Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reading experiences: More on ebooks (and the power of samples!)

In the past few years, my reading experiences have broadened to regularly include graphic novels, ebooks, and audiobooks. As someone who can't even remember not knowing how to read, and who gets twitchy when I don't have a book in hand, this feels like a substantial shift. How did it come about? Can stories in different formats have the same effect on me? And how might these new formats change my reading habits?

So far I've shared my thoughts on audiobooks and my latest toy, Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch. Today I want to talk about another aspect of the ereader experience: samples.


As I'm sure many of you realize, before purchasing a book on an ereader, a buyer is frequently able to download a sample of the first 10-50 pages of the book (of course, these samples are also often available online or as pdf downloads, on publishers and authors' pages, as well as Amazon). As a regular and critical reader, I've come to love sample reading. Perhaps a little too much.


On the one hand, sample reading encourages me to really consider whether or not I want to purchase a given book. Perhaps I've heard good reviews, and friends have enjoyed it, but the subject matter isn't really my thing, or the topic seems interesting, but my book buying budget has been depleted. If I absolutely love the first pages, and can't wait to read more, I'll go ahead and buy it (book budget be damned!). But if I find I don't really care what happens next, why should I spend approximately $10 on the book?


I mostly think this is a good thing. Books can find readers who will truly love them. Readers can try out books they wouldn't necessarily have bought on word-of-mouth recommendation alone. 


One the other hand, I've gotten a tinge obsessive about my sample reading. It's great fun to download loads of samples, and to peek into loads of books. But I've found myself rejecting almost as many. Perhaps the sample is only 10 pages, and I'm enjoying myself, but not riveted. Should I purchase the book or not? What if it gets good? But what if it gets worse? Of course everyone from agents to publishers to readers makes decisions on a book depending on those first few pages. But does this sample fetish of mine mean I'm passing over books even more quickly? Perhaps automatically rejecting those with slower, gentler beginnings? I suspect so.


Has anyone else out there developed a sample fetish? What does it take to convince you to buy a book?

10 comments:

  1. Sample reading is virtual bookstore browsing, minus the bookstore ambiance. (Sorry. Can’t seem to ponder this brave new age without getting the nostalgia hanky out.)
    I bought so many books I had never heard of before, after reading the first few pages in a bookstore.

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    1. That's really true... and there's nothing like wandering a bookstore, picking up whatever you fancy, staring at the cover, the back, paging through... but it IS nice to read samples from my living room couch. Guess that's the only benefit!

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  2. Yes. I used to do my sample reading during my bookstore browses. Now that I have an e-reader, I download so many samples. It helps to get the "flavor" of a book on my own time before I purchase or not.

    Also as a writer, I love reading how authors open their novels. Great learning experience.

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    1. Ohhh, I hadn't even thought of that, Karen, but it's so absolutely true! What a great way to get some ideas about beginnings!

      "Flavor" is a great word for it. I really appreciate having that sample taste.

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  3. I think the big difference between virtual browsing vs. in person, is that you *only* get those first however many pages wit the ereader. Whereas in the store you can flip a bit further into the book to skim other passages to give the book another chance to grab you.

    I love samples, but do find them less useful than "real" browsing.

    All said though, I'm buying and reading many more books since I got my ereader. Not having to store them (or find a way to pass them along/donate them, which is not easy where I'm at) is liberating.

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    1. Yes, I find it so maddening to have a sample suddenly end (and they never end in a logical place--rather often mid-sentence!)!

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  4. I like sampling but prefer real browsing. I haven't given much thought to my purchase habits after I've sampled but will now that you've planted that seed in my head. :)

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    1. I think I only noticed because I've been sampling a lot of books lately, but not buying so many! Maybe I've just been reading a series of some real duds!

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  5. I totally do the same thing on my Nook. It's almost like choice overload. I sample tons of books but only read a few of them. It's fun but also feels a little schizophrenic. :-)

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    1. Hah! So glad to hear I'm not alone in doing this, Anna! It does feel a little disorienting, and perhaps even habit forming! ;)

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