Guess what? Not only does your e-reader give you books to read, but it can also supply data on how you read - where you stop reading, whether you go to the end, how long it takes to read. This raises lots of questions about things like privacy, but I wondered: how will this affect writers?
If non-fiction tends to be put down after 50,000 words, will publishers only buy works of that length? Will writers cut down on their word counts because they know 50,000 is the 'right' length, even though the subject demands it?
If we know that many readers skip the descriptions will we stop writing them? If literary fiction is read more slowly, will even fewer literary novels get published as slow read = fewer sales.
What really worries me is that, as a writer, I don't see how you can write anything worth reading unless it comes from your heart and guts. You have to believe, utterly, if the reader is to believe along with you.
All this data is head stuff. It's like writing for the market, the tail wagging the dog. The customer may always be right, but sometimes the customer doesn't know what it is they want until they see it - isn't that how Steve Jobs made Apple the company it is by giving people what they didn't know they wanted?
Many things have worried me about publishing over the last couple of years, but they've seemed all answerable by putting one's head down and just plugging away at writing the best book you can. But this worries me the most because the best book you can write will be written with the potential customer saying 'add a bit of this, take that bit out'.
Mind you, I suppose it's like someone suggesting that they supply the ideas, you do the writing and you split the profits. The answer (which I've never actually given, being too polite) is, go and write your own b****y book and leave me to get on with mine.