Friday, 25 October 2013

Reading Habits #3: Do book excerpts influence you?

Until the last decade, Indian newspapers and magazines used to reproduce excerpts from a book reviewed by a critic, both appearing on the same page. I’d first read the extract in the small box and if I liked it, I’d proceed to the review, though most of the time I didn’t read it. The extract was enough to help me decide whether to read the book or not.

The reason I enjoyed reading the excerpts first and not the review was the author’s writing style which to this day influences my decision to read fiction, except now I also read the reviews.

While the blurb on the back of a book can goad me into reading a book, it is the opening lines or random paragraphs within that have a special appeal for me. In bookstores, I frequently riffle through a book to see if I’m going to like it. I agree it’s strange that I should choose to read a book without knowing what it is about.

Today, Indian periodicals no longer carry short excerpts. The monolithic online review factory has taken care of that. Instead, they take permission from the publisher to reproduce an entire meaningful chapter from a new book, usually non-fiction, and carry it across centre spread marked “Exclusive Extracts”. I have no patience to read it. It also puts me off the book.

Would you read a novel based on an excerpt? I think not.



For Reading Habits #1 & 2, look under Labels.

22 comments:

  1. At times, yes. I remember picking up Kamila Shamsie's Salt and Saffron because of a delightful passage as also Arun Joshi's The Last Labyrinth.

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    1. Neer, hopefully, next year onward I'll turn my attention to Indian and other South Asian authors. There is so much I haven't read.

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  2. I rarely read excerpts, but I do read the short synopsis in a catalog or on the book cover flap. I also admit I'm often swayed by a novel's cover art. I'm not sure why excerpts don't interest me, especially when a novel's first ten pages often determine whether I finish a book or not.

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    1. Patricia, I thought of mentioning cover art but that'd have made for a post by itself. I now read the synopsis, the excerpts, the opening lines, and reviews of a book which I can get with the click of a mouse. The information overload can be annoying at times.

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  3. I try not to read anything these days *before* opening a book: review, blurb, excerpt. Too much of the plot tends to be given away for my liking. I much prefer to make up my own mind. Interesting post though, Prashant.

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    1. Sarah, finally I read a book only if it interests me and only if I really want to. My reading habits keep changing; there is no fixed pattern.

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  4. excerpts have the biggest influence of anything on me. I typically check out title, then read the back blurb, then turn to the first page and read a paragraph or two. the actual writing is the biggest influence on whether I'll buy a book.

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    1. Charles, I'm glad we agree on excerpts and the writing. Blogging has made me more aware of books and how to assess them in different ways.

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  5. I honestly couldn't tell you what gets me to buy a book. But I read an interesting finding recently that compared to ebooks, new authors tend to sell better in bookstores where customers can handle the physical book.

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    1. Ron, there is no substitute for physical books although one might have more access to books through ebooks. These days I rarely buy new books in bookstore preferring to buy Kindle editions if available. Space is a problem.

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  6. I usually want to try a book because of other influences. Review, blurb, cover, recommendation of previous history with the author.

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    1. Col, I don't think twice before purchasing books by authors I like, such as Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson). I know what to expect.

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  7. I'm similar to Ron in thought. No clue. I believe first and foremost its the cover. I love art and gravitate to what pleases me.

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    1. David, I love all kinds of art including book covers and comic books and especially vintage stuff. I like the covers of early Pan Books and Dell Comics.

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  8. Reviews influence me most. Then comes-- have I read and enjoyed other books by the author. Third recommendations from friends here. Last might be excerpts.

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    1. Patti, I'm usually not so influenced by reviews; recommendations, yes. I'm with you on authors I've read and liked. No second thoughts there.

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  9. I used to think I wasn't influenced by such things, but increasingly I am - positive reviews and positive word-of-mouth probably count for more, but if it's a book i really haven;t heard of then then an extract can be a deciding factor, definitely.

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    1. Sergio, I don't remember the last time I read a book based on word of mouth, perhaps because I know very, very few people who read books. I have been influenced by word of bloggers, though.

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  10. I still get taken in by covers. I also like opening paragraphs of a book. Then there is also favourite authors which I tend to go back to again and again.

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    1. Mystica, I have no hesitation in going back to authors I have read and liked. Opening lines work for me too and they often help me decide about a book.

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  11. I do like to read the first few paragraphs of a book by a new author to see if I like their writing. Often, buying books online more and more, I don't have that option. I cannot always avoid blurbs, and obviously I read a lot of reviews online, but I prefer to know as little about the plot of a book as possible before I read the book. I want everything to be a surprise.

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    1. Tracy, however accessible, online books have certain disadvantages. For instance, you can't turn back pages to refresh your memory about characters and situations which helps when you're writing a review. Unlike in a physical book, you can't place bookmarks in an ebook whose version of tags I'm not comfortable with. And I miss the blurb in an ebook. On the whole a physical book tells you a lot about the story at a glance.

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