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.