Penguin Books announced last week First to Read, a program that allows people a chance to read books before they’re released.

Sometimes you get the whole book, but other times you only get an excerpt. I signed up when I heard about the program and requested copies of two books. I only got one of them, “A Tap on the Window” by Linwood Barclay, described as a thriller.

First to Read asks you to review the books after reading, and to share them on social media. Essentially, it helps create a buzz for the books before they come out. “A Tap on the Window” doesn’t come out until August 6, and yet I’ve already read it.

I see a couple of things happening here:

1. Readers get a sense they are part of a club. They get to read a book before anyone else–and for free. Reviews might be on the more generous side because of it.

2. It’s already working. “A Tap on the Window” already has 20 ratings with three full reviews–all positive–on its Amazon listing (although only Amazon Vine members are allowed to leave reviews at this point) with a 3.9 overall rating out of 5.

First to Read also allows users build points for doing different things such as requesting a book, downloading or sharing excerpts. Currently, the rewards for the points are vague, such as getting early excerpts or guaranteeing a digital copy of a book.

I fully intend on reviewing the book I received (that’s for another post though), but I wanted to write a little more about First to Read.

Readers are required to have Adobe Digital Editions to download the material. Penguin offered about eight books in the first go around with thrillers, romance and fantasy. The next offers start July 9. Downloading the book to my laptop was simple. Click on the link, download the copy and read it on my screen in ADE.

Getting it on my Nexus 7 was more difficult–it didn’t happen at all.

After downloading the copy on my tablet, I was given three options of where I could open the book. And none of them worked (If there is someone out there who wants to offer tips on how to get this work, I’m listening). It asked me if I wanted to read it in Chrome, The Reading Room reading app or Adobe Reader. I tried downloading another third-party app but that didn’t work either.

Other than that hiccup with the tablet, the process was straightforward.

The First to Read program is intriguing. Regular readers get a copy of the digital galley, and then write a review. But I wonder: Does this mean that in the next six weeks a book could be changed? What if there’s something in a book that is universally disliked: a passage, a plotline, an ending? I wonder if readers will have the power to change what is going on … or is six weeks too short of a time?

Digital copies can be changed, but I have a feeling it’s not simple when it comes to print, since printing, of course, has to be done in advance.

What I do like about the program is that these are not just first-time authors. Linwood Barclay has about a dozen novels in his stable. The numbers of copies is also limited from about 10 to 50 books depending on the title.

I enjoyed Penguin’s program on the first try and intend to keep using it.


  1. I enjoy the program too. I got “The Grim Company.” The rewards are vague, and reviews aren’t neccesary, but I suspect reviewing books might be key to opening up the “guarantee a digital copy” button. I’ll give them reviews in exchange for free books.
    Make sure the Adobe Digital Editions is recognizing your device as acticvated to read the book. That is the extent of my knowledge though. I don’t know how to fix it if it isn’t recognizing your device.

  2. Interesting feedback, Susan. I tried for the Barclay book, but I didn’t get it.

    Did you try Aldiko for reading the Epub? That one works well with ADE books, and is my app of choice for them.

  3. I am reading it on my nexus 7 now. What I did was open it in Adobe digital editionson my pc. Then using the free program Calibre on my pc, added it from My Digital Editions file and sent it to my Nexus 7. I have been able to open the file in my Kindle app, Mantano reader app, moonreader app, and pdf viewer app with out any problems. hope this helps.

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