Is Giving Too Much Away A Good Idea?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Amazon Look Inside

For a long while now publishers have released sample chapters online to give readers a sense of what a book might be like. You can have them e-mailed to you, download them, or browse for them on the Web. Then there’s Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and others that allow you to “browse” the flaps and opening of a book, much like you might do at a bookstore. Unfortunately, argues Kevin Smokler in today’s lead story, it isn’t working.

He advocates that publishers come up with a small, format neutral sample — something akin to a music MP3 single: cheap, portable and, hopefully, catchy. What that might look like remains to be seen.

Certainly, there are good reasons to give something away for free. I have certainly used the “download a sample” feature available on my Amazon Kindle. If you like the sample, you can immediately download the entire book. I wonder how many sales are lost in the interim between reading a sample online and having to click through to a Web site to through the whole online ordering process?

On the other hand, projects like Google Book Search — which often offers a significant portion of a book, recent ones included, for free — calls into question how Google plans to ever monetize such eyeballs.

The question is: what is the most effective format to give readers a taste of literature and entice them to buy a book? Chapters? Excerpts serialized in magazines or online? And in what format/size?

Let us know your preferences — and recommendations to the industry — in the comments below or via Twitter using hashtag #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.