Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Blurbs or Blank Back Covers?

Levi Asher feels that a book must have some copy on the back cover, like blurbs or review excerpts:
I still feel strongly that back cover blurbs and review excerpts are essential to the "selection process" every reader goes through when looking at a new book. A publisher who presents a blank back cover on a novel by an unknown author, in my opinion, must not be thinking about how potential readers are going to look at this novel. The purist approach Chapman describes sounds admirable, but I don't think it translates into reality. I am simply not going to devote my time to reading a book without some idea why I should read it. A novel needs a road map, and to fail to provide some explanatory text when publishing a new author is, in my opinion, a fatal mistake.
But Daniel Green from The Reading Experience disagrees:
Frankly, I almost always ignore not only this back-cover material, but everything that's printed on a book jacket, including the flap copy. My curiosity about what I will find in a given book is going to be satisfied only by reading a few paragraphs, a few pages, enough to inform me about the book's thematic focus and aesthetic assumptions. Sometimes it won't be safisfied until I've read the whole thing. (Sometimes it will be satisfied quite quickly and I'll decide it's not a book for me. But the blurbs and the review excerpts will have had nothing to do with it.)
I'll have to agree with Levi Asher if the book's shrink-wrapped (like in Kinokuniya or MPH), and with Daniel Green if the book is not (Borders or Payless). But I would prefer thumbing through a book to see for myself if the writing was good enough for me to get it or not.

7 comments:

  1. i never read the blurb for fiction ... or any of the comments from reviewers. i want to decide what i think for myself.

    if the book is shrink wrapped always ask for it to be opnened so you can dip into it. i always read the first page or so to assess the writing.

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  2. I rarely ask for a book to opened... i feel guilty if I don't end up buying it! I can't help it!

    But nowadays I do most of my book browsing in Borders so it's not really that much of a problem for me anymore.

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  3. I always read blurbs, if they are enticing enough, then I leaf through the books, especially the first few pages and check out the table of contents.

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  4. That's what I do, Lydia. But no blurbs is fine with me, as long as I get to the read the inside.

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  5. You got me thinking there.

    Honestly, I dunno how I choose a book. Sometimes I read the back cover and sometimes I skip it altogether once I see the title. I guess half of the time I got for catchy titles but that's not the only factor that determines what I choose to read.

    I guess for me it boils down to gut feeling and instinct. What I feel for the book. There are times when I am wrong but most of the times I'm right and the books I purchase or choose to read are indeed good reads.

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  6. Oh! But I do get a bit disappointed if there are no blurbs or excerpts. I kinda like reading them but I dont think I'm influenced by them much.

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  7. I go for instinct to sometimes... so far okaaay la... no really bad choices so far. Yeah, blank covers are a bit disappointing... it's worse when it's seal wrapped.

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