Front and back matter in ebooks

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that while front matter in print books has a set protocol and exists for a reason, in ebooks it’s essentially wasted space when it’s, you know, in the front. With various preview options at Kindle and Smashwords, it’s very likely that most of a potential purchaser’s preview is taken up by front matter. It’s useless at best, annoying at worst, and most likely will result in a lost sale.

Add to that my perennial complaint about ebooks, which is to say, there most often is no back-cover copy in the file to remind you why you bought it, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what should be front matter in an ebook:

1. Cover
2. Title page
3. Back-cover copy/synopsis/blurb

3a. Genre classification should be unobtrusively inserted somewhere on the title page or after the back-cover copy.

4. Dedication (if there is one)
5. Table of Contents
6. Text

That’s it. What can go in the back (though not necessarily in this order):

1. Extra material (i.e., stuff you wouldn’t get in the print book but might be interesting to the reader)
2. Acknowledgments
3. Author notes
4. Copyright page
5. Endorsements (especially the ones that take up a ton of digital real estate)
6. Author bio
7. The regular slate of other back-matter content

I really see no reason for all this stuff to be in the front anymore. As a spoilt ebook brat who barely deigns to look at print anymore, I am beginning to loathe all the clicks it takes to get to the good stuff, especially when some crucial bits of information (the back-cover copy) is completely missing.

I get the sense that many, many people who create ebooks and people who want their work in ebooks don’t actually read ebooks to any great extent, if at all, and that’s unfortunate. I come to these conclusions as a reader, not as a formatter.

This ain’t print, people, and ebooks aren’t going to be able to wear print’s hand-me-downs.

3 thoughts on “Front and back matter in ebooks

  1. Nate

    “while front matter in print books has a set protocol and exists for a reason, in ebooks it’s essentially wasted space when it’s, you know, in the front”

    Yep.

    If you ask me, the TOC can go in the back, too.

    Reply
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