I finished reading a novel in e-book form last night, and I was completely surprised when I "turned the page" and discovered that the book had ended. I actually said, "Whaaaaaa?!" out loud. I just didn't see it coming. (I kept belligerently attempting to turn the page, as if doing so would make more chapters appear.)

Then I started to wonder whether it's harder for authors to write a good ending for an e-book. Without holding the physical book in my hand, I had lost track of where I was. I had no visible clues that the end was near. I wasn't getting mentally prepared for the story to end.

Certainly, you can argue that this specific author failed to properly wrap things up. (I don't name the book because if I can't give a book a great review, I just don't review it.) But I also think it might be harder to pull off a great ending if your reader doesn't have a sense that the end is coming.

What do you think? Have you ever been surprised when an e-book ended?
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Published on May 28, 2012 20:15 • 3,962 views • Tags: ebooks, reading, writing
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message 1: by Lydia (new)

Lydia I usually have my eye on the numbers... the page I'm on or the percentage of book that's still to go. I think I do this for this exact reason! I need to mentally sort of "feel" the book in my hand and recognize when I'm close to the end. There's something visceral about that race through the last chapter, only a few pages left, DONE. Slam the book. No such satisfying conclusion with an e-reader. And now I will go and tell those youngsters to get off my lawn and turn their music down.


message 2: by Robinson (new)

Robinson Mason I ran across a corrupted e-book file recently and it was certainly a surprise when it ended only 20% in! I suppose the torn fragment of a paperback would have been more obvious...

I recall reading 85% or so through a Song of Fire and Ice novel (per my Kindle's progress meter) only to discover a large appendix section - so even my active acknowledgement of the progress in the book was not helpful. I assume that unless leafed through in advance the print version experience would be the same, however.


message 3: by Aaron (new)

Aaron White I don't see how writing a book would be affected by the medium in which it gets published. Most authors write via word processor and that would stay the same for a paper novel or e-book. I think you just came upon a bad ending.


message 4: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Park In this regard, e-books are much more like other entertainment mediums than physical books. Songs do not have a tacticle indicator of their progression. There is no progress bar for movies, plays, or opera.

If anything, the lack of a foreseen endpoint should allow the reader to engross themselves in the story instead of wondering, "How will the author wrap this up in three pages?" When I have thought like this, it takes me right out of the story and that's always a bad thing.

When I've read incomplete endings in analog, physical books, I've found myself flipping pages back and forth in disbelief (or looking for ripped-out pages or shaking the book upside down as if the rest of the story was simply hiding). It really sounds like the author in question didn't end things well--plain and simple.


message 5: by Allen (new)

Allen When using Kindle on the Mac, I often click the page so I can see the graphic that shows where I am. It'll show me where I am in the book as a percentage, and then something like, "Location 4743 of 6629" I can't go for long without knowing where I am in the book from beginning to end.

It's kind of like knowing what time it is. Even if I have nothing scheduled in a day, I have to check my watch once in a while because my brain wants to know what time it is.


message 6: by Chuck (last edited May 29, 2012 03:46AM) (new)

Chuck Personally, I think it's just a sad decline in authors working to create a good dénouement regardless of target medium: online, paper, or e-book format. In my opinion, too many writers get so worked up creating the rising action that by the time they get to the climax of the story, the find themselves at a loss. At least that's what I tell myself every time I get to an unsatisfactory end to what would otherwise be an excellent story. After a few hours of seething and dealing with facial tics, I get over it and move on. For the most part. Usually... >_<


message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill I have had that happen to me with paper books. I turned the page, and it was the first chapter for the next book! Even though series are continuations, I feel each book should still have an ending.


message 8: by MMMSecret (new)

MMMSecret I have definitely had this sensation. I often read books on my nook or listen to audiobooks where I don't have the same physical cues that the end is near. I try to keep an eye on where I am in the book, but more and more there are sample chapters and advertisements at the end that make it very difficult to accurately gauge where you are in the book.

Also, I think more and more writers want to leave their readers hanging for the next book in a series. It's fine to have a story continue, but each installment should have some kind of ending. I wish books that ended on a cliff hanger had an advisory on the cover. I either wouldn't read them at all or else would wait until the entire series had been released to read them.


message 9: by A.B.R. (last edited Jun 06, 2012 06:47PM) (new)

A.B.R. Authors could help by the simple expedient of putting the traditional ### below the last paragraph. It seems to be difficult to get a proper, interactive table of contents structured so it appears in Kindles (or at least the desktop Kindle PC reader I use). Epub's are better in that respect.


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