I’m lost without you, Mr Blurb

I need a blurb

Don’t get me wrong, kindles (or your e-reader of choice) are a wonderful invention. I love paying $3 for a book instead of $30 and getting it in 5 minutes rather than 5 weeks. Kindle books are also easy on my bookshelves, which groan under the wonders of culture.

But there is one area in which ebooks fall short and interfere with my reading experience: they almost never have easy-to-find blurbs.

Let me put this in context for you. By some twist of fate, I end up on the Amazon page of a book that sounds intriguing. I read the description, look inside, and buy with one click.

Then I close the browser tab and forget entirely what I’ve just bought. It’s gone, poof.

Some time later, I turn on wifi on my kindle and behold, there are new books. Did I really buy these? I must have or they wouldn’t be here. It’s like being in a candy store where everything is free and all the lollies were picked because I thought they sounded scrumptious. But what are they?

I look at the titles and the authors’ names. No lights flash on in my head. If I want something mellow and thoughtful, what should I read? I have only the titles to go by.

If I were choosing between books of the dead tree variety, I’d turn to the back cover blurbs. Ah, so this is a book about Samantha the carrier pigeon and Rodrick the dashing white dove–will they be able to overcome their different backgrounds and find true love? Count me in.

I start reading. Maybe Samantha is in a relationship with Anthony, who seems like a right prat. But that’s okay. I know the story’s really about Samantha and Rodrick, not Anthony at all. I read on and fireworks! Dragons! I’m rewarded.

Now consider scenario number two. It’s an ebook I open. (Do you open an ebook, or do you turn it on?)

I see “Chapter 1”.

Wait, already? Where’s the foreplay? I want to look at the gorgeous cover image, wondering what heartrending misadventures will strike Emily and her one true love as they journey through space to distant galaxies. I want to be intrigued and tantalised.

How am I supposed to start this book without knowing what it’s about?

I start reading anyway. Chapter 1 is set in Ancient Greece. I’m up for this–I like Ancient Greece. Chapter 2 is set in New York City, 2009. Wait, what?

Chapter 3 is set in Atlantis.

Stop. Just tell me what this book is about. Maybe the storylines all tie together beautifully. But maybe the editor was on holiday and the author couldn’t wait to press “publish”. I won’t take the risk to my health.

But, Alecia, you say, a good book starts with events that are relevant to the main story and doesn’t mislead you on what it’s about.

Meh. A good first chapter does a lot, but it’s only the first chapter. It can’t always give you a sense of what the whole book is about. The potential love interest might not have even made an entry yet, so I can’t possibly know if I’m going to like him or if he’s going to be a narcissistic slimeball.

Or take a portal fantasy. Lots of good reasons exist to show the normal world before going through the portal, but maybe the normal world is so… normal. If I think that’s it I might never make it to the Wonderful World of Foz.

It comes down to this.

I’m lost without you, Mr Blurb. Remind me why I bought this and tell me what the darn book is about.

Once, just once, I opened a kindle book to what was essentially the back cover blurb. That book made my day.

Hardly any books do this. Is that because I’m the only person in the world who cares? Am I reading books wrong? Can you rescue me from the pit of confusion? I’ll be here, standing ankle-deep in muck.


If you liked this post, don’t forget to come back and read more. Once a month I can remind you.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

8 thoughts on “I’m lost without you, Mr Blurb”

  1. Interesting concept. 😀 I guess that if the chapters have live links then anyone wanting to skip all the ‘front matter’ and dig right in to Chapter 1 can do so. 😀

  2. Interesting! I never realized that ebooks are indeed missing the blurb. I’m picky about the books I allow on my Kindle, so I usually remember exactly what I downloaded and why, but I can see how adding a blurb could be helpful. I wonder how many people who downloaded my book forgot what it was about before they got to reading it. *^^* I should probably at least put the warning label in the front matter…

    1. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong – I buy too many ebooks. But they’re so cheap! And books are good, so more books are better, right?

      Haha, yes, if your book’s aimed at an adult audience you might consider a gentle reminder not to recommend it to the eight-year-old. 🙂

  3. If you press and hold on the book image for a second a little menu pops up. On some books you can “View on Goodreads” When you are in the book, reading, you can click on the three line drop down button and get options like “About this Book” and “About the Author.” I’ve noticed that the options vary somewhat for different books. When I start some books, a pop up automatically appears asking if I want to list it as “Currently Reading” in goodreads, and next to it is a link to “View in Store” where you can find the blurb. You could also jump to the back of the book where it asks you to rate it and get the link to “View in Store” for the blurb too.

    I am not a huge fan of blurbs giving away the story. So I like when I mostly forget what the book is about before I read it 😀 I usually can recall the genre or something about the book that reminds me of why I got it, but sometimes it doesn’t work out so well. I’ve read heavy books (emotional or thought provoking) before when all I wanted was something light and cheerful. Usually, the book is good enough to hold its own though, so I grow to not mind that it wasn’t what I was initially in the mood to read.

    1. I knew there’d be a fancy way of doing something like this! Thanks for pointing it out. I imagine my kindle might have trouble viewing on a book on Goodreads, though, because I almost never turn my wifi on.

      I do see the attraction of reading a book having forgotten the blurb, but it’s not for me. I don’t find most blurbs are especially spoilerish, and even if they were, for a great book it doesn’t matter. That’s why we read them over and over again. 🙂

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