In the (not-so) good ol’ days, literary agents and acquisition editors acted as gatekeepers, shutting a plethora of bad manuscripts out of the publishing process and letting only a chosen few of the best reach the reader. Although the system was not perfect – an awful lot of good manuscripts never made it though the gate and some pretty trite stuff did – readers could be assured that any book they bought would meet a minimal standard of professional production.
Now, when anybody can self-publish anything without restriction, some wonderful books are lost in a sea of unedited, badly-formatted, thoughtless crap.
Buying and reading a book is an investment of a bit of your money and a lot of your time. You are only allotted a finite number of hours in your life, so it’s not a decision that you should take lightly.
What are you, avid reader, to do?
One clue – bestseller lists – gives you a place to start, but it has problems. It tells you how many people bought a book, but not how many people read it. Authors give ebooks away for a while to try to capture an audience. But if the book is free, many people download it and never get around to reading it before they delete it from their ereader to make more space.
There is an obvious solution to this shortcoming.
EBook readers could be modified so that they automatically collect and disclose the most important information about a book – how much of the book people actually read.
It would be a free service that you subscribe to. In exchange for letting your ereader send reports about your progress through the book that you are reading, you would be able to see graphs of how far other people read through other books.
When you want to buy a new book, you would look for graphs in which the number of people reading the last page is as high as the number of people reading the first page. You would avoid books that many people may have started, but no one ever finished.
It would be both necessary and easy to make the service completely anonymous. Nobody would know which books you have read. Your ereader would send only the book’s identifier and a page count. It would never send your name or any information about you.
Not only would readers find this useful information, but writers would benefit as much or more because they could see where their book was losing readers.
This would be implemented first as an app on tablets because they are easily programmable. Once its utility was clear, the same functionality would be built into dedicated readers like the Kindle and Nook.
I’m too busy writing novels to do this myself so, if anyone else wants to give it a shot, feel free.