Mar 23, 2010

Question: Do You Read Online Excerpts?

I've noticed a trend recently of many publishers coordinating the release of excerpts (exclusive or not) through their websites or book blogs. Chapter 1 of one book. Chapter 3 of another.

I see the posts come and go but I almost never read them. Occassionally, I will bookmark the excerpts with the intention to go back to them but I very rarely do. I read excerpts if it's a book I'm really, really looking forward to (not that many of those) or if it's an author or book I'm researching for my blog and I can't get a hold of a hard copy. If I'm going to read the book already, why waste my time rereading something awkwardly online that I am just going to read again? If I've got enough time to read an extended piece of fiction, why don't I just grab my book?

If anything the excerpts are nothing more than a reminder that the book exists. Aside from that, I wouldn't miss them. Do any of you like book excerpts? Do any of you read them? Do you use them to pick out future reads?


  1. I don't read excerpts. Partially it's because I have no time for such a thing - a prefer to read one thing at a time and my time is very limited. Another reason is that I don't want to start reading and enjoying something and then have to wait for the rest.

    As for using it to determine if it's something I want to read or not, well, I don't really need it. I figure that reading advance excerpts would probably only lead to me not reading say 1 book in a 100. That's not a huge payoff. All the other selection criteria I use seem to work fine, so I don't feel the need to add more.

  2. @Neth - You summed it up a lot better than I could.

  3. I have read some, but then they just piss me off, because I can't finish the rest of the story.
    I choose not to read excerpts from books that I already know that I'm going to buy, because it's redundant.

  4. I do read excerpts when I've stumbled on a new author or a series I haven't read before. I like to get a feel for the writing style before opening up my wallet.

    If I'm in a bookstore I would browse the first page or two.

    But if its an excerpt of a book I'm waiting for, then no. I already want the book! It's like serving a hungry man a bite of steak, and not the whole meal.

  5. I normally won't read a full excerpt because I don't want to spoil anything or make myself feel like I HAVE to read it now, but I will read bits (excerpts of excerpts, if you will) to get a feel for the story and the writing and decide whether I want to read it. Just snippets, that's all I need.

  6. I don't read them, either. Pretty much for a combination of the reasons everyone has already listed above.

  7. Yup, don't read 'em. If I'm going to read the book anyway, then why read the excerpt - pretty much sums up what I think.

    ...and what Neth said, there's no payoff either way.

    A simple blurb is enough to either get me excited to read it or not.

  8. I have read some (mostly the prologues for the Malazan books) but I also think that I don't really have the time.

    I posted a poll on my blog about this some time ago and most people answered that they didn't.

  9. Seems like we have a concensus already. Excerpts: who in blazes really need them?

    For my part, nope. You could slap a thousand words of perhaps my most anticipated novel in front of me and I'd politely decline that I might experience the narrative in proper contexts, on its own merits. The notion of an except is itself a curious thing to me. When authors and publicists and the like have dedicated such effort to selecting a few paragraphs the money says will go down well with the largest, broadest audience possible, can such things really be said to accurately represent a story?

  10. As with all the other people in the comments, nope, not really. My RSS feed is overpopulated as it is to even comment properly, so reading an excerpt of a book, I am not even sure I will buy/receive, not gonna happen. I am a scatter brain as it is.

  11. As the others, I don't read excerpts, for many of the same reasons.

    There are two exceptions. One is GRRM, when he puts up chapter excerpts on his website.

    The other time is in the context of judging a writer's style. But I might speed read a page to get a sense of what I want to know. I certainly don't need 5,000 words or whatever, to decide if the book/author interests me.

    Good post.

  12. I read excerpts if it's something I'm not sure about. It's no different than reading the first few pages of a book in a bookstore to see if it grabs me or not. Sometimes the excerpt makes me want to read more, and I buy the book. Sometimes the excerpt saves me from wasting money on something I wouldn't have liked. It works for me.

  13. For me excerpts are important in deciding about books I am interested in but have either no prior knowledge of the author, or when the author is hit or miss for me; excerpts for UK books as above are almost essential in deciding if I order the book or not, while for US books they usually are more about deciding the priority of the book

    Though I agree it's about volume - I read 200+ books a year of which maybe 50-100 are anticipated ones that I need no excerpts (though again for debuts excerpts help prioritize them) and open/browse/read excerpts probably 1000+ books to find out the books I *really* want to read

    Most of the time excerpts are enough to decide where to assign the book - heck even a first line can be a clincher to read a book asap, while an excerpt that does not wow me moves the book back or even drops it off my list unless I have other compelling reasons to read it

    I read so far 64 books in 2010 and of them 18 were based on excerpts, and only in two cases the excerpts turned out to be misleading for me and I disliked the novels in cause

  14. I read excerpts if they are in .pdf format or utilize a "browse inside" thing, as they are easier on the eyes. I do not read excerpts posted on blogs as that just destroys my eyes for the rest of the day.

    I love excerpts and make use of them when I can. In some cases they are the deciding factor in buying a book and in other cases they ensure that I do not waste my money.

    And as far as the excerpt being offered up, most of the ones that I come across, the ones that I read, are the entirety of the first chapter (which is helpful) and sometimes, in rarer cases, the first fifty or so pages (even more helpful, though it is like being stabbed in the eyes by the time I finish--I will say that I have bought every book that this sort of excerpt was offered for though).

    Excerpts... very useful if you don't have money to waste on books you are unsure of.

  15. I read a few. I did it in cases when I identified books via reviews as a love or hate book.
    Nowadays I refuse to read excerpts. It is a waste of time for me. I prefer to read reviews.

  16. I agree with pretty much everyone else... if I've seen the cover and the back blurb then I know if I'm going to buy it and an excerpt is then redundant.
    Interesting question though, and the answer seems to be mostly not.

  17. No, I skip. Too many other things I'm on to. I generally know if I'm going to buy/read a book already. I hit the blog reviews that I trust (most of which are represented with these comments) and go, or not, from there.

  18. The only excerpts I read are for the occasional urban fantasy that catches my eye. With these books I can usually tell from the first few pages if I will enjoy the author's writing style and so if I enjoy the excerpt I might go ahead and get the book.

  19. I read online excerpts to find out whether a book is worth buying. But, I generally make up my mind within two or three pages (being generous; more often within the first paragraph) so I seldom read ALL of the excerpts.

    Certainly, when as many as three or more chapters are available online, I'm less likely to buy the book, because I already got so much of it for free.

  20. I usually don't read excerpts but find myself succumbing on rare occasions ie. GRRM or Abercrombie. But I found myself being stung by reading the excerpt to Nights of Villjamur back in 2008 and really enjoying it. The book still hasn't been released in Australia, and I have all but lost interest now.

    I'll still read it, of course. Just not straight away.


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