Why do you always say what you believe?
Every proclamation guarantees
free ammunition for your enemies.
Hi book blogosphere!
It’s a rare moment, I’m going to be doing my Amber’s Rambles feature which I have not done in forever. I have a plan for changing that later this month. If you don’t know what Amber Rambles is, it’s basically my discussion feature where I discuss bookish things and such.
Anyway though, that’s not what I’m posting about. I’m going to be discussing a topic that has been making the rounds. Again. This happens fairly often in the book community. The topic at hand are ARCs. Buying and selling them, to be exact. This will be a two part post. In the first part I’ll discuss buying and selling ARCs and in the second part, I’ll talk about a possible bigger issue.
I’m sure we all know what ARCs are by now, but if you do not, they mean Advance Reader Copy.
There are several ways of getting ARCs. A somewhat common way, if you’re a blogger, is getting them through various publishers. This can involve requesting a book and then it being granted to you, being sent unsolicited copies, if you’re so lucky, blessed or full of contacts. 😉
Lately there have been several tweets and blog posts about the buying and selling of ARCs. I am going to go ahead and say right now that you probably won’t agree with me and that is fine. I’m used to being the black sheep and I have no problems with it at all. All my opinions will probably be very taboo in which case, well, I warned you. Hate the sin, love the sinner.
In this discussion, I will bring up various instances where I think buying or selling ARCs is okay. In addition, in a second discussion post that will be happening next week, I’ll bring up what I believe to be an even more important issue at hand.
So you call me amoral,
a dangerous disgrace…
(Your Obedient Servant, Hamilton)
~Let Me Lay Out Some Basics~
- Yes, ARCs do cost money to make. Yes, ARCs do cost more to make than finished copies because they give nothing (monetarily wise) back to the publisher.
- The primary focus is to build up anticipation for the book and work as publicity.
~The Age of ARCs~
Okay, so, a lot of people see ARCs being sold on Ebay and their immediate thoughts are “Oh my gosh, that’s ILLEGAL, EVERYONE REPORT THEM”, then they take screenshots and run to Twitter. This is a completely valid response. If the ARC is recently released or even UNRELEASED, I definitely think the posting should be removed.
On the other hand, let’s say it’s like a…Catching Fire ARC, a book that’s been out for about seven years now and is part of a very popular series.
Do I think that’s wrong? No, not really.
Because it’s a highly anticipated ARC, it’s from a beloved series and whoever would buy the ARC has probably bought at least one full set of The Hunger Games (yes, all three books), if not MULTIPLE sets. Don’t look or act surprised.
Now, let’s say the book is Harry Potter instead.
Yes, the first Harry Potter book. The ARC all the way from the 90s, let’s say someone has that up on another third party site like Abebooks. Would you be so quick now to say “Hey! They shouldn’t buy that ARC! ARCs are for PUBLICITY”?
Well I would hope not, the book’s been out for almost twenty years, the publicity is over. The most intense Harry Potter fans have several sets of Harry Potter. Do I think it’s horrible if one would want to buy an ARC?
No, no I don’t. Heck, I haven’t even read the series and I’d buy an ARC of Harry Potter if I had that kind of money. According to Ebay.com, they’re going for around a few hundred.
There comes a time when an ARC goes from being a marketing tool to being a piece of memorabilia and collectible. Whether a book sales a lot or it becomes a movie, I think ARCs do eventually go from being something made for publicity to something more.
~Not For Sale~
So we all know that on ARCs it says “Not For Sale”. Guess what? I don’t believe that is talking about random people selling ARCs to each other.
Granted, I don’t think it’s right for someone to sell an unreleased ARC of The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, seeing as it is not published.
I am about 99% sure that is a legality sign for physical stores such as Barnes and Noble, Target or Walmart to not sale an ARC.
One of these reasons is because it’s not yet published and the other reason being that it’s not exactly a final copy. Why would a bookstore sell an uncorrected copy with mistakes?
I don’t believe that, unless the book has NOT been released yet, it’s talking about third parties.
I came up with an analogy for this earlier when I was discussing this very subject with some friends.
My analogy was this, you know how you go to Walmart and some edible products, let’s say, crackers, and they’ll be sold in a bundle and say “Not for individual sale”?
Okay, so let’s say you go ahead and buy all the crackers from the store, but then, you turn around and sell them for individual sale.
Now, the crackers clearly state that they’re NOT for individual sale, however, you, as the owner of the crackers may do whatever you wish with them. So you decide to sell them. You gave the crackers purpose, you bought those crackers at their value, you didn’t steal them and now you’re selling them. And that’s perfectly within your right to do so.
While I know this isn’t a flawless analogy by any means, it does make things a little clearer, no? Yes, with the crackers you are buying them, but still, what if they were given to you and you sold them? Would that be bad?
It’s the same with ARCs, you read an ARC, you really like it (Or you don’t), you put a review on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, whatever media of choice and then you decide to sell it. Now, it’s an already published book. Your ARC has served it’s purpose, it doesn’t have to go around and around for the rest of it’s existence having it’s sole purpose be for “publicity”.
Let’s say you already read an already published ARC and you have reviewed it so you in turn decide to sell it on Abebooks. It gets bought by someone who’s a fan of the book, they in turn write a review for it, thus, spreading the word and publicity for the book. Was their purchasing the ARC all bad? No, they helped get the word out. The situation does get messier when this is done with an unpublished book, which I do condemn.
~The Legality of It~
There is no legal action that can be taken against anyone who buys or sells an ARC. There is also no indication of any legal binding of contract between whoever first receives an ARC and what they do with it. Publishers don’t do anything to guard against ARCs being sold before or after publication. There’s no legal agreement or contract between the publisher and reviewer either.
It’s not illegal. It’s just not. There are no legalistic consequences for selling or buying ARCs. You won’t be fined and you won’t be placed in jail. At the worst, you’ll be blacklisted from publishers and probably publicly shamed in the book blogosphere.
Is it crappy to sale an unpublished book? Yes, it is. DO I have problems with that? For sure. But do I have problems with a 2 year old, 5 year old, or 20 year old published ARC being sold? No. Not at all.
~The Moral Ethics~
Let’s be honest, it’s more of a moral issue than a legal issue.
As bloggers, librarians and booksellers, it’s especially frowned upon to sale ARCs. A book lover like us shouldn’t be participating in such acts, right? I don’t know if I really agree with the ethics, sure, like I’ve previously said, I have problems with people selling unreleased ARCs, but I don’t if it’s an already published book.
Of course, if you have requested a book from a publisher or they send you an unsolicited ARC, should you automatically have the right to sell it? Most likely not.
If you have a relationship with this publisher, it’s an even bigger offense to sell an ARC that they gave you with the belief that you would do right by them and NOT sale it.
However, if you decided to sell it after its publication date or many years down the road, that’s a different story then. If you have reservations about this though, then you most likely shouldn’t sell an ARC.
I think it comes down to your intent on selling an ARC. Are you offering it up for charity? If so, then I think that’s great. I’ve seen bloggers sell ARCs or donate ARCs for a cause which people spend money on. If your intent on selling an ARC is just for what you can get out of it (a ridiculous amount of money) then that’s a bit more less ethical.
If you’re going to a conference such as ALA and BEA and grab a bunch of books that you’re not going to read and only want to sell them, then I have a big problem with that.
As for buying, it’d be great if the only people that bought ARCs were the people that would purchase a finished copy or a collector of the ARC. I know that’s definitely not the case though. A lot of people would rather just read a book months in advance and they’ll pay big money to do so.
~Things To Consider~
I decided to make a few bullet points of things you may like to consider.
-Promo CDs Example-
In 2011 there was a court decision on whether or not the selling of promo cds in record stores was breaking a copyright law or not. The court had ruled that it was legal and no consequences would be done. People who buy promo cds would most likely be buying them for collections, much like those who would buy an ARC by a beloved author. I know that ARCs are different from promo CDs, but both of these objects are created for promotional purposes. Of course, when the CD comes out and the book is published, neither is relevant much more.
Selling promo CDs are protected based on the “First Sale Doctrine”, this doctrine says that if you legally acquired a CD, you’re able to do as you please with it. I think the same can and should go for ARCs. If a publisher sends you an ARC or someone else sends you an ARC, I believe it’s yours to do as you wish with it. Whether that’s reading it, reviewing it, selling it, using it for firewood, trashing it. . .
There are a lot of secondhand type stores, from thrift stores to Good Wills to used bookstores and stores that sell used CDs or DVDs such as Vintage Stock, it’s not uncommon to see things be sold once they’ve served someone a purpose.
I don’t see a big problem in someone purchasing an ARC from a thrift store. Let’s say you ran into The Mortal Instruments in a thrift store, there’s a good chance you would buy those ARCs, even if just to stop someone else from buying them.
The money from secondhand buys doesn’t go to the artist, record label, author or publisher from a secondhand buy, but they’re not looked down on. I know this isn’t a perfect example given the fact that with ARCs they aren’t intended to be sold in the first place.
~Potential Future Exposure~
While researching for this topic, I came across an interesting blog post by author, Scott Sigler who discussed the selling of his own ARCs.
I think ARCS being sold secondhand could bring future exposure. If you were to come across an ARC in a bookstore, it could bring more exposure a year later, after the book has been published and ARC reviews have settled down than the ARC originally did.
If you refer back to my legality point, I mentioned that publishers don’t have a binding contract to make sure a blogger, librarian or bookseller doesn’t sell their ARC.
However, much like a book’s takeaway for a reader, the author of the book loses the right to tell the reader what they think about the book is wrong. The author doesn’t have the license to tell their readers how to interpret their book. Similarly, when a publisher or author sends someone an ARC, they lose ownership of it and give away their right to control what the receiver may do with the ARC.
Once an ARC is given away to someone, the publishers lose rights on what anyone does with that ARC, as long as it’s not selling it in a first party store.
A friend came up with these next two analogies which I loved and had to use. I acknowledge that in both of these cases, you may know very potentially crappy people.
It’s like if you made a painting for a birthday present and you give it to someone, you can’t make sure that person never gives away or sells that painting. Of course, you give that painting to a person trusting that they wouldn’t betray you in that way.
Another analogy is if someone were to send you a gift in the mail, let’s say it’s a blender. A year later, you’re tired of this blender, you haven’t used it or it just sucks, so you decide to sell it somewhere. At a yard sale for instance or on Craigslist. You sell it and make a profit even though you didn’t buy it to begin with. You legally acquired this blender and it’s your legal right to sell it.
A lot of people in the book blogosphere and the publishing company make people out who buy or sell ARCs to be completely horrible people with no moral compass at all. I don’t think that’s true for one second.
People will say “Oh, well the publisher paid for that book to be made” and “Oh, well they took out of the author’s pocket”, the publisher part is true, the author part is not.
Revert back to my last point. If Person A has read and reviewed the book and sells it to Person B who also reads and reviews the book, then the book has served its purpose. Let’s please not act like ARCs are these everlasting publicity tools. They’re not. Look at the Harry Potter ARCs. After it was 2000, that ARC for publicity was over. By the time the series was finished, it was collector’s item.
So, the difference between ARC buyers and finished copy buyers?…
The two buyers are not mutually exclusive. If someone bought an ARC, it doesn’t mean they would never ever buy a finished copy and “Omg, the author lost out on the sale!”. No. That’s not the case and it’s most certainly not the rule in these matters. We need to stop acting like people who buy ARCs are intentionally trying to cheat the authors out of money. Most likely they’re buying finished copies and want the ARCs for their collections. Of course, for the majority of people, that would still be seen as bad. Personally, I think it’s fine.
~Instances Where I Think Buying ARCs Is Okay~
- When you’ve already read the book and bought a finished copy.
- When you want to collect all the books of an author’s work.
- If you’re an ARC collector in general
- If you ran into it in a thrift store.
- If you read the book and you’re a big fan of it, by all means, go on Abebooks and buy it if you want.
- I think it’s okay if you’re selling the ARCs for charity or buying them for charity. I’ve seen this done with authors and bloggers before.
~Alternatives To Buying/Selling ARCs~
Of course, if you’d rather not buy or sell ARCs, but still would like to obtain them or give them away, you can…
- Borrow from a friend
- Donate to a librarian who will read it and decide whether or not to buy an ARC or use it for another purpose.
- If you would like to donate ARCs, there is an awesome program called ARCs Float On which lets you know what teachers/schools will accept ARCs for their libraries, then you decide how to do the shipping/drop-off.
Hey, I have not been shy
I am just a guy in the public eye
(Your Obedient Servant, Hamilton)
So, to conclude my post, I am okay with people buying or selling ARCs. There are conditions when I find doing so is wrong, but there more times when I think doing so is okay and even encouraged, in the case of charity. Next week come back to see what I think is a bigger issue, in my opinion. What are your thoughts on buying or selling ARCs?
~Sources and Other Things of Interest~
On ARCs, Ethics and Speaking Up
The Fine Line: From Marketing To Memorabilia
‘For Promotional Use Only – Not For Resale’ — Oh Yes It Is
Music Collectors Can Rejoice: Promo CDs Are Legal To Sale
Fool For Proofs: The Advance Reading Copy Trade
The Turds In The Publishing Punch Bowl