man be out?

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 3183 days ago

max, having such a critter might not tell you as much as you think. consider web site statistics: you can find out from what page people leave the site, for example, but it won't tell you why. did they find what they were looking for, and left? or did they give up and leave? etc.

of course a book is an entirely different beast, and you want people to read it all, sure. but i can imagine the horror of finding out that 89% of readers who didn't finish the book left on page 126, but being utterly unable to find out why.

anyway, isn't it a little... umm... schizoid to want to invade your readers' e-book privacy in the same post as you bemoan the lack of privacy in FB? or are you developing Evil Overlord tendencies?

anyway thanks for the notice on e-book privacy. soooo glad i have a Sony. it won't rat me out for failing to finish James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience".

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 3163 days ago

What damn difference does it make when people quit, or if, if they've already paid for the book? Gotta keep your eye on the ball here...

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