Monday, February 15, 2010

ARCs, Once Again

At the end of this post is a round up to my previous, often lengthy explanations of what an ARC is (and isn't) and why an ARC isn't just like a hardcover and why it shouldn't be sold or added to a library collection.

On one of the library listservs I lurk on, I found out that many Friends of the Library sell ARCs at booksales, sell them on E-bay, and think it is appropriate to add these items to library catalogs.

Which, just goes to show you, that the education of library staff and related professionals when it comes to publishing and ARCs is sadly lacking. The fault is not in the Friends group (well, OK, it is) but also in the Library Director who allows this.

Dear Librarians:


It doesn't matter how badly your budgets have been slashed. No, really.

And they also should NOT be given to your Friends to sell them. No, really.

Guess what? Part of your ethical responsibility is to educate those around you as to why this is an issue, and act accordingly. Which means NOT giving them to your Friends. Just tell them pages fell out so they cannot be sold. Half my ARCs lose pages in the first reading, so you're telling them the truth.

If you need more copies of Twilight, you wouldn't photocopy it instead of buying it, would you? (If you said you would.... I am more depressed than words could say.)

Dear Bloggers and Reviewers:

If YOU are the source of the ARCs being sold or added to the collections, stop donating them to libraries. Frankly, my personal belief is that if they are not being given directly to a teen to read and review and respond, they should be thrown out, unless (like Scholastic) other places are noted on the ARC as acceptable donation places. BUT, it should be clear you are donating them to be read, not to be sold.

"But it's a collector's item!" Excuse: Yes, in some circumstances, an ARC is indeed a collector's item with its own inherent value. Guess what? Those circumstances are very limited. And nine out of ten times, doesn't apply to your selling situation. Instead, what happens is people who think they are buying the "real book" are being sold an inferior product. And, people who think an ARC is a paperback version of a book don't understand what the issue is and get defensive and pissy.

A round up of my previous posts about ARCs:

But Can I Catalog It?, YALSA Blog, September 1, 2009

ARCs: Just Like a Hardcover, Only Free! Part 1. December 21, 2009

ARCs: Just Like a Hardcover, Only Free! Part 2. December 30, 2009.

Interviews About ARCs:

With Sheila Ruth, Imaginator Press. May 7, 2009

With Andrew Karre, Carolrhoda Books. May 13, 2009.

With Brian Farrey, Flux Books. May 20, 2009.

With Sarah Prineas, author. May 27, 2009

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


teacherninja said...

Thanks for reminding folks about this. I had my fill of ARCs working at bookstores for a while. I passed them on after reading them, or tossed them. I only kept one (HP & Chamber of Secrets). Sometimes it seems there are bloggers out there that "review" books only to get ARCs I can't believe anyone would try to put one of these in their collection. Jeez.

Jennifer said...

Every time I think I've found them all, another one pops up in my teen area...sigh. Immediately withdrawn of course, but still irritating. Any ARCs I review from publishers are either shared with kids to get their feedback or used as summer reading prizes. Of course, I cannot control what happens to them afterwards, but I don't think I've ever seen any in our library sales - although I have seen a ton at a Half-Price book store not too far away. Generally I am a big fan of Half-Price, used to work there, but this? Not cool folks. Whoever is supplying them needs to stop and they need to get them off the shelves.

Colleen said...

I donate to Children's Hosp in SEA or to a local church charity. I'll be honest though - I can't throw them out because to me that is just too wasteful. It's a book going to recycle (because of course you wouldn't put them in the TRASH!!! :) when there are people who can't afford a book and while I think libraries are great if you life outside the city here then you have to pay $70/yr for a library card (and the city limits are very very small). That makes the library impossible for a lot of people.

I don't think they should be sold and certainly not shelved (that boggles my mind) but garbage is too extreme for me too.

sassymonkey said...

I have finally found a place for my ARCs. I hated the idea of throwing them out. A local community centre has a Community Bookshelf. You can leave and take books at will. There's no cataloguing, etc. One of the worries was that people would use it as a way to dump old textbooks and that there wouldn't be enjoyable content. The next time I clear out ARCs, that's where they are going.

Liz B said...

Jim, I was especially astounded to hear Friends groups championing adding ARCs. If a librarian cannot educate their friends group about this issue, its a problem. And then it means less money for the library for books because the assumption is a library should be adding all those "free books" that is ARCs.

Jennifer, I think the ones we give to kids arent the issue. It's the adults who have them and sell them; or have them and just bulk donate them to libraries. And then the libraries who add them. It's a massive fail of library education that adding ARCs to the collection happens.

Colleen, I really, really think we need to stop saying "book" for an ARC. It's NOT a book; its a paperbound promotional item. Not a book. Giving an inferior product to a child who doesn't have a book doesn't give that child a book. (As mentioned above, giving kids ARCs with the understanding its not a book? Totally different). Would we give a child who needs shoes the paper slippers found in hospitals? No.

I pay $100/year for my local library, so I understand the fiscal issues. But fiscal issues do not turn an ARC into a book. Every child deserves real books, not second best with lose pages, errors, etc.

Sassymonkey, my concern with leaving ARCs in the wild like that is you know what an ARC is but the person going there doesn't. Or doesn't care. Ebay & other secondhand sellers frequent those types of open areas because they can pick up as much as they want without paying.

Unknown said...

I agree about not putting an ARC into a collection or selling it, BUT I think that giving these to a teacher or community center to keep on their shelves is a GREAT thing. Teachers DO NOT get money to buy books for their classrooms, they coble together a book collection through many ways, but mostly they purchase the books with their own money. YES, most schools have a library in them and the teachers and their students have access to the library, BUT, it is always good for a teacher to have a classroom library (for so mnay reasons). Like Coleen, I can't throw something like that out, so why not give it to a teacher for their library, who knows, maybe they have a student who reads it, who then asks for the library to purchase the book (I purchase many books on student reccomendation). Believe it or not, I would take a review from a student more seriously than I would a review from a blog or a magazine when I am purchasing books with my ever shrinking budget.

Liz B said...

Kathy, if the teacher understands what an ARC is, and isn't, it makes sense to donate them to that teacher & that teacher can use them in the way they are intended. It's what I do with my ARCs (those that still have all pages left).

If you click through to my prior posts, you see the danger in using them without that knowledge; for example, a teen reading a ARC and discussing it based on a chapter that isn't in the final book.

As for a community center, with an informal bookshelf of lending? No. There is nothing there, and no one there, to educate about what the ARC is (and isn't). So absent that educational component, and with the risk of resellers using that shelf as the source of their product, I wouldn't advocate community centers as a place to donate ARCs.

And not having money doesn't change that an ARC is not a book and should not be treated as such.

EM said...

Two of my very favorite indie bookstores sell them -- one at $1/pop, one at 3/$1. I am not naming them because I love them and this makes me crazy.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I'm sort of floored that librarians would do this, as they are the most educated readers out there, outside of directly living in the publishing business.


Emily said...

Okay, I do understand the issue of having ARCs in Library collections - they're obviously not meant to be there, but sometimes it slips through. I would like to say that at least in my library, it's not librarians who do this... but the processing department. They know not to, but sometimes an ARC slips through and we end up weeding them as soon as we see them.

Also, Libraries receive ARCs all of the time from publishers. Generally they are just passed around for the librarians. Eventually I'm sure they end up staying in someone's hands - and who knows what they do with them after that.

As for things we are donated... We LOVE to get ARCs! These go straight into the hands of our kids - with the shpeil about "this is an advanced copy, blah, blah, blah." Perhaps the way to be smart about your donations is to create a contact with a Librarian who understand what they're getting. That way you can be sure the ARCs aren't getting stuck in the collection.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thanks for the educational post. I will add a link to it from my new book blogger FAQ.

Carrie K said...

It boggles my mind that people think it is okay to sell or shelve ARCs. Every ARC I have seen is clearly labeled as such all over the cover and inside, and states that it cannot be sold.

I admit that I have kept some of the ARCs I receive in my personal collection, but I always buy the published book for my library. The majority of them get passed on to students or teachers who grasp the concept of what they are reading. Once it starts to fall apart, I recycle it. I know our county does not accept real books for regular recycling, but they will accept catalogs, phone books, etc, and I've assumed that because an ARC is cheaply bound, it can be recycled too. I could be very wrong in my assumption, though.

Marge Loch-Wouters said...

Keep singing it, sistah! It is one of the most irritating things I have seen colleagues do. THERE IS NO EXCUSE. Share with staffers, share with kids - but BUY the book. Grrr. I linked to your post from my blog.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks for continuing to educate about this, Liz. Personally, I do keep some ARCs in my own private collection, when they're books I love, that I can't bear to throw away. It's more a sentimental attachment than a collection, since I'd never sell them.

And I give them to kids when I get the opportunity (though I find I have to be carefully. Some kids, especially if they have perfectionist tendencies, really get put off by things like typos). Other ARCs I have stacked up, because, yes, it's hard to throw a book into the recycle bin. Thanks for what you said about it being NOT a book, but a piece of promotional material. That's going to make it easier.

Unknown said...

Very well said!

I was surprised to notice that a book that my daughter was reading from her intermediate school library was an ARC. That was the first time I had heard of the issue. She had been carrying it around all week. It took me a while to notice it.

I sometimes lend them to close friends, but I generally try not to.

I do keep ARCs I enjoy in my personal collection, and I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I also find that most of the ones I get are pretty well-bound, and mostly almost like a finished copy.

I often end up buying the finished book as gifts for other people when I've really enjoyed it as a way to share the love.

Colleen said...

I don't know - I'm going to have to agree to disagree here. Yes, I receive some ARCs that are clearly a promotional item, etc.(no cover design, multiple typos) but mostly I receive a lot of them that other than being soft bound and having the ARC disclaimer on the front are pretty much identical - down to cover art - from the final hard bound. And I grew up way too damn poor to throw them out as opposed to giving to a kid. Further, at Children's the ARCs even work better than HCs because when you're in a hospital bed then softcover is the way to go.

Liz, I got over 700 books last year - no idea the ARC vs HC breakdown but I can't throw out hundreds of books, whether they have ARC printed across the front or not. Is everyone saying here that they throw out cumulatively thousands of ARCs a year?

Wowsers. Talk about a reason to go to pdfs.

MotherReader said...

Adding ARC's to library collections is crazy, and librarians should know better.

But - ducking now - I don't have a problem with Friends groups selling them cheaply in book sales IF THEY are clearly marked as ARC's. Or they could be given away promotionally at the sales - buy three books, take an ARC home free.

I just hate recycling them.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

My ARCS all get borrowed by my teen library council in exchange for review. Most of these have fallen apart after three turns out and I recycle them. The ones that are in good condition, I will give to one of the English teacher's I know who adds them to her classroom library and lets the teens borrow them. They don't last long, so I can't imagine why anyone would add them to the library collection. Luckily, that hasn't happened at my library, but I have noticed them at our library booksale, which angers me to no end. It says "do not sell" right there on the cover! I've only kept a few-like Jen, I keep them for sentimental value more than anything.

Miss Haley said...

i don't really get it, though. i mean, ARCs are expensive to print. they're more durrable than paperbacks. if i read an ARC and review it and im done with it, and will never read it again, what am i supposed to do with it? throw it away? what's wrong with giving the ARC to the library? i could be just missing information, and i absolutely have no malicious intent with this comment and im honestly curious. i don't think i understand your viewpoint... :\

Kathleen said...

I understand not putting ARCs in the library, I get that. But what am I supposed to do as a reviewer. It would kill me to throw out a book, even if it's an unfinished ARC. I just can't throw them out. Do people really do that? Is that what publishers want?

Little Librarian said...

Thank you so much for posting this and posting relevant links! I have been wanting an answer to this question for a very long time. I have to say, the sad thing is that the problem here is lack of education on all accounts. As far as I can remember, (and currently) the issue has not come up in any of my Library Science classes (I have an undergrad and am working on my grad) and it should have somewhere.

I do wonder though, what can we do with them besides recycle (or keep)? Is it that hard to recycle or are there concerns that recycling really doesn't make it to where it goes?

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thank you for saying this so succinctly and passionately, Liz.

ARC's of my upcoming Scholastic novel recently went out by my publicist and already there are copies on Ebay for sale. ERGH!

Danette Haworth said...


You raise some good points in not adding ARCs to the collection or selling them (beside the fact that you're not supposed to). Reading a chapter that won't be in the final is a good one.

Also, the average twelve-year-old library patron won't realize why the book she thought would be so good is lacking in a way she can't put her finger on. She may not discern the paper quality, the binding, and lack of design elements all impact her experience with the story, which is now competing with finished hardcovers.

Like Kimberly above, I was shocked to discover "used" copies of my first book on ebay BEFORE the book's release date!

Doret said...

I only donate finished copies I get from publishers to my local library.

ARC's go to local charties like United Way or Salvation Army.

I know they are unfinished but I can't throw them out.

I don't understand how people can sell ARC's on Ebay for profit, its just so wrong.

Why isn't anyone looking into. It should be taken as seriously has selling library books online.

I am waiting for the day, when a publishers sets up a sting ( just started reading Heist Society by Carter)

and buys one of their arc's from ebay.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I am a new book blogger and I appreciate any advice on what's right/what's wrong in reviewing ARCs. I've only gotten a couple of these so far, and I have just kept them at the bottom of my shelf in my office. I wasn't sure what to do with them!

Gail Gauthier said...

Sorry I'm coming late to the party, as usual.

I am aware of a library that routinely shelves ARCs. I know the librarian and brought it up with her. She would not back down.

I know I've said this before somewhere, but I think publishers could help themselves and their authors if they would include something like "Not for use in library collections" on the label they stamp on ARC covers. It would take a lot of brass to shelf them when the patrons could see that they aren't supposed to be used in that way.

Bibliovore said...

Thank you for this and your other ARC-educational posts. I am on a swapping site and have more than once gotten an ARC in place of a hardcover that I requested, which is strictly against the rules of the site but guess what? they do it anyway. Gah.

One of my favorite used bookstores also sells ARCs, which cause me some anguish, especially when I find one that's been on my wishlist forever and I really want to read it and my conscience smacks me between the eyes and says, "NO. NO BUY." I was really shocked the first time I found one, but then I remembered they were in the money-making business and just because they do it via books doesn't make them angels. Sigh.

Krista said...

I know that this is an older post, but thank you for posting it. I am starting up a newer blog and I am going to post a link to this so that anyone who visits can read this.