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View Full Version : Does anyone else feel rather insulted by these ebook "samples"?



LOG
09-29-2012, 07:08 AM
At least the ones on B&N?
If I'm lucky, I'll get ~30 pages, which would be great, if they had text from the actual story, but no.
These "samples" include the bloody front matter, so by the time I get through all of that, most samples only give me a few pages. It's a rare sample that actually gives me a thorough impression of the book. I'm lucky if I get a full chapter.
I'm still trying to decide whether the publishers keep it short intentionally . . .

Best samples I've ever seen are from Sword of Shadows series, thing gives me a few hundred pages in its samples (which is easy for them since they all break a thousand).

Kerosene
09-29-2012, 07:20 AM
It usually takes me a page to tell if I want to keep reading or not, so...

I think 30 pages is pretty long.

I just like to be given the first chapter. (or prologue+first chapter)

Then again, I don't know how they decided the sample sizes. Anyone wish to shine light on this?

I mostly use amazon, so if you pick the "kindle" version, it cuts straight to the first part (prologue included). Otherwise, you might need to fight your way through the cover (or bad scanner pics).
The B&N one does go from cover to, whatever they feel is a sample size.
I don't know others though, results vary I guess.

I've downloaded several samples on my kindle, that ended up to be 5 pages short and then just cut short. WTF?

Timmy V.
09-29-2012, 07:37 AM
At least the ones on B&N?
If I'm lucky, I'll get ~30 pages, which would be great, if they had text from the actual story, but no.
These "samples" include the bloody front matter, so by the time I get through all of that, most samples only give me a few pages. It's a rare sample that actually gives me a thorough impression of the book. I'm lucky if I get a full chapter.
I'm still trying to decide whether the publishers keep it short intentionally . . .

Best samples I've ever seen are from Sword of Shadows series, thing gives me a few hundred pages in its samples (which is easy for them since they all break a thousand).

i agree with your assessment. I have found the vast majority of samples to contain the acknowledgements, introductions/prologues and one to two pages of content. For me that is not sufficient either. Especially given that Kindle books are running $9.99 to $12.99 for the commercially successful books.

While I presume it is not intentional, the "sample" concept as presented on Kindle (in Kindle's case, don't know about B and N) does seem deceiving. One page of a 300 page book is not a sample. So while we might want to value it as something, I'm not sure what you would name what it is Kindle presents to you as a sample, but I think Kindle should call it something else. maybe a "very brief excerpt"

BenPanced
09-29-2012, 07:42 AM
I was surprised recently by a sample for the nook because it contained the first three and a half chapters of actual content. (I wound up not buying the book, but still.)

Susan Littlefield
09-29-2012, 07:46 AM
When I've followed online links to authors' books on Amazon, I've seen anywhere from the first few pages to one or two chapters. It doesn't matter to me one way or the other because I don't buy books on Amazon, I go into bookstores and leaf through the books there.

Niniva
09-29-2012, 07:47 AM
Smashwords automatically popped up 30 percent.

thothguard51
09-29-2012, 07:52 AM
In the majority of cases on Kindle, I have not had a problem with sample size as much as the sample itself.

LOG
09-29-2012, 09:31 AM
Smashwords automatically popped up 30 percent.
Eh?
30 percent of what?

Kewii
09-29-2012, 10:37 AM
I get most of my books from the Apple Bookstore (iBooks?) and have usually been pretty happy with the amount I get. There is a lot of front matter, but by the end I usually get at least 15 pages, if not 20 or 25 pages to read to decide if I want to buy it.

My first thought is it might be something legal that determines how much they can provide. I know when I was doing my honours the rule was also you can only photocopy 10% of a book before paying for it (or at least that was what we were always told). Maybe it's something like that?

leahzero
09-29-2012, 05:15 PM
Yeah, this drives me nuts, too. Sometimes there's an excerpt on the publisher or author's site, but man, if I have to track down that sample, you're not getting an impulse buy, pal. And I don't hunt for a sample unless I'm really interested in the first place. Sale lost.

It's because most publishers still don't know WTF they're doing with ebooks yet. They just upload without testing to see what the consumer experience is like.

I'm sure eventually this will get ironed out--either the publishers will set more generous previews, or Amazon will be forced to do it for them, which is more likely.

shadowwalker
09-29-2012, 05:31 PM
In the majority of cases on Kindle, I have not had a problem with sample size as much as the sample itself.

This is my problem with buying books online. I want to leaf through the thing, stop here and there and read, and decide that way if it will hold my interest. I don't want someone else picking what my sample is going to be, no matter how long it is.

veinglory
09-29-2012, 05:34 PM
Eh?
30 percent of what?

30% of the pages

LJD
09-29-2012, 06:02 PM
hmmm...I rarely read samples.
But if I did, I'd hate if a sample had less than 10 *real* pages.

Six Alaric
09-29-2012, 06:05 PM
These "samples" include the bloody front matter, so by the time I get through all of that, most samples only give me a few pages.

I run into the same thing on Amazon a lot.

Then there are the previews that finally get into the first chapter only to have a sudden gap and a message like 'Sign in to read pages 14-18' before the rest of the sample.

LBlankenship
09-29-2012, 06:06 PM
...strange, you know, when you think about it. In an ebook, why does "front matter" need to be at the front?

You could put it at the back, with a link on the TOC for those who want to see it.

LOG
09-29-2012, 08:12 PM
...strange, you know, when you think about it. In an ebook, why does "front matter" need to be at the front?

For the same reason front matter is in the front of print books I would imagine.

dangerousbill
09-29-2012, 08:54 PM
At least the ones on B&N?
If I'm lucky, I'll get ~30 pages, which would be great, if they had text from the actual story, but no.
These "samples" include the bloody front matter,


When they want me to pony up $10 to $15 for a bloody ebook that costs them nothing to print, store, and ship, I sure as hell want at least a full chapter first. So mostly, I don't buy.

shaldna
09-29-2012, 09:04 PM
It usually takes me a page to tell if I want to keep reading or not, so...

I think 30 pages is pretty long.

I just like to be given the first chapter. (or prologue+first chapter)

Then again, I don't know how they decided the sample sizes. Anyone wish to shine light on this?

Back when I last uploaded something (last year) there wasn't an option to pick which pages, only which percentage of the novel you wanted to offer as a sample.

IIRC you can offer up to 30% of your novel as a sample.

Old Hack
09-29-2012, 10:22 PM
When they want me to pony up $10 to $15 for a bloody ebook that costs them nothing to print, store, and ship, I sure as hell want at least a full chapter first. So mostly, I don't buy.

E-books need editing, designing and formatting, they require frequent updates and tweaks, they have to be offered for sale on a website, which requires software, people and a payment facility, and there's a real cost to servers and their maintenance. There are other costs too. They aren't free to make or maintain, or to offer for sale.

mscelina
09-29-2012, 10:31 PM
E-books need editing, designing and formatting, they require frequent updates and tweaks, they have to be offered for sale on a website, which requires software, people and a payment facility, and there's a real cost to servers and their maintenance. There are other costs too. They aren't free to make or maintain, or to offer for sale.

QFT. There's no such thing as a free e-book. You don't just slap a word document into a file format and paste a cover on it. There's a lot more to it than that. When you consider how many different file formats there really are, and pay for the manhours to create a single ebook in all those formats, the man hours start adding up. Then again, too, you probably aren't aware that publishers are charged a 'delivery fee' by the retailers--money that comes out of our profits to cover the costs of the customer's purchase of that ebook.

Also, publishers are restricted by the amount of content they can use for promotional purposes--which is what book excerpts are--contractually. As a writer, I don't want my publisher offering one third of my book for free. As a publisher, I don't want to offer significant action at the end of the book for free. That's like peeking at the presents under the tree and wrapping them back up before your mom gets back from the grocery store.

Cath
09-29-2012, 10:53 PM
It's pretty difficult to programmatically pick out the where the story starts in an electronic file. Unless the samples are hand coded, or built consistently from publisher to publisher so that a programmer has some kind of key to say 'here's where the story starts', it's difficult to exclude front matter and only serve up the story in the sample.

Jamesaritchie
09-29-2012, 11:40 PM
Guess we're all difefrent. I've never read trhough more than two or three pages before deciding on a book, even at a bookstore. More often than not, the first page does the story.

If I read thrugh even ten pages of every book I buy I'd be spending way, way, way too much time in bookstores.

J. Tanner
09-30-2012, 12:49 AM
It's pretty difficult to programmatically pick out the where the story starts in an electronic file. Unless the samples are hand coded, or built consistently from publisher to publisher so that a programmer has some kind of key to say 'here's where the story starts', it's difficult to exclude front matter and only serve up the story in the sample.

For Kindle books (not sure for epubs but I'd guess it's similar) the programmer has a key to say 'here's where the story starts':


<reference title="Start" type="text" href="[XXXX]" />

It's used fairly universally as far as I can tell. I don't recall reading a book on my Kindle that didn't go right to Chapter 1 or the equivalent. Look Inside on amazon.com is a different story--I've come across a number of books where I had to send the sample to my Kindle to get anything meaningful.

Jamesaritchie
09-30-2012, 08:34 PM
When they want me to pony up $10 to $15 for a bloody ebook that costs them nothing to print, store, and ship, I sure as hell want at least a full chapter first. So mostly, I don't buy.

E-books are a long way from being cost free.

KTC
10-01-2012, 03:49 AM
I think the samples are pretty substantial, actually.

katci13
10-01-2012, 04:08 AM
I don't have a problem with it. But if I don't like the first chapter, I'm not going to keep reading anyway, no matter how many sample pages I get.

triceretops
10-01-2012, 04:08 AM
I think Amazon Kindle overdid it with me on my last self-pubbed title. I've got 3.5 chapters up for the "Look Inside" and they're not small chapters. If that's not enough to hook, I don't know what is. My other books have single chapters up.

tri

ULTRAGOTHA
10-01-2012, 06:37 AM
Baen put up the first seven chapters of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Bujold as a sample. Seven!

Great place to cut it off, though.

Becky Black
10-01-2012, 06:17 PM
I'm not bothered about having a huge sample either. Ten pages would be more than enough for me. I'm not generally looking for a hook in the sample. The blurb has already given me an idea of the book's contents and whether I'd be likely to enjoy that. In the sample I want to know if the writing is competent and enjoyable and that there are no deal breakers to put me off. Bad dialogue being about the fastest way to put me off.

Torgo
10-01-2012, 06:32 PM
A lot of these things are set by the retailer. I believe Amazon insists on 10% of our books, which is obviously completely useless for picture books (you tend to get the copyright and title page and nothing else.)

I don't see any problem with a sample for a novel being even 50% of the book. I'm not quite sure what the downside would be.

Namatu
10-01-2012, 06:51 PM
I like having sample pages to download, but agree that it's frustrating to find a sample that's all front matter. I've been noticing this less lately, but it could just be the books I'm sampling.

James D. Macdonald
10-02-2012, 04:56 PM
You get shorter samples from shorter works, longer samples from longer works.

To be completely mercenary about it, you can read the first four chapters and most of the fifth of our novel Bad Blood as a free sample here (http://www.amazon.com/Val-Sherwood-Werewolf-ebook/dp/B0094AEOVS/). Or here (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/sample/read/2940044704244). Or here (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170453).

What I'm doing with the shorter works, where all you see in the "Look inside" is the frontmatter, is putting the first page of text into the description. E.g. Crossover. (http://www.amazon.com/Crossover-ebook/dp/B004ZLUWW6/)

Amarie
10-02-2012, 05:15 PM
It just takes time for change. In the days before there was any way to preview a book online, almost all the extras were put up front. Now, even though it's better for preview purposes for some of it to be moved to the back, people deciding on the layout of books have to catch up to the change. Some have, some haven't, but in time I assume they all will, unless of course the technology changes again, and the retailer can easily determine how to make actual story content available.

Best thing to do would be to contact a particular publisher and let them know the issues with the previewing.

Phaeal
10-02-2012, 06:31 PM
In a bookstore, I don't need more than 1-3 pages to decide whether the writing's competent and the style appeals to me. So I've had no issues with e-book samples.

And I like looking at the acknowledgments.

Alpha Echo
10-02-2012, 06:39 PM
I'm not the only one! I've noticed this too, and it makes me so angry! I mean, why offer a free sample if you don't even get to read a sample of the actual story? I'd rather there be no offer of a sample than be misled into thinking I'm actually going to get to the first pages of the story.

Stacia Kane
10-02-2012, 07:22 PM
I agree it's irritating when the sample is entirely frontmatter, and I get not wanting to have to hunt all over the internet, but really, just repeating here that it's a good idea to check the author's website. There are often quite long excerpts/samples to be found there. :)

DragonHeart
10-03-2012, 08:00 PM
I've noticed with nook books it's highly variable. I've seen samples that are more than a hundred pages, others that are maybe ten. The one trend I have noticed is that the more popular the book is, the smaller the sample. I downloaded the first Wheel of Time sample and didn't even get a full chapter out of it. The result? I haven't bought it and probably won't unless it goes to a nice promo price.

On the other hand, a book that gives me a chapter or two (or more), I'm much more likely to buy. If I start reading a sample and read to the end without realizing it, it's a good bet it's worth my money. I always read the sample before I buy, even from authors I like, because that's the best metric I've found for myself so far with ebooks. All the books I've read on my nook, I can think of only three where this method failed and I ended up not liking the book at all. And one of those was badly mismarketed anyway.

Torgo
10-03-2012, 08:04 PM
I've noticed with nook books it's highly variable. I've seen samples that are more than a hundred pages, others that are maybe ten.

It's usually a percentage, so longer books = longer samples.

DragonHeart
10-03-2012, 08:08 PM
It's not always the same percentage, though. Wheel of Time books aren't exactly short. One of the ones that had something like a 150 page sample was definitely not significantly longer. If anything it was probably shorter.

ETA: Here's an example. I am using the product details from Barnes and Noble's website for consistency.

The Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold - Total # of pages: 496. # of sample pages: 128
The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time book 1) by Robert Jordan - Total # of pages: 832. # of sample pages: 4 (!? - that doesn't even get you past the ridiculous list of blurbs praising the series!)

Torgo
10-03-2012, 08:19 PM
It's not always the same percentage, though. Wheel of Time books aren't exactly short. One of the ones that had something like a 150 page sample was definitely not significantly longer. If anything it was probably shorter.

ETA: Here's an example. I am using the product details from Barnes and Noble's website for consistency.

The Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold - Total # of pages: 496. # of sample pages: 128
The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time book 1) by Robert Jordan - Total # of pages: 832. # of sample pages: 4 (!? - that doesn't even get you past the ridiculous list of blurbs praising the series!)

Interesting. With some retailers, you can choose to upload a custom sample rather than rely on a percentage of the book, though it means you have to hand-tool every one. We don't have B&N over here yet, so can't speak to how they do it.

One of the things the publisher should be doing is to check the sample to make sure it isn't all bumf and front matter, and to find ways round it if so. Indeed, that's one of the reasons I like to move all that to the end of the ebook edition.

Sam Argent
10-03-2012, 09:11 PM
I'm not the only one! I've noticed this too, and it makes me so angry! I mean, why offer a free sample if you don't even get to read a sample of the actual story? I'd rather there be no offer of a sample than be misled into thinking I'm actually going to get to the first pages of the story.

I got so irritated with a sample that was ten pages of acknowledgements and copyright infringement warnings that I deleted it from my phone.The last page was the chapter number.

Alpha Echo
10-03-2012, 09:17 PM
I got so irritated with a sample that was ten pages of acknowledgements and copyright infringement warnings that I deleted it from my phone.The last page was the chapter number.

Honestly, it's happened so many times that I order a sample and literally don't get to read one word from the actual story that I no longer bother. If I can't read a page or two on Amazon's "Look inside," I don't buy the book.

DragonHeart
10-03-2012, 09:47 PM
Ok, I've been using my Google-fu to try to look into how Barnes & Noble ebook samples work and so far all I've come up with is that it is based on a % of pages and that the publisher can set what that percentage is. There's more than likely a cap somewhere, but it doesn't appear to be a low one, based on some of the sizes of the samples I've seen.

I've also come across several self-pubbed authors asking for help with the settings on their samples. They'll put down a certain % to include, say, an entire first chapter, and the sample actually shows up as just a few pages instead of an entire chapter. It seems likely that publishers are also running into this issue, but if no one actually checks it on a nook they won't notice the discrepancy, as it comes up properly via the web viewer. So that might explain why The Eye of the World only has a 4 page sample, which includes none of the actual text of the book. Hmm.

Torgo
10-03-2012, 10:10 PM
It seems likely that publishers are also running into this issue, but if no one actually checks it on a nook they won't notice the discrepancy, as it comes up properly via the web viewer. So that might explain why The Eye of the World only has a 4 page sample, which includes none of the actual text of the book. Hmm.

This sort of thing is certainly a problem. For example, if you check a book in Kindle Previewer, you aren't necessarily going to see exactly what it looks like on a Kindle. And then there are all the other devices to cater for. That's a lot of extra checking to do. I have a drawer at work containing two iPads, a Galaxy Tab, a Kindle 3G, a Kobo, a Sony Reader, a Nook Color, and soon a Kindle Fire - EPUBS render differently on all of them. It's tricky to manage.

I really recommend letting the publisher know when you come across one of these useless samples. It's possible nobody made a conscious decision to do that, or has noticed the problem. Feedback will help everyone improve their offering.

DragonHeart
10-03-2012, 10:19 PM
Yeah, now that I see what's going on I'll be sure to let them know. I've seen this sort of thing in a couple of other samples too. Now I guess I'll have to go back and look to see which ones. I never really thought that it might be a problem until this thread came up, so I just kind of ignored the books that had those exceedingly small samples.

caffeine
10-03-2012, 11:18 PM
True, I am also a bit peeved by the complete lack of content in some e-book previews. Most of the ones I've read so far from the Kobo bookstore are the first few pages - literally, the page with the copyright and trademark information and the blank padding pages before the first chapter actually begins.

I recall one that was about five pages, but one was the copyright page, three were blank, and the last was the author's disclaimer.

Although, I was amused by the disclaimer. 'Please keep out of reach of miners'

Whenever I think of that, I think of a miner standing in front of a book with all their gear and equipment going 'Challenge accepted' :D

Miyaka
10-09-2012, 12:05 AM
Aside from the few pages that may be included like title page and thank you's , it is usually the first two three pages that tells me if I have the will or desire to go on. I think it can be very helpful to determine if you can enjoy the book.
But then sometimes not!

I'm reading a book right now that took off like a rocket then slow down in the middle so its been slow going.

WeaselFire
10-09-2012, 01:04 AM
Lately, Kindle has been the first 10% of the book, Nook used to be (Haven't looked in awhile) the first 30%. This is everything from the beginning of the book.

So, if you have a 100 page book, you get 10 pages on Kindle. If the first 8 pages are front matter, you get two pages of story text.

If you have a 350 page book, you get 35 pages on Kindle. If the same 8 pages are front matter, you get 27 pages of story text.

For Nook, use the 30%. If you want your book to show the most possible in a preview, move the front matter to the back of the book.

By the way, this is mentioned in almost every formatting guide out there...

Jeff