Eclipse Special Edition Invites Illicit Readings

Alison Morris - June 13, 2008

Keen-eyed Pat Pereira is one of the booksellers who keeps watch over all the goings-on in our store’s children’s section. Today she shared with me a rather interesting (and I think entertaining) phenomenon on the Stephenie Meyer front. Little, Brown recently published a hardcover "Special Edition" of Eclipse (the third book in Meyer’s wildly popular series) that includes bonus materials not available in the original edition, though (to Little, Brown’s credit) at the same price as the original, $19.99. The bonus materials include a full-color poster (printed on the back of the book’s dust jacket), two iron-ons, and the first chapter of the long-awaited Breaking Dawn, which won’t be released until August. Pat’s report to me today was that teenage girls are coming in to the store, picking up the new Special Edition of Eclipse, reading the first chapter of Breaking Dawn at the back of the book, then putting it back on the shelf and leaving.

My reaction: Who can blame them?? If you’re a Stephenie Meyer fan who already owns Eclipse in hardcover, how fair is it to expect you to buy it AGAIN, just so that you can get a glimpse of what’s coming in August? I personally believe it’s rather unfair. If Little, Brown (or Stephenie Meyer) wanted to insist on making money off Breaking Dawn’s sneak preview, I’d have preferred to see them put it on a secure website and charge readers some nominal amount of cash to access it. What I really would have liked to see, though, is everyone embracing the fact that teenagers are so OVERJOYED by this series of books as to just post that first chapter online for them to read FOR FREE. As for how that would affect the flow of cash into publisher/author coffers, I think the buzz that would have followed everyone’s free access to that first chapter would have sold enough additional copies of Breaking Dawn to more than make up for the "loss" of not having published its first chapter at the back of a "Special Edition" of the previous book.

I suppose this is very un-retailer-like attitude, but what can I say? I hate the idea of such enthusiastic readers (especially YOUNG enthusiastic readers) having to cough up the cash twice and walk away with little more than two copies of the same book.

I suppose that’s why I’m having a hard time mustering any discontent with the teenagers coming into our store and treating it (for brief stretches of time) like their own Stephenie Meyer Reading Room. If you’re an Edward- or Bella- or Jacob-loving teen without the available resources to purchase Eclipse a second time (or convince a parent to purchase it for you), AND the first chapter isn’t available for you to read online, AND all the new edition copies have been checked out of the library, well…? What’s a teen to do?

Bookstores to the rescue! I wondered if anyone had actually confessed online to this illicit in-store chapter-reading and, lo and behold, I found many, many Meyer fans who mention having done so. What’s pasted below is just a sampling.

When I read this one I had to wonder about the definition of "obscure bookstore" (hopefully not any independent bookstore that I know):

"I managed to find a copy of the Special Edition Eclipse in an obscure bookstore and I read the first chapter of BD while the person wasn’t looking =) that way I don’t have to buy it."

And here we have an argument against having comfy chairs in your store:

"So my sis in law TJ and I decided to go to Hastings and have some hot chocolate and grab a copy of the special edition of Eclipse that has the first chapter of Breaking Dawn at the end of it, and sit down in their comfy chairs and read it."

We’re going to assume this next blogger doesn’t live anywhere NEAR any independent bookstores:

"I really want to go into the Barnes and Noble there so I can read the 1st chapter of Breaking Dawn in the special edition of Eclipse."

The same goes for this one:

"While he was looking for a hat, me, Mom, Chantel and Ashley went across to the Books-A-Million to read the first chapter of Breaking Dawn in the special edition of Eclipse."

But this is the post that really summed up my thoughts:

"Yes, I sneaked a look at the Breaking Dawn preview inside the new "special edition!" of Eclipse – which is wrapped in plastic to prevent people from reading the preview without buying the book, but I did find one that wasn’t shrink-wrapped.

"That is a bad, bad thing to do to a devoted fanbase, especially a devoted teenage fanbase. Hardcovers are expensive enough without having to buy a book twice over, and Breaking Dawn may be coming out in August but since when are fangirls known for delayed gratification?"

Too true!

If you aren’t familiar enough with the Stephenie Meyer fanbase to fully appreciate the level of their enthusiasm, please do yourself the favor of watching this completely charming video on YouTube, in which a teenage girl who has just had a GLIMPSE of Breaking Dawn‘s cover proceeds to speculate about everything the cover image could possibly suggest. You go, fangirl.

14 thoughts on “Eclipse Special Edition Invites Illicit Readings

  1. Kate G.

    Why is the publisher so clueless? You are absolutely right. Post the chapter online, or send it out as a preview to fan-bloggers and let them post it, or post a video of Stephanie reading it on YouTube. Grab the tiger by the long tail. Still, I’m curious… as long as these fans are in the bookstore… how do you get them to browse for new authors. Is hand-selling hard to this age group?

  2. Andrea

    The answer to your question is YES! If it’s not (sometimes) overbearing parents standing over their teens sneering at anything you suggest, it’s the also sometimes surly teens who barely look you in the eye much less speak in coherent sentences. It’s easier with some teens rather than others, but many don’t want to be engaged. We do the best we can, which a lot of the time I feel isn’t enough especially considering the latest study claiming that teens do less reading-for-fun than their younger counterparts. But I whole-heartedly agree with the short-sightedness of the publisher in this instance. This was a perfect opportunity to use markets like the Internet and YouTube to reach teen readers, and the publisher missed the mark by a mile here.

  3. Becky

    I’m a Twilight saga fan myself, and Alison, you are so right. I felt a little cheated when I found that the first chapter was available only in the special edition. After all, I already bought the book once- I could spend the book money discovering new books. But what really irks me is the fact that the publishers won’t allow any material to be put on HER WEBSITE because it is considered a breach of copyright. I’m sorry, but if I wrote something and was able to publish sneak previews and short passages with previous books, I would want the same right for this one. Honestly, wouldn’t it be better to have it out there in a secure, legitimate location where fans can access it and know they’re getting the real deal? By not releasing the first chapter, there has been an onslaught of wannabees out there claiming they wrote the real thing. What’s a Twilight fan to do? By the way, thanks for getting this out in the open- I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that feels a bit confused by this not-so-effective marketing strategy. And thanks for letting me rant.

  4. Kevin A. Lewis

    Speaking of wannabees, how about all the Twilight knock-offs I see coming over the ridgeline; HarperTeen has even dragged up an old teen vampire series from way back in the days of the teen horror wave of the early 90’s as a ridealong… We’ll soon be up to our chins in misunderstood teen vampires, I’m afraid…

  5. Becky

    Kevin- absolutely. The online book listings for Twlight have so many “also recommended” series or titles that deal with vampires now that it’s complete overkill. Yes, Twilight has reinvented vampire romance, not to mention gained a huge readership in both the YA and adult categories, but I think anyone in the publishing/bookselling industry, as well as readers, will feel the shockwaves in the aftermath of the Twilight saga for years in the form of knockoffs.

  6. ShelfTalker

    Kevin and Becky, What I find frustrating about all the knock-offs (and reissues!) coming off the presses is that they’re all vampire stories. A LOT (possibly even “most”) of Stephenie Meyer’s fans are kids and adults who are NOT traditionally drawn to books with Gothic or horror themes and (in our store at least) I don’t see them all flocking to those types of books now that they’ve fallen under the spell of this one series. The same push to publish so-called “similar” books happened with Harry Potter and many of those books never took off for the same basic reason — a Harry Potter fan is NOT necessarily a fan of traditional fantasy. I think there’s a short-sightedness that happens in the urge to crank out the “next Twilight” or the “next Harry Potter” that assumes the predominant THEME in the book is the draw. Those of us who’ve read these books and seen the variety of readers drawn to them know that in NO way is it that simple. And fans of these books ALSO know it — otherwise all those knock-offs would become bestsellers too!

  7. Kevin A. Lewis

    I’m not sure how many of us can recall the teen horror collapse of ’94, but what had happened was that Bob Stine had made a mint staking out the lowest common denominator in the genre, and a lot of gold diggers knocked HIM off, initiating a YA ice age that lasted about half a decade… I don’t think the current scene is quite that fragile, but history sometimes can rise up to bite you, no pun intended…

  8. Nikki

    Will this just chaps my hide, thankfully I have my copy which I have not yet read with the reciept. To the bookstore! *thinks one should call bookstore first before attempting just fan crime* I agree, why buy two copies of the book ony one of which holds a snippet for ‘Breaking Dawn’. You go you book reading fanatics fans.

  9. Kiirs

    I completely agree with you, Alison. They did the same thing last year with Eclipse (putting the first chapter in the New Moon special edition) but at least they let Stephanie ALSO put it on her website! I will admit and confess, I read it in a lovely independent bookstore. I have absolutely no intention of buying TWO copies of the same book. I mean, how many can I read at once? And I also cannot under any circumstances wait until August to read it. While I’m on the subject, if booksellers don’t want people reading books in their store, why DO they put those comfy chairs all over, inviting you to sit down with a pile of books? I would never stay all day and read a whole book, but I see nothing wrong with flipping through and reading pages here and there. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, unfortunately, so I’m very careful about which ones I buy, either for myself or my kids. When I was reading the Breaking Dawn chapter I did notice a store employee giving me the evil eye and I felt extremely guilty. But seriously, there were chairs all over the place and even colorful benches with cushions for the kids, and even toys for them to play with. But hopefully no one blames Stephenie…she’s made it pretty clear that if she COULD post it, she would, in a heartbeat.

  10. sisjane

    I did the same for Eclipse and will probably hit Barnes and Noble to read the chapter for Breaking Dawn. (No independent bookstores near me, unfortunately.) This whole thing is very craven. At least when they come out with special edition DVDs, there is usually something more than a poster and a preview added to it. I’m not utterly horrified with the HarperTeen reissue, but I gobbled those books up when they first came out. If I were still selling books, I probably would recommend them to teens, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect readers of the Meyer books to like them.

  11. Jeffe

    Say, if you booksellers know these girls (and others) will come in to read the special edition chapter, why not dedicate a copy for that purpose? Resign yourself to it being thumbed, write it off as advertising and set it up in a special display along with other suggested reading. If the readers don’t feel like they’re getting the “evil eye,” but have permission, they might be less sullen about being hand sold something else. And they might feel even joy about perusing the other offerings in a friendly place that understands them.

  12. Kate

    I live in Ireland and Twilight just isn’t as popular here yet. i only know two people in my year (grade) who have also read it. My problem is that the books aren’t known well enough here for them to be selling the special edition until probably AFTER Breaking Dawn is already out (which clearly destroys the point). therefore i cannot just read it in the bookshop anyway. my only way of reading it is to order it online and, as i already possess a copy of Eclipse, i’d rather not spend the money. does anyone know where i can read it via the web?

  13. Mooncatx

    I think people are missing the point of a preview chapter — it’s there to whet the appetite for the book to come, not to encourage you to buy the whole book. Bookstores around here totally expect you to look through and read bits of books to see if you’ll want to buy them or upcoming ones. Big comfy reading chairs and tables are strewn through out the B&N and Borders around here, even the used bookstores have the “cosy corners” == and the draw of a preview chapter, even if you don’t buy the book, is to get you into BOOKSTORES. The more times you are in a bookstore, the more chance there is you will buy a book, any book, or other merchandise, that is in that store. I go in and look at books, even if I’m not going to buy all I look at, and have a nice italian soda and maybe a pastry or sandwich from the bookstore cafe. I might not pick up a hardback of a book I already have, but I probably will pick up a few paperbacks since I happen to see some cool ones just came out. Before anyone complains a “sneak” peek is only out in a special format, consider, the alternative of NO sneak peek at all. MooncatX


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