With having a book blog comes receiving Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of books from various sources to review. I get ARCs in exchange for an honest review which I publish on my blog, and also Amazon and Goodreads. I get those ARCs for free. I do not get paid for reviews. I have never been offered money for reviews, nor have I received money for reviews.
I believe that when a publisher, book tour company or author sends a reviewer an ARC, it is an act of trust. They trust you will read it and give an honest review. They also trust you not to resell the book for a profit or release the book prior to its release date. They trust you not to upload the book to sites on the internet where people can download the book for free.
Of late, I have seen a lot of authors complain they have found electronic copies of their ARCs sent to street team members or to reviewers that have ended up on sites where they have become available before the book is published or soon after the book is published. This makes me mad because it is a betrayal of the trust I mentioned above. It's not right. It's not ethical.
I do not know if the people who share these ARCs around profit from it or not, or if they simply wish to share it around and allow others to have the book for free. I do not know what motivates them to do it but I know it is wrong. I never ever share an ARC that is sent to me, even when a friend of mine tells me it's a book they want to read and say they wish they had it. I politely tell them I cannot share my copy and they need to wait for the release date.
If you are a reviewer and you are reading this, please DO NOT share the ARCs you are sent. They are sent in good faith and you should not break that trust.
For the authors who do send out ARCs and wish to protect themselves from there are ways to do it. Of course, none of it is foolproof and with the right software people will be able to strip the tags but it will deter most people. I certainly have no inclination to put the effort into doing it.
The first thing authors can do is share their books via a site like Instafreebie. Instafreebie is a site which allows authors to giveaway books in a safe and easy way. People claiming the book need to provide their name and email address and the book is sent to them. The book may be electronic and easily transferable but it also has a page in it which states "This book was given to XXX on instaFreebie. www.instafreebie.com" in big bold letters on the first page. It's very difficult to remove the text as that is embedded into the page. This way, if a copy gets shared, you will know who the person is who shared it, assuming they did not scrub that page somehow. It can probably be done, but I do not know how.
There's also another similar service called Bookfunnel but I do not know if they tag each individual copy of the book the way Instafreebie does.
Another alternative is for the author to format the book in such a way that they add a line in it which says "Advanced Reader Copy" or something to that extent to show it's an ARC.
I've even seen some authors suggest going to the extent of changing one line in each book they send out so only they know what is different and will be able to tell who shares the book by looking at that one line in the book. While it's a great idea, I think it's a lot of work. It might not be the most practical to individualise every ARC depending on how many ARCs are being sent out by the author. If they have a large street team or review team, it could be a lot of copies to individualise.
I once received an ARC where there was a line at the beginning of EVERY chapter which said something to the extent of "This is an Advanced Review Copy. Any copying or sharing of this eBook is prohibited." They certainly wanted to make their intentions clear with that one. I don't remember which book it was though, or if I even still have it, or I'd have got a screenshot of it to show.
Whichever way an author or publisher chooses to protect their ARCs, some way is better than no way at all. That said, at the end of the day, if people want to, they will find a way around it. The whole point is though that people shouldn't do it.
So this is my message: If you receive ARCs to review for free from whatever source, respect the trust inherent in the sharing of the ARC with you and keep it to yourself. Do not betray that trust. Do not share the ARC.
The only time I would make an exception to that is if, like me, you have a review team and one of your team is the one who will review the book. Even so, you should ask the permission of the sender if it's okay for you to let your review team member read the ARC or if they would prefer to send them a copy of it themselves to which you can provide the appropriate information for getting the ARC to your review team member.
Remember, do not share it. Definitely do not upload it to sites for other people download. Do not betray the trust. Do good.
So tell me, if you get ARCs to review. Do you get them electronically or in paper copies? Which do you prefer? I'm an electronic girl all the way and I read them on my Kindle.
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