Over the weekend came the news that Smashwords is rolling out the ability to pre-order its titles in the major bookstores. Yay? Or meh?

Before we get too excited, Michael Kozlowski asks the necessary follow-up question: Do people actually use this shopping method? Do you out there in Internetland actually pre-order books?

pre-orderKozlowski acknowledges that surely, some people do pre-order, or there wouldn’t be a demand for offering it. But he adds that booksellers have been less keen to exploit some of the incentives that movie, music and video game companies have for shelling out early.

From the article:

“If you order an album in advance, you normally get a bonus track; video games give you extra equipment or even new levels. Retailers give discounts on movie tickets when you pre-order a DVD or Blu-ray, or even a bonus disk.”

Personally, I remember a popular exercise video instructor who used to have a sliding scale for pre-orders, where there would be phases of increasing price: order at Phase 1 for the cheapest price quote, and then as you move closer to release day, the price steadily goes up to regular retail. I know others who include some frivolous but bullet-pointable extras such as message board support or printable schedules and plans.

And in the book world? Offhand, I can think of one pre-order promotion that actually worked, and that was the books by Sparkpeople founder Chris Downie. I am working off memory here, but I recall the first book including some pre-order goodies like an online workout video and bonus recipes, and the second book including an actual hard-copy DVD they would send you. Plus, you got ‘Sparkpeople Points’ for each purchase, which is a currency you can use on their site for various purposes. If you were an avid Sparkpeople user, this would be worthwhile to you.

I personally don’t pre-order books, even from authors I enjoy, because I am usually pretty confident that if it’s a best-seller, my library will get it and I can read it for free. The indie books I do actually buy tend to come my way already released and I can just buy them in the regular manner.

I also have a book service I subscribe to, the Toronto Star eReads, where I am automatically sent a new book every week. It is such a nominal subscription fee that I don’t even notice it ($1 per week) and I like getting the weekly email with a new book. There is another website I routinely visit which is developing a similar service, and although it’s a bit more pricey, it’s offering two books a week and some other features. I am very tempted.

To me, if I had to choose between a subscription service or a pre-order as the model of the future we should be embracing, I think the subscription service is the way to go. But I could be wrong.

Are there really a lot of people out there who pre-order e-books? Do you?


  1. I’ve never seen a need to preorder ebooks. There is no limited stock potential. I generally buy new books I want the day they come out, or later if they catch my eye after they’ve been out. For example, there are three books which I will buy when I wake up tomorrow morning. Yes, I could preorder them, I guess. If there were some sort of incentive to preordering ebooks I likely would. I doubt my book crazy would let me not do so. I am a high volume book reading/buying addict. If I preorder months in advance, I might forget about them, and end up throwing my budget off balance.

  2. It’s not about pre-ordering. It’s about getting the book listed in the places that people look for books. (ie: Amazon),, the big six have all their books listed, with release dates, months in advance. Book buyers can use Amazon searches for a ‘publication schedule’ of their favorite authors/genres. Even of no one is buying the pre-order, letting people know that your book is forthcoming is free advertising that should not overlooked.

    The downside for self pubs, however, is that they have far less reason to delay release day.. If the book is ready to be uploaded to amazon for Pre-order, it should be for sale, unless you have a cmopelling reason for windowing..

  3. There is one series I’ve started preordering for these reasons-

    1. There will be a total of 9 books in the series and so far they have released the first six books on a 6-8 month schedule. With this kind of schedule I don’t have to wonder if I’m going to have to reread the entire series to catch up.

    2. All the books have been at a preorder price of under $8.00. I’m willing to pay that price on an “automatic” basis for this series. Any other book purchase has to balanced against my budget.

  4. I have in the past and maybe will again, but it’s rare — and kind of pointless. The books I buy can sit in my TBR queue for weeks, months, or years. No book or author is so critical that I need to read it right away as it comes out.

  5. Almost never. I did it once, when I was still buying Nook books. The “pre-order” badge never came off the book cover displayed on my Nook. That was my first and last pre-order. I know I won’t have that problem on Amazon, but there’s no book I need that quickly. I don’t have a huge TBR pile, but books still sit on my device usually for a couple weeks before I read them.

  6. This is probably a little off-topic, but way back in the day, I used to occasionally place special orders for print books at Borders and B&N. You know the drill: A store doesn’t have a copy in stock of the book you’re looking for, and so a clerk kindly offers to special order it for you.

    This process was once really convenient, because when the book arrived at the store a few days later, they would hold it behind the cash wrap for you, and then you could flip through it and—after seeing the book in the flesh, so to speak—decide if you really did want to buy it. If you didn’t, they would just put the book out on the shelves for someone else to (presumably) buy.

    The last time I tried to do this was at a really big Borders store in Center City Philadelphia, just a few yards from City Hall. But I was told the process had since changed, and that I would have to pay for the book in full if I wanted the store to pre-order it for me. That was right before Borders went belly-up, but it was a really interesting sign of the times.

    And yes, I’m sure I could have returned the book for a refund after it arrived, assuming I’d changed my mind by then and didn’t really want it. But in the end, I took a pass and got the book elsewhere. (Online, natch.)

    Also: I just realized I’d accidentally left my byline on this story while I was editing it. That was an error — this piece was written by Joanna Cabot, as the byline now shows. (Sorry, Joanna!)

  7. I will always pre-order if the option is there for a book I want. Almost everything I buy is by authors I’m already reading and when I’m going to buy a book anyway, it’s easier than trying to keep a list somewhere and remembering to come back later to get it. It’s a happy surprise when a book by a favorite author pops up on my Kindle.

  8. When I was buying hard bound books, there were a few times I pre-ordered so that the book would be in my hands on release date (thank you Amazon prime), but normally I only pre-ordered hard bound books when the book was offered at a good discount.

    I’ve never seen a good deal on an ebook pre-order. In fact I’ve seen the opposite where the final release price goes down — but my preorder price didn’t drop because Amazon didn’t do the lowest price guarantee on ebooks (not sure what they do these days). Having been stuck twice, I stopped pre-ordering ebooks. But I’m still in the never pay more than $9.99 for an ebook, and then I have to talk myself into that price. Normally I wait for a deal and pick up my ebooks at $6.99 or less, even if they’re a two year old release.

  9. I pre-order as most of the time I forget on what day I live, and so I am not aware of the release date of a book I really want to read, When I get a message that the book is already released, i just download it, open it and start reading.

  10. I do pre-order. I thought with enough demand via pre-order, usually will drive the price down no? And I have a busy schedule and don’t always remember them whey they are released. Biggest risk is if the price doesn’t go down until much later…

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