Extra, Extra: Books Bursting with Bonus Content!

Have you ever put down your kindle for the night, thinking that there was still plenty of book left, only to find out the next day that you just had a few more pages to read?

Or, have you ever been excited to see what would happen next in your e-book since you are only 89% of the way through, only to find out that when you swipe to the next page, the book is over?

If so, you have probably been fooled by bonus content. Usually, a book ends and there is a page or two of acknowledgments and a bit about the author, and perhaps an advertisement for other books by the author.

But it seems more and more common now to have other extras included with e-books: book discussion guides, essays by the author, novellas, and sneak peeks of the author’s other works (Leigh Bardugo’s e-book of Shadow and Bone went crazy with this, including SIX full chapters of multiple books). Is this content meant to make readers feel better about the cost of an e-book?

While I loved reading Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, the e-book version that I read had the most bonus content I’ve ever seen. My kindle informed me that the final page of the book was at 82.2%. So what was in the remaining 17.8%?

  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Vanishing Girls novel
  • An excerpt from Oliver’s Replica novel
  • Acknowledgments
  • Two stories set in the world of Before I Fall
  • An essay by the author about the “greatest hits” of her life – a reference from Before I Fall
  • Lists and emails discussing the different title ideas for Before I Fall
  • An alternate cover design for the book
  • A 2009 Letter from the Editor
  • A letter from the author herself
  • Oliver’s interview with actress Zoey Deutch and Director Ry Russo-Young about the film, along with pictures from the set
  • Plus, the usual book ads, praise for the book, About the Author, list of other books by the author, and copyright and publishing information

Was all this necessary? For me, the answer is NO! I understand why bonus materials can be useful at times. I’m sure excerpts of the next book in the series convince some readers to go out and purchase the next book, and sometimes an additional novella can be interesting when you’ve lived within a book so long and you just can’t bear to part with the world. However, more often than not, the bonus material just feels forced and too much like a marketing ploy (though not as much of a ploy as when books get new covers just so you’ll buy multiple versions of the same book…). If the book was great, I’m going to read the next one in the series. If it was a standalone book, I’ll keep the author’s name in mind when I’m in the library or at a bookstore. I don’t need bonus content to pressure me into it.

That’s not to say that all bonus content is bad. For instance, I really enjoyed learning about how Andy Weir’s novel The Martian started out as a challenge for himself about how someone could survive on Mars. He posted the story online, and then turned it into an e-book when there was a lot of interest generated, until it became a huge best-selling novel and a movie. I like learning about the inspiration behind a story and the journey an author has taken to get the story to its end product. Generally, however, bonus content doesn’t add much to my reading experience.

How about you? Are you into bonus material at the end of the books you read? What types of bonus materials do you find the most worthwhile?