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Big Brother Reads Novels…With You.


If we were to dive into that reader space, we could see they picked up a book, read the first five pages in five hours, then never picked up and engaged with the book again. What does that say, if 90% of readers stop after chapter five? It certainly provides insight for the publisher and the author.”…Continue Reading

Does it bother you that your e-readers and their manufacturers know where you stopped reading the last time you put down a novel,  how many pages you skipped, how long it took you to finish, and the passages you highlighted and bookmarked (what of marginal comments…Ugh)? It used to be that publishers only knew that you bought so and so novel. But now they have access to significant amounts of information about your reading habit. Publishers not only now know what books are selling really fast but also what books people are reading really fast. They also know what passages are popular and might also be able to guess what characters are not so popular. Guess what! Publishers and the e-book guys are pretty psyched. But is anyone not concerned about reader privacy? Right now, the expectation is that e-book manufacturers are not irresponsibly sharing the information they gather with other stakeholders in the industry, but it does bother me that anyone at all can monitor the way I read. Reading is such a private experience that I find it more than mildly disturbing that a big corporation is looking over my shoulder while I read. The era of reading in silence and in private is clearly over. What a bummer! I guess every act of reading is now a form of public reading. It’s like we’ve come full circle from a thousand years ago when reading in silence and in private was thought to be absurd. Why is Amazon reading Things Fall Apart with me? I thought Kindle was supposed to make reading more private than a real book, like I could actually read a mommy porn while on the train and no one would know. How private is reading an e-book when Amazon knows where I bookmarked. And yeah, you guessed right. They’re not being upfront with readers about all this stuff.

But what does e-brother know about big-brother? You’ll find this oddly ironic.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, says Amazon, is the 608th most-highlighted book it sells. “‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past'” has been marked by 349 Kindle users, while “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever” has been highlighted by 195. What would George have said?


Image: Andres Denkberg via

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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