I collect Advance Reading Copies, better known as ARCs. ARCs are uncorrected proofs or galleys printed prior to the publication of a book for promotional purposes. You may also hear them referred to as an Advance Copy, Advance Readers Copy, Advance Review Copy or Advance Reader’s Edition. Either way, I find them intriguing and seek them out whenever I buy.
Advance Reader’s Editions are great because they’re scarce (print runs are very small) and you can often get the book well before it’s actually available to the general public. Better yet, they’re in soft cover format instead of a bulky heavy hard cover book. To top it all off, they’re generally cheaper than a First Edition.
An Advance Readers Copy usually has a letter from the editor in the preface and includes marketing and publicity information on the back cover. The cover art on an ARC may be completely different and sometimes there are real differences in the content, though that seems more the exception than the rule in my experience. There are frequently typographic errors in the text, though I don’t find that it detracts from my reading of the book. In fact, it’s a sort of sleuthing that I enjoy. It enhances the feeling of privilege – that you’re getting a sneak peek at the author’s work.
Collecting ARCs isn’t really mainstream, but it is acknowledged by bibliophiles and I highly recommend reading the esteemed Ken Lopez’s take on the topic. There’s also a bit of controversy about the subject from a publisher perspective, exacerbated by the used books market on the Internet. Every Advance Reading Copy is labeled as ‘Not For Sale’ on the cover, plain as day. Never mind that pesky ‘possession is nine tenths of the law’ axiom.
Scribner went so far as to put a letter on the cover of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story that essentially pleads and browbeats recipients into not reselling the book. In this letter EVP Susan Moldow cites previous experiences in which Advanced Reader’s Editions showed up on eBay shortly after being distributed. I find it a bit shocking that a publisher is worried about such a small rounding error.
Instead, I’d like to think Scribner isn’t that shortsighted, that perhaps this was a bold, sly move to encourage people to sell copies on eBay and increase the buzz on the book. I mean really, what better way to get folks to sell these on eBay than to actively campaign against it right on the cover. Talk about a collector’s item! Fine Books & Collectibles has a nice article on the subject, including a stance on the unenforceability of the ‘Not For Sale’ language.
Unfortunately, publishers are concerned about the resale of Advance Reader’s Editions. A few times a year Alibris would get threatening letters from publishers or their lawyers demanding that we remove certain ARCs from the site. With that in mind I actually held off on my review of Zeroville until it was published. I’d purchased it as an ARC well before the release date, another great addition to my collection which includes (among others) Fluke by Christopher Moore, Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Government by Max Barry, Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff and Th1rte3n by Richard K. Morgan.
Thing is I gave Zeroville a great review which might have helped the hype and sales. In my mind, Advance Reading Copies are to books what private Beta sites are to the Internet. What do you think? Are you a reader who likes the idea of an ARC? If you’re an author, what’s your take? Any publishers nosing around the blog, jump into the fray! Booksellers, have you gotten those nasty-grams from publishers? If so, what did you do?