Your eReader is Watching You – What, Again?

You’ve probably already read the hot story today. The Wall Street Journal just noticed that the major ereader companies can track what and how you’re reading. It’s causing all sorts of buzz as it gets reposted on tech blogs. Everyone is reporting on how we suddenly no longer have any privacy.

Folks, I don’t see how this is actually new news, but I’m going to jump on the bandwagon anyway. WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

But seriously, this is one of those types of stories that gets revived every once in a long while, covered intensively by blogs, and then forgotten by the following week. This particular topic has popped up at least once before, and probably more often than that.

The last time I recall this topic scaring everyone was in December 2009. The EFF released a chart comparing the relative lack of privacy of the then 5 major ebook platforms. There’s also a second chart from January 2010 which had much more data (FBReader was included but not Kobo or iBooks).

But do you know what gets me? It’s not that this is a non-news story; no. I’m astounded by the fact that no one is putting it into perspective. For example, for the longest time now B&N has been sending out marketing emails based on past purchases and even your searches in the Nook Store. And even Amazon pitches ebooks to you based on what you read.

Now, you might argue that today’s news involves a much deeper look into what readers are doing, but that’s not the case.

Kobo in particular has been doing exactly what is described in this article for at least 18 months now – quite openly, too. That’s how long they’ve been issuing badges based on your reading accomplishments. Kobo can do that because the “Reading Life” feature watches readers very closely. Note that this isn’t just for info you choose to share; it also includes pretty much anything you do with their app or ereader.

And even the detail about B&N sharing info with publishers is nothing new; the new ebookstore Bilbary has been doing that since it launched. That was even one of the points pitched to publishers when they were being signed.

What’s more, we live in a day and age where every electronic activity is tracked: credit cards, web browsing, social networking, everything. I would think that most people would assume they’re being tracked; I means, how else could Google serve up the ads you see on search pages and in Gmail?

image by xddorox

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Gary29 June, 2012

    > a second chart from January 2010 which had much more data
    > (FBReader was included but not Kobo or iBooks)

    As an aside to the main post, iBooks wasn’t released until April 2010.

    There was another EFF update in December 2010 which did include the iPad/iBooks. It’s linked from just under the headline on the January 2010 page.

    1. Nate Hoffelder29 June, 2012

      Good point about April; I was thinking of the announcement.


  2. MikFinkel30 June, 2012

    Am surprised anyone is surprised!

    I just wish B&N could track my NC when I have my N2A memory card running.

    They could see I am just finishing a 13 book Tom Clancy ( Jack Ryan series ) from 2 of my local public libraries.

    I wish they would allow the overdrive app. oh well.

    I have had it with ADE. I attempted to use the Diesel app and ADE told me I have to many devices. No more ADE, it is just not worth the hassle.

    Back on point, anyone want to put money on how much info is mined from sat and cable boxes? BlueRay boxes for those of you who don’t have cable or satellite service?

    And for those of us old enough to remember, the defense Amazon put up when it came out they use TRACKING COOKIES to help you make better choices and to introduce items of interest to YOU?

    If it is thru the internet you are being tracked one way or another, period.

    Heck, walk down a main street or mall parking lot or the average new car dealership and you are ON CAMERA!

    Have a nice day all and Smile! You are in the electron world 🙂

  3. Jim T.2 July, 2012

    It would be nice if we knew as much about the people who are watching us as they know about us.


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