Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The End Of The Book

No, not mine.

I mean all the physical books out there. The fiction. The joyous, well-written novel that half of us are striving to create, and the other half are striving to find in our TBR.

I like reading paper books. I've mentioned it before. The e-reader has no allure to me, except for this month, when I'm moving, and contemplating putting more than half of the books I own on PBS so I won't have to pack them. (The other half is jealously guarded from the packing fiends who would have me donate them to a library.)

Anyway, I like reading paper, and as any author knows, books, stories have a rhythm. They have a pace of highs and lows they follow to keep the reader interested and on edge and turning the pages. Some talk about the W plot, some talk about The Black Moment, others merely refer to the near simultaneous need for the internal and external conflict to resolve themselves just before the book ends. It's all about keeping the reader so interested that they can't wait to find out what happens next.

Which brings me to my quibble about the ends of books. I don't know when it started. I don't know what marketing "guru" decided that this was the perfect way to waste more pages, but I have serious issues with the Promo Chapter. You know, that extra 10 or 20 pages at the END of the book I'm reading which trick me into thinking there's going to be another twist, another conflict, another obstacle thrown in the path of my hero and heroine before they get their Big Happy so I'm mentally (and physically) set up for one final gut-wrenching conflict and instead they try to shove another book down my throat while I'm wondering why I feel shafted.

There's all this talk about a demand for shorter word counts, and publishers finding ways to cut back. Well here's an idea... give those extra words back to the author whose name is emblazoned on the front of the book, or cut out those promo chapters altogether and save a tree or two.

I HATE the Promo Chapter.

It throws off my internal reader pacing. It leads me to believe there's more book coming, and then pulls out unexpectedly, leaving me very unsatisfied. (Yes, it's THAT frustrating.) Now, this may be the one advantage an e-reader has over paper... the digital reader doesn't have the visceral connection to the turning of the pages. To watching the thickness of product slowly but surely switch from the right hand side to the left. The heft and the weight of pages held back first by the thumb and then by the pinkie finger (or vise versa if you're a lefty). The satisfaction of another three / four / five hundred pages devoured, to then be discarded and replaced by a new, equally satisfying weight.

All of that is lost to the digital reader.

What is surely gained, however, is the joy of never again being the victim of the bait and switch set up by the Promo Chapter. No more putting the book down now because you don't have time to read 30 more pages, only to pick it up hours later and discover you had plenty of time to read the five pages that truly signaled the end of the book. No more bringing one book with you to finish in the doctor's office, only to discover nines pages later that you've been gypped and you should have brought the one you were just starting with you instead. No more teeth-grinding when you flip from page 343 to page 344 and see The End when you were expecting to see a new chapter heading instead.

I've read thousands of books in my life. I've read maybe a dozen promo chapters. Probably less. When I get to the end of the story I'm reading, I want that to be very near the end if the pages I'm holding in my hand. A page or two for the publisher to promote upcoming releases, a few of the authors previous or future releases complete with back-cover blurb . . . that's really all that should be back there. A chapter of a story I didn't purchase and can't finish even if I do start reading it is not only wasteful, it's irritating.

When you've set me up (by the sheer volume of pages left to turn) for more story and then leave me hanging, I get pissed. So pissed that I am not going to look favourably upon anything you try and sell me. That's right. I'm already going into it with a bad attitude. Such a bad attitude that 99% of the time I don't even read it at all. In fact, I wish I could rip out those cockteasing pages from the back of the book and use them to line the litterbox. I just have too much respect for the spine of the book to do so.

Just finished: To Have & To Hold
Currently reading: Wolf Tales V
Currently reading: Santa Olivia

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