e-only short stories. Marketing genius or a waste of reader’s time?

I don’t normally write little reviews of all these “.25”, “.5”, “1.5” (blah blah blah) stories (and if you are confused, check out good reads and they way they number series and the little “extras” that are offered between installments) but these two latest were such a waste of time it’s hard to ignore.

It’s nice of the author to give us little shorts.  And some authors are better at it then others.  Michael Scott did it right – with the Joan of Arc and Vampire of Vegas shorts, which were long enough to be actual stories and warrant the $0.99 (total tangent – what happened to the cents character on the keyboards?  I miss it!!!) asking price.  And while one might argue that since many of them are given away freely, like the two that I just read, that it’s not fair to judge too harshly.  BUT…

Many of them are e-only format.  Not all – and the ones that are “Barnes & Noble edition exclusives”, frankly just piss me off because I am not buying 3 versions of the hard cover of the same book just to get the short story.  So very many of the ones that are e-only though have a tendency to be… well… just bad.

Let’s take for instance the two I just read.  The “prequels” to Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.  First, let me say that I liked the first full installment.  There were some drawbacks, sure, but on the whole I liked it and am looking forward to the next installment.  So, this isn’t just sour grapes at another let down at a start to a series.  These were two shorts – billed by goodreads as “.25” and “.5” in the series.  The first, The Spring Before I Met You, and the second, The Summer before I Met You are extraordinarily short and seem to be brief intros to two main characters more than really prequels.  In the Spring Before I Met You, told from Jared’s perspective, we get a little more background about Jared and we learn that he talks to Kami.  In Summer, we see Kami working a summer job but we really don’t get the same background or set up – it is really just a brief introduction to her and Angela.  In fact, Jared’s name is not mentioned once in that story.  We learn a tiny bit about Kami’s grandmother, and we get the cute fact about her one little brother’s love affair with lemonade.  But we don’t get much more than that.  When I finished the last page of the second story I really felt like it was an unnecessary waste.  A cute marketing technique to find and suck in new readers, but not worth the time of a serious reader, who would have read Unpoken anyway.  And, there really wasn’t any key detail that we don’t re-learn in Unspoken.

Many of these little shorts are just like this – and many are really deleted scenes (I guess nice for the author to share those) like Cassandra Clare’s City Extras.  Some are interim short stories like Dream Dark (Caster Chronicles “2.5”) and some are truly prequels like the Lords of the Underworld, Darkest Fire (we learn how the demons got into Pandora’s box in the first place).  But, with the few exceptions (Michael Scott’s Secrets shorts in particular), I feel that these little e-book extras aren’t worth the effort.  If they warrant a story, give me a story in an installment.  If they don’t warrant that much effort, don’t bother.  There’s plenty of other series and installments to read while waiting for the next fully developed story.

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