In the past, I’ve advocated for various things to be included in the ebook file, mostly in an effort to convince publishers that digital format was something that readers actually did want. (yes, dear readers, we had to fight for books to be digitized in the not so distant past). Some publishers (and self published authors) have taken this to extremes.
In the past month or so, I’ve fielded several complaints from readers, primarily directed at a couple of publishers, for the bloated nature of the ebook file. It’s not the file size that is the problem. Instead, it is the way in which additives to the main content is ruining the reader experience. If there is one thing that you want to stay away from if you are a publisher, it is messing with the reader experience.
How much is left in a book can affect the reader experience. Paper readers know how far they are from the end of the book by a glance at the physical pages left. When a reader is reading a digital book, she usually can tell how far she is, either by page number or percentage, or both. More and more often, the reader experience is being impinged upon because of additives, mostly excerpts from other books, that are giving a false expectation of when the book is to be completed.
For instance, Lightning That Lingers from Sharon and Tom Curtis ends at the 56% mark. The remainder of the contents of the file are excerpts from other Loveswept titles. Legends by Deborah Smith ends at the 60% mark. The remainder of the contents of the file are excerpts. Every Loveswept title that is being re-released in digital format has the same problem. The percentage or page indicator leads the reader to believe that they are only a little more than half way through the book and the end is upon you.
Samhain has this problem, although it is much less dramatic. Many of its books end around the 80-90% mark due to ebook promotional matter. Self published authors are also taking this to extremes. A reader reported that Shoshanna Ever’s self published short story “Overheated” ends at the 38% mark and includes a long preview chapter of her other works. The reader was indignant that 62% of the book she paid for was advertisement. The reader shared “ it was the fact that so much of Ms. Evers book was preview material that I paid for that infuriated me.”
Update: Ms. Evers informed me that her story “Overheated” has been re-uploaded without the promotional chapter.
One author mentioned that authors have to put promotional matter in the end of the books because it is easy marketing that an author would be foolish to pass up. Another suggested that aftermatter should be clearly marked in the title (ie. with bonus materials and excerpts) such as “Halfway to the Grave with Bonus Material: A Night Huntress Novel”
For a limited time, discover Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series with Halfway to the Grave. Plus, as a bonus, you will receive exclusive material, including deleted scenes and excerpts!
These HarperCollins ebook editions end around 90% with 10% being the “bonus” materials.
For the most part, readers did not like promotional material and most admitted to not reading it, although Holly from Bookbinge admitted that she ordinarily didn’t like it but occasionally would be lured into buying a book from an excerpt at the end (which is, of course, why publishers include them). One of the problems is that the inclusion of excerpts is scattershot. Oftentimes you will get 5-6 excerpts with no discernable relation to the book you just read. Another person said that the publishers should only promote 1 or 2 books at the end instead of several by all different authors. The goal is that the promotional items should be targeted rather than scattershot. An “if you like X, you’ll like Y” sort of listing. A small inclusion with links to more excerpts makes sense or even an additional download. Robin shared that with Big Fish Games, you can be invited to download more content as you move through the game. A book should work like that as well, downloading additional content with the reader’s permission.
Most importantly, though, the promotional material should never interfere with a reader’s experience with the main content. If it does, the promotional material works against the publisher by leaving the reader with a negative rather than a positive reading experience.