Ok, first things first-- I am a book blogger. Many of my friends are book bloggers. Most book bloggers are lovely, nice people who don't throw punches over ARCS. I'm talking about a few bad apples giving the rest of us a bad name.
Second things second, I have no problem with non-librarian bloggers at ALA. We're all spreading the book and literacy love, right? We're working together in creating a bookish world, yes?
Basically, I feel compelled to write a post about some really appalling blogger behavior I've seen at recent ALA conferences. I was first going to write this post after the 2010 Annual conference in DC but never got around to it. Last weekend sparked these feelings again.
At Annual in 2010 (I didn't go this summer because of the arrival of the Kung Fu Princess) I was talking to a marketing rep in a booth when someone SHOVED me (into a table!) in order to get at an ARC. I had bruises. Plus, I knocked down a display. Now booths are crowded and we're all carrying big bags and there are a lot of people. You will be bumped and jostled and probably get a few bruises, BUT. Don't push and shove. Seriously. I can't believe I actually have to say that. DON'T CAUSE SOMEONE BODILY HARM JUST TO GET A FREE ARC.
At MidWinter, I did NOT witness the following, but people I spoke with did:
1. Taking 5 copies of an ARC and saying "now I can do a giveaway!" NO NO NO NO NO. You need to share. If you want extra copies of an ARC for a giveaway, ask the rep. They'll probably send you some AND they may even hook you up with extra stuff too. Reps are nice like that. If you want an extra copy for a friend or your teen group or something, ask the rep. Sometimes taking an extra copy isn't a big deal, sometimes it is. ASK.
2. Taking ARCS that are the only copy on display or labeled "Display Copy Only. DO NOT REMOVE." When the person who witnessed this called them out on it, THEY YELLED AT HER. Yeesh. Another thing I can't believe I have to say: Seriously, if it says "don't take" DON'T TAKE IT. If you want a book thusly labeled, ASK THE REP. They probably have extra copies that they ARE giving away. Or they'll send you a copy. Or they're giving copies away later. The only exception is on the last day when booths are packing up. Publishers often give away their display copies then, but still YOU HAVE TO ASK.
Because of the large influx of bloggers and non-librarians, because of behavior like I've mentioned above, and because the down economy means this is all coupled with fewer ARCS all around, publishers are trying to order the chaos.
One of the ways they're doing this is by only giving out certain titles at certain times. Often these are titles where the author is there (so they're saving them to be around for the signing) or where it's a book they're heavily promoting (the "you can't have it YET" can create excitement and buzz) OR it's the ARC that EVERYONE wants and they want to be fair about handing them out. I've also seen it where you can only get an ARC if you also buy a backlist title by the same author. (This happens when the author is there AND it's the hottest ARC of the conference.)
But here's where the problems come in. ALA is a professional conference for librarians. There's SO MUCH MORE going on than the exhibit hall. We're working. We have professional development and commitments. Basically, I'm just finishing up working 12 days in a row. And my missed weekend? Not only was I working those days, but I was working 12+ hour days. It's fun and I love it. I am NOT complaining about it, but... it's still work. (And not to say that blogging isn't also work, but it's not my day job. It's not what keeps a roof over my head and food in my baby's belly.)
So, all those hard-working librarians who are there for the librarian conference? They get screwed on timed book releases. (Now, yes, if you talk to the rep they can probably help you out, but if it's that super popular ARC? The one you want to read to see how many copies to order for your library? The one you want to start building customer buzz for now? The one your Teen Advisory Board or book club or whatever will be fighting over and sharing to build Word-Of-Mouth buzz among their friends? The reps might not be able or willing to help you out.)
Enter the case of Bitterblue. As you're probably know, Bitterblue is the companion novel/sequel to the immensely popular Graceling. It's publication has been delayed for YEARS. This is a HIGHLY anticipated book and frankly, I'm surprised they're even doing ARCs for it. It was hands down the MOST coveted ARC of the conference. It was only going to be given away at 3 on Sunday. Reps told us to come by around 2:30 to get a number or get in line (depended who you talked to.)
Now, Sunday afternoon is a really popular time for committees to meet. I was in a meeting. Many of the people I was chilling with were in a meeting. So... the librarians were getting screwed.
But then, 9:30 on Sunday morning (30 minutes after the exhibit hall opened) there was already quickly growing line for the Bitterblue giveaway. Most of the librarians there can't spend ALL DAY in line for 1 book. (Not to mention how crazy a line like that would have gotten and blocked traffic and everything!)
Now, in the publisher's defense, when the line was pointed out, it was disbanded. I didn't hear any complaints about how the actual hand-out of books went. Also, I know at least 1 librarian who explained that she was in a meeting and was able to still get a copy.
AND in defense of timed book releases in general, most publishers would be cleaned out during the opening night reception, before many people have even arrived. A book like Bitterblue would have been wiped out in 10 minutes on Friday night. And it would only take that long because it would take a few minutes to find the booth.
So... what are the answers? What are the solutions? ARE there answers or solutions?
How can we make this better and easier for everyone? Will it stop being an issue as we move to more and more egalleys?
Can we at least stop beating people up?
(And for the record, this isn't me being bitter about not getting Bitterblue. I was one of the few people who wasn't interested. I had to read Graceling for a training a few years ago and enjoyed it, but never read Fire and don't plan on reading it.)
The pictures decorating this post are books that I wanted an ARC for but isn't being ARCed or the publisher didn't have any at the conference. I just want to give them some love.
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