On Trying to Read the First Chapter of Harper Lee’s “Watchman” Offline

GoSetWatchman-LRGMuch attention has been paid to the fact that the first chapter from Harper Lee’s new novel would be available to read online. The excerpt  was published on the WSJ and The Guardian this morning, but have you actually tried to read it?

The WSJ has gilded the lily by adding all sorts of unrelated nonfiction content, and The Guardian (For The Love of God, Don’t Click) has giddily discovered the possibilities of enhanced ebooks.

The Guardian has added crap the likes of which neither websites nor ebooks should be using, including auto-play background music, animated gifs, persistent animated gifs, and, well, I don’t know what else (I would not be surprised if there were a blink tag in there somewhere).

I found the reading experiences on the two sites to be so disasitsfying that I went looking for options to read offline, and I’m betting I’m not the only one. (I honestly feel that everyone who was involved in the design, layout, and creation of The Guardian’s excerpt should be fired, it’s that bad.)

And so I went looking for a better option.

It took me four or five different attempts with different tools before I found that the DotEpub bookmarklet could make a reasonably clean ebook out of the The Guardian’s text-only version of the excerpt (Instapaper, Pocket, and calibre also sorta worked but not as well, IMO).

The ebooks are not the absolute highest quality but I think they’re more readable than the websites. I’m hosting the files myself:

I hope they work well for you; at the very least I found them more appealing than the websites.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Anna Dobritt10 July, 2015

    Managed to read two pages before my brain decided it was bored.

  2. Thanks for your efforts – I can read those on my computer without even sideloading.

    Haven’t tried it – I’m of two minds about the book. Sadly, Ms. Lee isn’t going to be able to have the kind of fun with the launch that she might have had if this had been ‘discovered’ sooner.

  3. Frank10 July, 2015

    Amazon’s “Send to Kindle” extension for Firefox and Chrome both formatted the first chapter just fine using your text-only link.

    Using the animated chapter link the extension failed, just like the webpage developer who made it.

  4. Jon10 July, 2015

    So I’m sure I’m not the only one tempted by the link that says “for the love of god, don’t click” Ok so super annoying, but I did scroll all the way down to the bottom.

    Has anyone else clicked on the link to buy it for the promotional price of 9.99? If so, does the site load as slowly as humanly possible as it did for me? To call that a bookstore is a joke. And I clicked on their history book links, curious to see what is available. I think my local target has a better selection of books, which far more cheaper prices, and actually may have some of them in stock.

    1. Nate Hoffelder10 July, 2015

      It loaded relatively fast for me, but then again I have a fast internet connection.

    2. Kit10 July, 2015

      Of course I clicked where it said “for the love of god, don’t click.” You have to see how bad it is. And those stupid windows were super annoying. But I got around them by minimizing the browser window so they didn’t show, and scrolling quickly past all the illustrations. I liked it; I’m looking forward to reading the book.

      1. Kit10 July, 2015

        Also, didn’t those illustrations look odd? They looked like they were set in Colorado or Arizona or something; nothing like I’d expect Georgia to look like.

        1. Nate Hoffelder10 July, 2015

          Now that you mention it, the graphics do look more like the southwest than the South.

  5. asotir10 July, 2015

    A trick: use Safari (on Mac – I don’t know about the mobile safari version) and enable the Develop menu in preferences. You can then disable Styles, Javascript, Cookies, and Site-specific Hacks.

    Doing so will give you a text-only version of the Guardian page, including a link to another text-only page (this link, I gather, appears on any browser that disables Javascript).

  6. fjtorres10 July, 2015

    The Guardian?
    I sicced Silk’s reading view on it.
    One click, clean text

    Nothing to see, the clutted took over the entire full HD window

    Still, those guys have a reputation and they live down to it.

  7. Popup13 July, 2015

    The Guardian monstrosity is probably the result of a teenage marketing/design team that has never heard of ‘books’. Superficially it looks rather modern, in a retro-flashy way – probably enough to give the designer a raise.

    On the other hand – if you actually try to read it, it’s a complete disaster. – But who would want to read a book in this day and age, right?

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