Saturday, 26 May 2012

What makes you choose an ebook?

I do a lot of browsing for ebooks.  This morning as I browsed at Amazon, I suddenly became aware of why I wasn't lured into buying.  So I thought I'd share my little epiphany with you.

What turns me off buying an ebook?

Sometimes I find myself shaking my head in annoyance when I browse for ebooks.  Here's why:
  • Bad cover designs - the cover design is what most attracts me, at first anyway.  The reality, for me at least, is that the vast majority of ebook designs are unattractive.  And it's not just the self published varieties.  It is rare that I find an ebook cover design that I like.  For some reason they are much less attractive than their paperback cousins that sit tantalisingly on bookshop shelves; and I don't understand why.  Do authors/publishers think that ebook readers are simply victims of quick fix self-gratification?  Just because online shopping is easy doesn't mean that products are chosen willy-nilly.  On the positive, those that put the time and effort into a quality design have a distinct advantage in a flooded market.
Chip Kidd is a book jacket designer and he is passionate about getting the cover right.  His talk on TED  provides an interesting insight into the process of coming up with the right cover design.  He is a little sceptical about ebooks, but I think authors could learn a lot about the importance of the cover from this talk.

  • Bad titles -  go check it out for yourself, there are many bad titles in the ebook universe.  I don't want to give any specific examples as I'm not interested in 'naming and shaming' but after the cover design the title is what attracts me to an ebook, and many are uninspiring.  One of my favourite titles is The War of Don Emmaunel's Nether Parts, it's a long title but interesting and reflects the humour in the novel.  Of course titles can be short too.  Dracula, is a very effective short title.  Another favourite title is The Dark is Rising.  I really enjoyed this novel as a child.  I actually 'invented' this exact title for a novel I had planned then realized (or remembered) that it was already a title!  I still wish I could use it though.
  • No blurb - some ebook authors go to all the trouble of writing and publishing their book only to leave out a blurb.  This has me lost for words.
  • Reviews - I always look at the reviews before I decide to buy, but I take them with a serious pinch of salt.  I am sceptical of ebooks that have lots of reviews that say little about what actually happens in the novel, especially if they are full of praise but give no specifics.  If I find a scattering of critical reviews that are clearly written by average readers who have actually read the book then it is usually a sure sign the book is not very good.
  • The price - Price doesn't really bother me that much.  For unknown and self published authors I have paid up to $5 for an ebook.  For authors that I know and trust I have paid up to $10, and on occasion, more.  But there are some ebooks that have an above $20 tag on them, and that's my limit.  Any more than 20 bucks and I want the real thing on my book shelf.
  • The author's page - I always click on it to read more about the author to get a feel for his/her style and genre.  But, you guessed it, many ebook authors have no or limited information.
  • Bad writing - the sample is a godsend.  I always read the sample and this will be the deal breaker for me.  Even after I have been attracted to the cover and title, read the blurb and reviews, and been happy with the price, I will often be turned off by the calibre of writing in the sample.  Yes, the story has to grab me, but most often I find I am turned off by poor writing and editing - the bane of the self published market.
So that's about it, all the things that really turn me off buying an ebook.  I had considered being more positive in this post and writing about the things that make me want to buy, but the reality for me is that it's a process of elimination and this is how I choose when I browse the ebook shelves.  

So what makes you choose or not choose an ebook?


  1. I borrow a lot of my books from the library (probably 95% of my reads). If it's a tried-and-true author I know I'm going to love, I'll buy the book in a heartbeat, without even reading the reviews or looking at the cover or anything. Untested authors are a wholly different category. I usually rely on book bloggers for my initial ideas, and even then I think the cover actually does play a surprisingly huge role for me. It's really funny how much a visual can give that gut-reaction that is hard to shake. If a book blogger recommended something, but I don't like a cover, I'll go and read more amazon/goodreads reviews and try to make a judgement that way, but more often than not, bad cover ends up in my "try it via the library first" category. I don't have much money to spend on things I don't like!

    Also - I LOVED The Dark is Rising series when I was growing up. I wish they'd done a better job with the movie =/

    1. Carissa I am looking at more and more book bloggers too, and I have a few books in mind that have been recommended by them. But I must admit I do choose a lot of books by simply browsing, either online or at a bookshop.

      I haven't seen the movie, but sounds like I haven't missed anything.

  2. Good morning, Aderyn. I enjoyed reading your post. Very informative. As someone who has a couple of e-books on Amazon and plans to have more, it's good to know what the reader/purchaser looks for.

  3. Aderyn,

    What are your thoughts on the Harry Potter series? I think that would be an interesting thing to blog about.

    I'm 13 and currently writing a fan fiction. Nothing too big, but something to get me started on.

  4. I agree, most folks are visual, so a cover that can stand out as a thumbnail and in full size is important. Titles, that too. An author has to get a potential reader to click to explore further. That's when everything else comes into play.