Mix up the chapters in a book so you don’t know when you’re about to finish it—avoid book meta-knowledge spoilers this way!

Background:

A book always has an obvious indicator of how far along you are in the story. With a physical book, you can see the remaining pages, while e-book readers display a difficult-to-avoid indicator like “232 pages (67%) remaining.”

The Issue:

The problem here is that the number of remaining pages conveys a lot of information. For example, imagine a 300-page mystery novel where the detective has assembled the suspects into the parlor of a manor house:

If this action occurs on page 100, then the reader knows that this is obviously not the ending, so the murderer will not be confronted/ revealed.

But if this same action occurs on page 270, the reader knows that the case is nearly concluded, the murderer is about to be revealed, and that all the clues have been gathered.

Yet it’s the same situation either way! It might be nice to read a book without knowing this meta-information.

Proposal:

Let’s take a cue from the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which would often have a few introductory pages and then say “Turn to page 80” (even though that “page 80” text could would have been equally suitable for page 4).

We can simply shuffle some of the chapters around: the first chapter will still start on page 1, but at the end of each chapter, the reader is instructed to turn to a somewhat arbitrary page number to find the start of the next chapter. (Importantly, the chapters are un-numbered.)

For example, at the end of chapter 1, the bottom of the page could say “for the next chapter, turn to page 80.” Pages 80 to 110 would be that “next” chapter (chapter 2). At the end of page 110, the bottom of the page would say “for the next chapter, turn to page 50,” and so on. Figure 1 illustrates how this mixing-up of chapters would work.


Fig. 1: This is basically just a normal book, except the chapters have been reshuffled and chapter numbers have been removed.

A reader could still keep track of how many pages (or chapters) they had read, but most readers will probably just be surprised when they come across the last page.

Conclusion:

There is an additional benefit to this system: if a “sophisticated” reader wants a more “avant-garde” style of novel, they can just read the novel straight through in page order. This would provide a sort of interesting—and possibly very confusing—non-linear narrative that jumps around in time. (The same effect can be obtained with an audiobook by setting the track selector to “randomly shuffle.”)

PROS: Costs nothing to implement!

CONS: It might actually not be a huge deal for people to know how close they are to the end of a novel. Usually you can tell when a story is wrapping up, anyway. But not always!