In theory, the idea of book samples for the Kindle is a brilliant one. You can try a book before you buy it, and because Amazon want you to buy it, if you like it, you can purchase with a click of a button and (assuming you’re currently connected) the book starts downloading immediately.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside. (Isn’t there always?) I don’t know who decides how much of the book will be the sample, but I’m guessing it’s an automated generation of X% of the book. Whatever number X is, it isn’t all that big. If the book in question has a lot of what they call “front matter”, things like the table of contents, maps, a cast list or, worst of all, an introduction, then that can take up most of the sample and there’s next to nothing left for any of the book itself.
I’ve been caught out with this a few times lately and it is hugely frustrating.
I recently discovered an excellent book podcast called Books You Should Read. It’s added to my book wish list in ways I don’t want to think about. One of the books discussed that interested me was Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It sounded rather fun, so I downloaded the sample. It has an introduction, and that introduction, while very interesting, takes up the entire sample! There’s nothing of the book in the sample at all. I’m still interested in the book, but I think I’m going to get a copy from the library to try out rather than buying without having had a chance to read any of the book that was written by the actual author.
Today it was The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis. This is one of those books that has always been on my radar but I’ve never actually picked up (the fact it’s taken me so long it’s now the first of 20 has continued to put me off – if I like it I might have to read them all!) It had lots of nice things to help the reader enjoy the book – maps of Rome and the empire, a list of the characters, an introduction to this edition, which is a 20th anniversary one. Those are all lovely, but they didn’t leave much room in the sample for any of the actual book. Fortunately there were enough that yes, I’ll be buying it and reading it once I have some money in my book budget. All the same, I’d have liked more than 10 pages or so of the book itself.
The final straw, that inspired me to make this post, was when I started reading a sample of The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson to Marcus (a book I read when I wasn’t much older than he is now). Being a kids’ book and shorter, I guess the X% is less of the book. We didn’t make it to the end of the first chapter before we ran out of sample. He was enjoying it, so that one I did buy. We’ve now finished Chapter 1 and I’ll read him Chapter 2 at bedtime.
Eva Ibbotson is one of my Author Reads and I had been trying to decide if I would aim to read all her children’s’ books as well as the ones for older readers. I have fond, if vague, memories of several from my own childhood, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to set myself quite that many “younger” books to read (especially since I want to read/reread my way through Diana Wynne Jones as well). I guess I have my answer now. I’ll read them with Marcus.