This is the fourth in my musings on the book writing process. When my book comes out it will be freely available online, in HTML (I think). I don't know how the site will be constructed, but it strikes me that as an author this is potentially very interesting.
I'm at the Learning Analytics conference at the moment, and Tony has been talking about Google Analytics. I run this on my blog, and it's always interesting, but the type of data it might give a book author is more revealing. On my blog it tells me where people have come from, that most people tend to come from search, and come to one post only. That's probably what you'd expect.
But analytics on a book is a different thing. As an author you have no idea how people actually read your stuff or what they find interesting. Potentially (it will depend on how the site is constructed) it could show me the following:
- How long people read
- What elements are most popular
- What search terms bring people to my book (which could be seen as a proxy for what the audience really is)
- What sections are being linked to (and therefore are presumably of most use?)
- If people come back, which would be some indication of interest and relevance
You'd never know this stuff from a conventional book, which is one of the advantages of working this way. What would be interesting then would be if I did a rewrite of the book, how much this analytics might influence the process. If one chapter hardly ever got read, should I just excise it? Conversely should I expand a section that gets lots of links?
What I won't know is if there are different reading patterns for the physical book and the online version. I suspect people will tend to read the paper version in longer chunks, and the online one in a less linear fashion. But paper doesn't give me any data back, dammit.