On Saturday I went to one of my local library’s bi-annual book sales. While browsing through their sale stacks I came upon multiple ARCs for sale. For those who don’t know ARC stands for (Advanced Reader’s Copy) meaning it is the pre-book sent out to reviewers and the like before the book is officially published. My guess is that these were either sent to librarians for review or picked up by library staff at conferences such as Book Expo America and the Amecian Library Association’s Annual Convention. As any reviewer will tell you selling ARCs is a big “No, No” in our profession.
Book Bloggers recently addressed this topic at the Book Blogger Convention in NYC where Ron Hogan of Beatrice.com spoke specifically on the subject. He basically said what most of us Book Bloggers believe…that selling ARCs for profit: books we receive free but cost publishers to make and ship is wrong. Unless per say you are doing it to “feed a starving child”. Now this was kind of in jest but it’s the old adage that their is always a situation that will be unclear. So is it okay for a library to sell ARCs for profit to fund the library?
As a librarian seeing these ARCs at a library book sale bothered me. First of all most ARCs plainly say “Not for Sale” on the cover. One of the ARCs I found was one that I in fact had received myself, a copy of Holly Black’s White Cat. The library wanted $2.00 for the book. This is a fairly recent publication and a very popular YA book. A book I know a lot of teens would love to get their hands on. The library system itself only has four copies for eleven branches. Why had the book not been donated to the community in some way or given to a teen patron who would cherish it?
This has really bothered me in the past few days for many reasons. One is that I can’t help but wonder how many ARCS were in the multiple rooms of books available at that sale. Since I saw a few I can’t help but think that it was not by accident. Secondly as a librarian I was often faced with what to do with an ARC after I read it and after publication…I always gave it away in some way to patrons. Kids and teens love books, they don’t care if it’s an ARC. And working in a low income area public library, those ARCs were sometimes the only book in the house once proudly taken home by that child or teen. So should these ARCs have been given away to patrons, other reviewers, donated to shelters or was it perfectly acceptable for them to be sold by the library?
Many would argue that the current budget situations facing libraries is critical and every penny counts. Since the library system I formerly worked for has laid off hundreds of staff and cut hours (not however the same library as the library having this sale), I would be one to argue that too. However I still feel that selling these ARCs is wrong. I feel librarians should be leading by example and this was very offensive to me. I would love to hear what others think about this…it is something I have never encountered and I am having a hard time getting it off my mind. Is or is it not okay for libraries to sell ARCs for in their library book sales?