I recently read The Circle, Dave Egger’s dystopian novel about a benevolent Internet company that eerily creeps into every aspect of our lives, taking it over, one smiley emoticon at a time. Think about it like this: a company encompasses Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and then it begins to partner with the government.
At a reception to launch a new collection of Lucille Clifton’s poems (The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010), the editor of the volume, Kevin Young, described coming across a folder in Clifton’s archives at Emory University. The folder had been labeled “Unpublished Poems.” That label had been scratched out and replaced by something like, “Poems that really aren’t that good and should probably just be thrown away someday.” That label too had been scratched out and replaced with “Bad poems.”
Ten years ago, I studied readers of the then popular Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic novels. If I conducted that study today, I would potentially have access to far more objective data about readers than I did. How quickly do they read? Where do they stop reading? What passages do they mark? Do they write notes in the margins?
E-books are providing companies with the opportunity for all of this information and more about people who use e-readers like the Nook and Kindle.