ARCs for Sale?

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 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?



Filed under Book Blogs, Publishers

15 responses to “ARCs for Sale?

  1. Shame on them. Librarians should know better. I know our teen librarian would give them out as prizes at events or give them to our Teen Advisory Board.

  2. Those ARCs may have been donated to the library by patrons as well. When I’m getting culling books, I donate ARCs that I don’t think fellow bloggers will want to Goodwill, but I know that many others donate them to their library (depending on the library’s policy about them). Either way they’re really not being sold for a profit, they’re being sold for very minimal prices to benefit a not-for-profit institution. And really, I think the chances of them taking a sale from the publisher at either Goodwill or a library booksale is pretty minimal, I think most people pick up books in those places that look interesting, not necessarily books they would have bought anyway. I agree that it might be a little more shady if they were books specifically sent to the library or picked up by librarians at trade shows IF the library paid their way there, but if they were donated by patrons or librarians who spent their own money to get to BEA or something similar, it doesn’t bother me.

  3. (And also it was probably unnecessary to use the word ‘minimal’ more than once in such a relatively short piece of writing)

  4. stilettostorytime

    See, I think it’s interesting to see the difference in opinions of those who are and those who are not librarians…I now as a book blogger and not a working librarian usually give away my ARCS in giveaways or donate them to a shelter…we have many local shelters that house families…so they welcome teen and children’s books as well as adult.

  5. As a new author with a book that’s been out less than a month, I come down on the side of no-sell. First, since ARCs go out early, they could be selling for a fraction of the list price of the final book at the same time the book’s hitting bookstores. It’s not unlike pirated first-run movies in effect (granting that the print/distribution is not theft). Second, it does say right on them that they’re not to be sold. What part of that don’t the sellers understand? I love the idea of donating them to underserved communities’ libraries, but would argue that, even there, a decent waiting period should be observed.

  6. stilettostorytime

    Thanks Susan…it’s nice to have a writer’s perspective….I kind of felt that way too, that was why I mentioned “White Cat” specifically since it just came out this May! The “Not for Sale” thing is also one of the main things that bothers me too especially since the price tag was right beside it!

  7. This is a great topic! Just to clarify, though: While my speech did lay out the “standard” position on ARCs–that selling them is a Very Bad Thing–I didn’t do that to agree with the position, but to question it… which is where the “well, but what if that money’s going to feed a starving child?” line comes in.

    In real life, although I appreciate the reasons that authors and publishers have for discouraging the reselling of ARCs, I don’t believe it’s inherently unethical to do so, and I would never condemn somebody just for selling one. (I give mine to Housing Works, a non-profit used bookstore in Manhattan that uses all its proceeds to fund programs for people with AIDS. Unless I give them to friends I think should read them.)

  8. stilettostorytime

    Thanks for the comment Ron! I linked to your talk at Book Blogger Con so people could hear the whole presentation which I really enjoyed. I think my biggest problem with this issue I encountered is my background as a librarian and what ethically we were educated to do…this goes against it in my opinion. And the multiple other uses for the ARC that the library could have facilitated besides the book sale…well it’s just odd to me that they would choose that. And as I said there was not just one but many ARCs for sale.

    • That’s one of the things that made this such an interesting issue for me: As you point out, there are a LOT of different ways the library could have chosen to handle the issue of what to do with the ARCs…

  9. I know several bookstores sell ARCs, including The Strand in New York and have always wondered why they do it. It bothers me too.

  10. I really have a problem with book bloggers or bookstores selling ARCS.

    However, I don’t see the same problem with charities. If you donate a book to charity, most likely it will get sold, not kept. There are many charities that have thrift stores and they will send anything donated to the thrift store.

    Where I live, any books donated to the library are actually donated to a charity called Friends of the Library. They will give it to the library, if they think they can put it on the shelves for check out. If it’s not suitable for that, it goes up for sale, when they have their book sale twice a year. ARC’s go in the sell pile.

    Since they are a charity that directly benefits the library and not for profit, I have no problem with it.

  11. I’ve seen ARCs for sale at used bookstores (like Half-Price Books) and that really bugs me because I feel like the people who work at these stores should know better.

    Personally, when I finish my ARCs, I donate them as prizes for the kids and teens at my library. I make sure our teen librarian knows that they are not to be added to the collection.

    I know at our library, the book sales are run completely by volunteers from the Friends of the Library. No librarian is involved in running the sales. I’m not saying that I think it’s right to sell an ARC, but there’s a big chance that the people running the sale just don’t know any better or that they have such a volume of donations that they haven’t noticed “not for sale” printed on the cover (or they have noticed it but don’t know what it means).

  12. MannaB

    I think libraries should follow the rules just like everyone else! Shame on them!

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