Chuck Wendig hosts a discussion on what gets people to buy a book and (this is one of those times when you should read the comments) the results are interesting. A lot more people rely on blurbs than I would have expected, and several people say that glance at the first page or paragraph to decide yay or nay.
I reminded me of kicking back with my son to watch movies from the 80’s. When ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK starts, there’s nothing but a black screen, synth music and the credits, because it was made for a time when you bought the ticket and sat down in a theater. Nobody was holding a remote in their hand, thumb over the FF button.
When I pointed this out to my son, he asked to skip the credits but I wouldn’t. “This is the movie,” I told him.
Anyway, I understand the value people place on first pages, but sometimes they can be misleading. I really enjoyed THE NAME OF THE WIND but I only persevered past the “three kinds of silence” opening because people assured me the style would change.
For myself, I buy books mainly because of the author, the book is a classic of a genre, or a recent(ish) book is so widely lauded that it seems likely to become a classic. I read very slowly, so I can’t just be grabbing stuff willy-nilly.