e-ARC follow-up

After this article in Shelf Awareness last month, about the potential of e-ARCS for reviewing and especially indie bookstores, I got a number of very thoughtful responses. Several people wrote in to affirm that they definitely were not interested in e-ARCs at all and have concerns that for booksellers to start to work with e-books puts the future of the book at greater risk.  Several others wrote in to say they were very interested in e-readers, even though they love physical books.  And a few introduced thoughts that had never entered my mind! Below is a selection of voices that I think are crucial to the discussion:

Let me say I would dearly love an e-reader for ARC’s!! I will be anyone’s guinea pig on this! I find the amount of paper products in my office overwhelming.  Publisher’s catalogs, toy catalogs and then what-have-you catalogs. I have been known to purge so severely that my new catalogs are recycled with the old! (My reps just bring them now.)  The book sorting and sharing is never ending, as you say.  But you forgot to mention the book that has been out on the floor for 3 months and the ARC mysteriously reappears on the shelf to be re-sorted and weeded.”  —Andrea Vuleta, General Manager, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop (CA)

The aspect that isn’t being discussed is that, as a collector, I like having ARCs in my collection. Yes, fewer of them are printed and, to me, that makes them more interesting. There are often changes in the art between the ARC and the finished book and I like having those differences represented- often I prefer the artwork of the ARC. There can be changes to the story or some other aspect of the text between the ARC and the finished book and, to me, that’s worth keeping. Being in the bookworld, I am lucky enough to be able to be many of them signed by the visiting author, so I have sets – the ARC and the hardcover – and I like that. Makes my shelves jammed, but I like it. In fact, if there are gaps in my collection, they are the ARCs of author’s earlier books that I don’t have.

“I recall one author bemoaning how some faceless copy editor decided that the last three paragraphs in the author’s book really weren’t necessary so they were omitted from the finished book. Until the paperback, the only way to read the full book, as written by the author, was in the ARC.

“In another case, an author was horrified to find that an earlier and inferior version of the manuscript was mistakenly issued as the ARC and thought reviews and reactions to the book were hurt by it. He wanted anyone who had read the ARC to read the book again, in hardcover. Otherwise, you hadn’t really read ‘his book’.

“These kinds of stories, along with the artifact itself, makes me value ARCs as a collector. And, for that reason, I’d hate to see them go.”  —JB Dickey, owner, Seattle Mystery Bookshop (WA)

“Being one who tends to see both sides of an issue simultaneously, I can certainly support your reasoning about reducing waste and being more ‘green.’ But I’m also concerned that booksellers need to ‘walk the talk.’ If they’re reading books — even if in galley form — on an e-reader, why shouldn’t more customers do the same?

One alternative solution that came to me is for publishers to use the same model with booksellers as agents do with acquisitions editors: present a one or two page summary, along with a sample chapter. Since we can’t possibly read all the ARCs that we get anyway, we could at least get a feel for the content, style of writing, and whether any of our customers would like the book. Publishers could then produce galleys with print-on-demand technology, should there be some requests for the book.”  —Mark Kaufman, Paz & Associates

The moment I heard of e-readers I thought they would be an excellent tool for me as a bookseller. Imagine seeing a book promoted on a television show, website or actually meeting the author that interested me. I could IMMEDIATELY go to the publisher website, enter my super secret spidey code and download a copy to start reading. If I didn’t like it… no problem… delete it. If I DID like it… start the buzz.”  —Deb Hunter, Chicklet Books (NJ)

And here’s a helpful link from Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media Partners, about a study they did for netGalley that looks at the costs to publishers of making e-ARCs available.

Any other voices out there in the ether that want to chime in?

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