Online eBook shopping in the Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo stores would not be as satisfying or functional without the ability to view a sample of a book. The idea and benefit is no different than thumbing through a book in a bookstore—you want to “try before you buy” by understanding the contents and writing style of the book.
Yet there exists some confusion about how these eBook samples are created, who controls their creation and how much of the book is or can be sampled. Here is a brief guide to making sense of what you can, and cannot control.
How is the sample created? Who determines size?
The eBook stores are the ones that determine what we publishers can and cannot do when it comes to sampling. In most cases the samples are auto-generated but in a few cases you have some control. Here is a table:
|Apple iBooks||10%||Ability to control|
|Smashwords (store)||up to 30%||Ability to control|
|Google Play Books||10%||Auto-Generated|
(Note that auto-generated means the retailer’s systems find a logical cut-off point for ending the sample. They don’t break an image or paragraph part of the way through.)
How or what can publishers control?
As noted in the above table, publishers usually have little choice as to how much of a free preview sample they can make available to the shopper. But you *can* control the type and amount of content you place at the beginning of the eBook. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- One of our eBook conversion clients wanted to place a collection of images before the table of contents which would have pushed the contents page, and first chapter information, beyond the 10% mark. Even though this matched the print edition we convinced them to move the images after the second chapter so samples would contain a sufficient amount of text to help the shopper decide if the book was for them.
- Consider moving certain optional front matter to the back of the book. Ideal candidates for this are blurbs (which are often found on the book’s selling page anyway), acknowledgements and the “book card” (list of books also written by the author).
- The converse of this is also true if you are trying to “protect” key content by not giving it away in the sample. Simply insert other front matter that results in pushing the key content beyond the usual 10% limit.
(Be sure to download a sample of your eBook if you are curious about where it ends.)
Apple iBooks and Smashwords provide control
The Smashwords store has perhaps the easiest and most straightforward implementation. First, you can turn it on and off. Second, you simply type in a percentage up to 30%. But keep in mind that this is for the Smashwords store and does not apply to the stores to which they distribute eBooks. Those stores—Apple, B&N, Kobo—have their own requirements and ignore these settings.
Apple has actually supported custom samples since its earliest days as an eBook retailer. But in May of 2014 Apple announced that publishers “can now replace an existing custom sample with an auto-generated book sample, provided the full book file has been delivered and the book is not in Multi-Touch or Read Aloud format. Previously, custom samples could not be replaced after being delivered.” Now publishers can have custom, or auto-generated samples delivered to shoppers.
Log into your Apple iTunes Connect account and go to Manage Your Books. Then follow these instructions:
- Select your book
- Scroll down to the Assets section
- Under Preview, click View Details
- Click Remove Publisher Preview to confirm your request