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Kelly has a long thoughtful post up at Stacked that I direct you to about the ethics of ARC-grabbing and selling that was partly prompted by activity at the recent ALA midwinter conference. This is not a new situation, it has been present at BEA and ALA in the past and simply seems to have reached new heights of pushiness in Dallas last week but it is something that bloggers need to be thinking about. Namely, when did, in this case, a professional conference where some of the most prestigious awards in publishing are awarded become about getting the biggest pile of free stuff? (And then selling them on Ebay.)

If you doubt me then head on over to google and type in "ALA Midwinter book haul". There are videos folks, not just blog posts with photos of stacks of books but even videos. Of course this should not surprise anyone as publishers have been exhibiting at ALA forever but still, the blatant book grabbing from so many nonlibrarians struck a chord with many attendees. The question has to be asked - is ALA about librarian business or free books obtained for personal profit and further, how did it ever come to this?

Part of this resonates so much with me because I actively try to reduce the number of ARCs that come to me. I prefer to receive only what I can review and I feel very strongly that this is what everyone should be doing. And that's not just some one paragraph summary and an "It was really good" type entry. We're talking an actual thoughtful review. On top of that I have been mightily frustrated for years by how publishers seem to be unwilling to do the work to get in the weeds and understand the good and bad side of book blogging. They need to take the time to hire people whose only jobs are dealing with online media. They need to pay them well so there is no continuous turnover (don't say it can't be done because places like Candlewick & First Second do it brilliantly) and they need to build relationships. They need to invest in learning the lit blogosphere and the sites and bloggers who best fit with their imprints.

But really, I digress.

On the one hand we have been rocked by yet more stories this week of how Amazon is killing publishing and the end of the industry as we know is looming large. On the other hand there are bloggers crowing from one end of the blogosphere to the other about their massive free book hauls from ALA and ARCs are already showing up on Ebay. In the middle are librarians who actually attended meetings at Midwinter and authors who are struggling to see where the return is from all these ARCs being grabbed with wild abandon. Will any of these bloggers do anything other than flash photos of their stacks or hold them up for videos? Is the "number of totes" competition the end goal now?

Fuck, what about reading thoughtfully and writing well and, I don't know, supporting our damn libraries?

So, go read what Kelly (a might fine librarian herself) has to say and join the conversation she has going. It's a worthy topic and well worth discussing.

comments

"Fuck, what about reading thoughtfully and writing well and, I don't know, supporting our damn libraries?"

This. Times ten.

HOORAY! When I linked to some posts that had these hauls and then to the 'hauls' of actual librarians in attendance on Twitter for comparison I was called a bully. I was even told that I had asked people to grab books for me at ALA which made me LOL, but what surprised me most is that no one that went there and did the grabbing had any remorse or interest in the librarians or the library whatsoever. It was shameful.

I love the First Second shoutout, Gina is so wonderful and personable.

I can understand why there is much upset over ALA and what went down, especially after reading that one "Friendly Publicist" comment. It just sucks that there seems to be sort of a division between librarians and bloggers, even though some people are both, when it seems like librarians and bloggers could have a mutually beneficial relationship -- i.e. I go to my library every other day to pick up a hold and chat a little bit with my librarians. I try not to act like a weirdo and happily pay whatever late fine without a complaint. I mean, one gets 'free' books from the library and the library gets an increased circulation which I think is a good thing.

I don't know, I just want to be on the same side again - both promoting literacy and a love of books. And all of the other awesome services libraries provide (mine has a Kindle class, how cool is that).

Thanks for this post. :-)

I just think there is a disconnect between the point of the conferences and the ARCs and a big part of the blame must go to publishers who actively fed this beast and now have created something that's out of control.

Honestly, I think most folks do agree. It's just another example of a few folks causing a problem for everyone else. (Isn't that always the way?) The more we talk about it though, the better the chance for positive change.

Librarians share their books with the kids who otherwise would have few or none and that is why I will always say (and believe) they are on the side of the angels. (Because I was one of those kids once, and I've never forgotten it.)

Oh, I am definitely team librarian with this! I'm actually emailing my library tonight to see if they have a secret teen group and want to take my books. I have a lot from CYBILS that could use a good home. I didn't go to ALA, but I've got books that I would like to give towards people who could use them.

Yup, you and Kelly (and several others) have hit the nail on the head.

I surely don't want to build any more bookshelves for my to-be-read piles; like you, I only request ARCs that fit with my blog's audience and focus. As I visit publishers at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference exhibits, I'll frequently glance through an ARC and put it back on the stack, as it's just not going to fill the bill for BooksYALove.

Yes, getting books in advance of the general public is exciting and cool, but when something says "may not be sold", whether it's a detergent sample or an advance reader copy, then selling it is illegal.

I agree that we bloggers - as ethical users and sharers of information - need to report the eBay sales of ARCs. Hopefully, publishers will do what they can to stop the illegal sales and keep their future ARCs out of the hands of those selling and buying ARCs now.

**Katy Manck
Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

Just One Person's Opinion

I know you seem to hate the videos but I watched them with my Microsoft Word document open and wrote down all the names of the books they were talking about and then I went to Goodreads and added a bunch of them that sounded interesting to my to-read list. Even if the people doing those videos don't appreciate all the free stuff they got, at least they are reaching an audience of people who MIGHT be adding tons of books to their list of books to acquire and read:-/ (I doubt it is just me!)

oh boy. Oh boy.

and sigh.

I certainly agree that videos are great - lots of bloggers do vlogs and I think they can be really fun & different. However, keep in mind these books were obtained at a professional conference for librarians - the point in the past has been for the ARCs to be circulated amongst librarians who read them and then hopefully order them for their libraries and also share the ARCs with their teen (for example) reading clubs, etc. Taking 100+ ARCs from ALA for your own personal use (or to build your stats via a giveaway) is disappointing - that's why I'm not excited about these specific videos.

cathy

I haven't seen the videos, but how did non- librarians get into the exhibits in the first place? Lots of us librarians get books for summer reading prizes or for TAB groups. The publishers by and large were grabbing them from under there exhibits and they could set a limit to 2 or 3 which is very reasonable. That doesn't stop people from going back, but if they're at this expensive conference to begin with, don't they have meetings to go to or workshops to attend?

Cathy,

A relatively recent change (5 years?? anyone know?) was to sell exhibit only passes to the conference. For $25 dollars you get access to the publishers, and no other part of the ALA activities, which means anyone and everyone can attend and have no obligations to anything but their greed. The librarians who attend the entire conference can't lurk for the timed giveaway of whatever hot book because they ARE largely there for the meetings and workshops.

So, while the publishers may have created the ARC beast, ALA makes it easier to feed it.

hope

I don't know what to think about the re-sale of ARCs.

I've been told by an editor that the publishers don't really care if the ARCs are sold. That was a couple of years ago and I don't know if their position has changed, but how do we know that the frenzy and the re-selling of ARCs like Bitterblue for silly sums on EBay isn't a driving force for sales? It's possible that all those give-aways on blogs and those videos are making the publishers really, really happy.

Maybe if publishers are pushed to have more and more ARCs in order to get more buzz, the higher cost per book of those ARCs might affect their bottom line. I'd love to hear something directly from the publishers about this, but I doubt we will. I have a feeling that if they said outright, "It's working for us!" it would leave a lot of librarians really peeved.

And that's really my concern. I care about libraries. I care about librarians being able to do their job. I think that all of us, publishers, booksellers, bloggers, writers should feel a responsibility to support libraries. If the publishers find that stirring a mob mentality helps them sell books, I wish they'd find some other way to get ARCs to librarians. Maybe they have, I don't know.

I agree, hope - I'd love to hear from publishers as well on the ARC resale issue. There was an interesting comment from a publisher rep on the issue of the ALA ARC frenzy though: http://t.co/xDsVSCzH

I thought there was a lot of food for thought in that & it's well worth reading (only a moment or two of time).

hope

Thanks, that was a helpful post to read. I'm glad that the blogger chose to leave the comments open.

Amanda

So, as a librarian who's way too broke to go to ALA conferences (I can barely manage the membership fees), I have no stake in this, really. But I don't understand why the ALA lets all the randos come these conferences. We pay a huuuge sum of money to be members of this organization, and then eight million bloggers show up to mob the exhibit floor? Maybe they need to scrap the exhibit hall passes, or only make them available to ALA members (or at least people whose libraries have organizational memberships).

First I'd like to point out that Midwinter is a meeting, not a conference. There are no programs; authors are not there, the way they are at Annual which is a conference. As such, the point of the event is different; and what exhibitors expect and bring is different from a conference.

Second, as Jackie pointed out, ALA made the decision to allow Exhibit only passes that anyone can purchase. Interesting, this is being done at the same time ALA is pushing for virtual committees that lessen the requirement of members to attend Midwinter for mandatory meetings.

Third, I'm not going to play God of Arcs, about who is and who is not entitled to them. That is really a whole other issue.

Last, what is the issue for me: exhibit floor behaviour at a professional event. Boasting about diving for books, pushing, knocking things over? Pushing ahead of lines, interrupting other conversations or author signings because "I'm a blogger"? Saying publisher reps are "mean" for not giving them all the ARCs they wanted? To me, that is the area of real concern. I care that when I identify myself as a blogger, it's viewed as a negative thing because of the bad actions of a few.

Sorry for using the incorrect term, Liz. That was my error for conflating the two words ("meeting" and "conference") based on past experience/use in other similar gatherings (not literary related).

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