Sassy, among others, complained that there were too few ARCs at the recent ALA conference. Me? I got about 60, my norm. Granted, I grabbed with abandon, but I could have gotten more had I been less discriminating. The trick? Get 'em first thing in the morning, Day One of conference. Beyond that they were pretty scarce on the ground.
LizB and I had a conversation about the whole business about blogging and ARCs. There's been a movement from someone (the IRS? someone else?) that I agree with... sort of. Yes, if you're provided with a product and then paid to review it, you should consider that as "income". But people like me and my bunhead friends who pick up free copies of books, read them and then review? Not so much. On the other hand, I completely agree that we should be transparent about where our books come from - if they're from the publisher, whether requested, won in a twitter contest, or grabbed from a pile in a made frenzy, say so.
The blog with integrity movement makes sense.
The other issue we talked about is that there seem to be fewer ARCs out there, that publishers are cutting back the number sent and to whom they send them. That's too bad. Not just because I love me some free books, but because it lessens the number of opinions Out There about said books. Granted, not everyone that gets an ARC blogs. But the vast majority of my friends that read ARCs are enthusiastic readers and equally enthusiastic pushers of books.
When I read The Lightning Thief, I knew I'd found a great series. And I've raved about it here. Reading that ARC was so exciting: my next step was to talk to a student, Jacob, and tell him about it. How the lead character reminded me of him and how I knew - just knew - he'd love this book. Know what? He did.
Getting ARCs of new series (eg, The Hunger Games) but an established authors of other series is great. Ditto new directions by authors (I'm thinking Benjamin Black, aka John Banville). New authors? Wonderful. More, please. What I don't need quite so much are second books in a series (although I did not pass up the new Skulduggery Pleasant or Catching Fire), so if publishers are looking to cut back, there's a great place.
The thing is, we rely on three sources for ideas for our next read: friends we trust, professional book reviews, and professional readers (book bloggers and librarians). Cutting back on that will lower the excitement for new books, new authors, new series, and stifle conversation about books. Honestly now: when was the last time you read a bad book review in the newspaper? or a bad book blurb? And how many books a week (or month, or year) does your local paper review?
So bring on the ARCs, bring on the conversation. And let's be honest about where we got our copy. Win-win-win.