Friday, January 16, 2009

The sillyness of books for review

I get a fair number of books sent to me to review and post about on my blog -- easily 60% of them never get a review as I only review the ones that I enjoy and that I think that those of you that read my blog may enjoy as well. What's recently cracked me up about the process is that I will always add this line to my acceptance of a review copy: "Kindle-compatible electronic versions to review are always appreciated." Not one publisher or author has ever sent me an electronic copy for review.

There are so many things that are silly about not providing an electronic review copy:
  • No shipping cost -- send it to me via e-mail.
  • Easy direct quotations -- I can clip a page and copy the text directly on to my blog.
  • No production cost -- even the simple review copies printed on bound 8.5x11 paper that I receive have a cost to them.
  • Easily transportable for me -- I'm much more likely to review the book more quickly as I hate to carry my Kindle and a book; when I travel, only the Kindle comes with me, so no book reviews when I travel.
  • It's green -- electronic versions have little to no real impact on the environment.
  • It makes it easy to sell the final version -- if you can figure out how to package it in the review stage to be read on the Kindle, you'll be that much closer to being able to sell the final version on the Kindle store when you release the final version.
Why not send electronic review copies? I would guess that the biggest issue might be a concern that the electronic version could show up on bittorrent sites. Sure, that could happen, but you either trust your reviewer or you don't -- have me sign something with a financial penalty if I'm caught (it would be really easy to simply change a paragraph in each digital copy to digitally "watermark" each digital version to the reviewers that it was distributed to). Further, there's not a real market or even a good mechanism for e-book file sharing; market penetration of the e-book devices just isn't here yet. Finally, even if I did decide to share the electronic version, if it's a good book, the people reading it are likely to recommend it and, again, most people don't have e-book readers, so that mechanism is likely to increase overall print sales -- it's not like there's anything keeping a reviewer from photocopying and/or otherwise passing around a printed review copy, even though I typically will not.

Food for thought if you're a publisher or a writer or a marketing company that rep's a publisher. I'd be willing to be that the first marketing company for a publisher that pushes this strategy will have a great story to pitch.

Picture from librarianmer

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