A Note: For those unfamiliar with the term, ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. These are early copies of forthcoming books, in physical or electronic form, distributed by publishers for readers to review prior to release.
First off, this post is not a critique of, a condemnation of, or a complaint about ARCs (well, okay, maybe there’s a little complaining). I have received ARCs in the past, and been excited to receive them, and I’m always excited for other people who receive ARCs of books they’ve been coveting. I don’t have anything but admiration for those talented reviewers who masterfully navigate their way through NetGalley or Edelweiss (I never could figure Edel out to save my life) and leave behind eloquent, thoughtful reviews. I’m not writing this to criticize anyone’s way of reading. I’m writing it because I quit ARCs cold turkey a month ago, and it might help other people in a similar situation to hear why I decided to let go of my “forthcoming” TBR to make myself a happier reader.
ARCs are awesome. With so many amazing books always coming out or on the verge of coming out, and a limited amount of pocket money to spend, ARCs are a godsend to a bookish soul. They let us read all the books we want, while still directing our money towards the books we really love and want to add to our collections.
But personally, ARCs weigh me down.
You see, my TBR is, frankly, massive. That’s nothing new. TBR size bragging competitions are practically an Olympic sport in bookish circles, and I’m sure mine is smaller than some. Nevertheless, the three shelf bookcase I’ve been using to contain it has reached capacity and then some. With books double stacked on every shelf, I’ve been starting to feel a bit stressed. All those books I so wanted to read are sitting on those shelves staring at me. And meanwhile I’m staring at my Kindle, trying to get through all those ARCs that sounded interesting at the time but are now coming between me and the books I really want to read.
And there are the old favorites I’ve been meaning to revisit for over a year now!
But there’s all that pressure, not just to read and review the ARCs you’ve requested, but to always be requesting that new hot title that you’ve been waiting to read. And the acquisition of ARCs, particularly coveted ones, has become something of a status symbol in the bookish community. Sometimes it seems that if you’re a serious reader, a serious blogger especially, then you better be clutching those ARCs—digital or physical—in your eager little hands and showing them off on Instagram for all the world to admire. If you aren’t ahead of the publishing curve, are you even trying?
This isn’t a crack at Bookstagram, or people who joyfully show off their ARCs. I love seeing how excited people get! I remember when getting an ARC I really wanted was still that exciting. And this attitude of superiority doesn’t really exist (or if it does, the ones thinking it are smart enough to keep quiet about it); it isn’t something people are running around, shouting to the universe. It’s more something we might think about ourselves. A pervasive sense of failure and—admittedly—a lack of confidence in our right as bloggers to read, and write about, whatever we damn well want. If I felt guilty because I wasn’t constantly on top of the newest releases, if I felt like that made me less of a blogger, that was always on me.
But the reason I’m writing today about ARCs, and giving them up, is to say this: No matter how important ARCs may seem to your identity as a book blogger, it’s okay to give them up. We talk all the time about DNFing books we don’t want to waste time on, or culling books we haven’t even read from our TBRs to take some of that pile-up stress off our backs. But I don’t see merely as many references to calling it quits and throwing away your ARC to-do list.
(I crumpled mine up and it was pretty satisfying.)
Yeah, okay. But what about the publisher’s that granted you an ARC on the sort of mutual understanding that you’d eventually read and review it? Aren’t you sort of breaching their trust?
I don’t pretend to know what they’ll think, or if they’ll even notice or care. I know so many people who are drowning in a sea of ARCs, and some of them are happy there! Which is great! But they’ve still got ARCs they haven’t read for books that were published, like, a year ago. How is that any different than giving up the ghost and ghosting your current ARCs if they’re weighing you down? Some readers are perfectly fine leaving an ARC until they’re ready to read it; not worrying about the deadlines. But other readers (read: me) have an over-exaggerated sense of duty exacerbated by a lifelong need to overachieve, and their guilt about getting behind on ARCs is real.
I almost didn’t go through with it. I hesitated with my finger over the delete button for my NetGalley account. Was I imploding my entire (albeit very limited) career as a blogger and reviewer? Given my writing for Book Riot, would it even be a little unprofessional of me to not have either a NetGalley or an Edelweiss account?
But the biggest question, and the one that made me eventually hit the button, was: did it even matter, any of it, if I no longer cared? If that list of ARCs—of books I requested, and books that were sent to me—was just getting longer because I felt obligated, and if it was sapping my love of reading by turning it into a chore, why keep going?
Obviously, you don’t need my permission for anything. But if, like me, you tend to google things you’re unsure about, to see how other people have handled the same situation, and you’re staring down all those unread ARCs wishing they weren’t hanging over your head, consider this a gentle encouragement. Just quit. Save the ARCs you really are interested in to read when you’re ready to read them, and get back to that TBR, or all those old favorite books that have been clamoring for a re-read. Embrace the backlist!
Go forth, and read, and be happy.
If throwing out your ARC list doesn’t relieve your book stress, here are a couple of helpful posts on how to manage (or not manage) your TBR:
Looking for a way to get rid of physical ARCs that are weighing you down? Check out this post on unhauling your ARCs!