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Excerpts to Ebooks
By Hilary Williamson, November 2000

Most of us find books by heading to a local store or library and browsing the shelves. Often there are special areas for recent releases or a staff member can tell us what is new and good in a particular genre. If a book's cover looks good or we know the author, we leaf through it. We decide to buy or borrow based on what we see on the cover, what we hear about the story, and by reading a sample.

I enjoy going to bookstores and the library when there is time, but have started to order books online as well. I browse the virtual bookstores on the net (with some difficulty in finding titles of interest in many cases) and look at any reviews that come with a title. I can't flip through the pages, but more and more publishers (or authors themselves) are providing excerpts online. Excerpts typically sample one or more of the initial chapters, though some publishers show us the middle of a story instead. In fact, samples often include the same text that has started to be appended to paperbacks, giving a preview of the next title in a series.

Online Ordering

These samples of books are usually of stories just out or about to be released, but they often hang around for a while on the net for those of us who are slower to get to them. They help online shoppers to make a decision on whether or not to order a new book, and also provide sneak previews of eagerly awaited new titles.

Many of us are still reluctant to order on the Internet, both for concerns about the security of financial transactions and because of shipping charges (which create a high percentage increase to the cost of a small ticket item like a book). Those of us who do buy books online tend to order titles that are hard to find or that we are anxious to receive as soon as they are out, like Rowling's Goblet of Fire. However both these attitudes will change, as electronic transactions become more and more common, and we become willing to pay more for convenience ... just look at the emergence of food items like pre-cooked bacon to see how the cost/convenience tradeoff has been evolving in the marketplace.

Some libraries (mostly in the larger cities) now support online book borrowing from home. People can look up new acquisitions, place a hold on books of interest and then pick them up when they become available. Such libraries also provide e-books for immediate online access. I wonder why some of the big online booksellers don't take a leaf out of their book (so to speak) and do the same, that is let us order books for pick-up at the nearest of their stores. This would avoid prohibitive shipping charges and make online ordering a much more attractive proposition.


Story samples provide a great way to preview a book, if you can find them. But they're not only useful for new releases. Many classics are available online in their entirety. Though we may not be willing to stare at a screen for long enough to read The Compete Works of William Shakespeare or even The Three Musketeers, the online e-book allow us to flip through and scan the pages. This lets us decide if we want to own a copy or dig one out from the library. And Project Gutenberg and others are salvaging stories (like Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini) that are hard to locate even through antique booksellers.

At BookLoons we intend to provide you with the same personal service as the corner bookstore. Our reviewers surf the net searching for new excerpts and story samples, and link them in to the Bookshelves and the Excerpts showcase. Staff's comments on book titles are visible on the shelves (both thumbnail listings and links to longer Reviews) to make an ordering decision as simple as possible for the reader. And the reader in the corner is always ready to make suggestions on good books across genres ... just send her an e-mail.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.