eBooks and Advanced Reading Copies (eARCs)

As an independent bookseller and Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) board member I have been keenly involved in finding out about how eBooks will affect booksellers in Australia. I think eBooks present the book industry with a unique opportunity to grow and expand and the possibilities eBooks offer both readers and publishers are endless. But one of the quirks of being a bookseller is that I have never read an eBook.

I have used a Kindle, an iPad, a Sony eReader, a BeBook and even an iPhone and I am not adverse to reading on any of these devices. The reason I haven’t read an eBook is that there has never been an eBook available when I want to read it because I mainly read advanced reading copies (ARCs).

I mentioned this on twitter about six months ago and was put onto NetGalley. This website offers booksellers and reviewers the opportunity to download ARCs as eBooks. Being a US run website the books available are all US publications which shouldn’t have been a problem because I love American fiction particularly crime. But alas none of the major publishers had signed onto NetGalley and the eARCs on offer from the small presses there weren’t appealing to me or I couldn’t find the ones that might be.

However about two months ago HarperCollins US signed up with NetGalley and while I still didn’t quite find anything to my taste I knew the day I would was sooner rather than later. (It would probably have been much sooner but the eARC of Laura Lippman on NetGalley was a novel originally serialized in the New York Times and I had read it). Two weeks ago Hachette US signed up with NetGalley. This was my tipping point. Little Brown US (a division of Hachette) has just launched a new crime imprint called Mulholland Books and have snapped up nearly all my favourite crime writers and I can now request eARCs of them.

Now my only problem is what to read them on! I have a BeBook which we bought for the shop but is doesn’t support Adobe Digital Editions. Using the BlueFire eReader on my iPhone I am reading the next Michael Koryta. I don’t have any difficulties reading on the phone, although a slightly bigger screen would be preferable, but the battery life is an issue. A lot of people recommend the iPad and I do believe a multi-function device is superior to a device that can only read books but already having an iPhone and a laptop I can’t see what an iPad would offer me. But with eReaders all dropping in price a single-function device isn’t that much of a burden.

My next undertaking was to find out if local eARCs would be made available. I have been asking my reps all year for eARCs and have always been told that they wouldn’t be made available for booksellers because of a fear of piracy. This never made sense to me because a) booksellers don’t pirate physical ARCs and b) If the DRM on the eARC wasn’t robust enough to prevent booksellers pirating them then surely the DRM isn’t robust enough when the eBooks are sold to consumers later on. However after to speaking to all the major publishers here it looks like eARCS will be made available next year with some publishers already well down the road. I think this is a fantastic idea. Not only will it reduce a lot of wastage in our industry but booksellers will hopefully have access to a wider range of ARC titles which can only be a good thing for sales. It also means booksellers will gain experience in using eReading devices and reading eBooks that they will be able to share with their customers.

Now all we need to do is be able to sell eBooks…….

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