In the online book community, we often talk about buying and selling ARCs. As far as I’ve seen, most agree that it’s unethical. I tend to agree, but there are always new situations that make you think about this more, like buying and selling them used.
I’ve been disturbed for a few years that the used bookstore in my local library has a special section marked off for ARCs, where they usually charge $4 per ARC that will be or has been published this year. Older ARCs might be mixed with the rest of book collection and cost less. I tend to ignore the fact that a used bookstore or a thrift store might sell an ARC because I think it’s easy to miss “uncorrected proof” or “advanced reader copy” labels, and not everyone knows what they mean. My overall issue is that this store knows what they are and deliberately marks up the prices for ARCs of newer books (see the photograph below).
Since this is a used bookstore, this got me thinking. Is it unethical for a used bookstore to sell ARCs?
We normally consider buying and selling ARCs unethical because they cost the publisher and author, because they are intended to raise hype for the new book, and because they say “NOT FOR SALE.” On that last point, there have been large bookstores that ignore those words and sell them anyway.
Are the ethics different when it’s a used bookstore? The used bookstore I mentioned earlier donates its earnings to the library. The sales of used books don’t go back to the publisher or the author anyway. Then again, a good portion of those ARCs on that table have not been released yet. People buy them, though I’m not sure how many are aware of the ethics around this.
Let’s talk about this. Do you think it’s ethical for a used bookstore (or a thrift store) to sell ARCs? Do you think it’s ethical to buy ARCs from a used bookstore or at all?
If you would like to read more about ARCs, here are some sources:
- Buying & Selling ARCs: Is It Ever Justifiable?
- On Arcs, Ethics, & Speaking Up
- Advanced Reading Copy of Books
- The turds in the publishing punch bowl: those selling ARCs before the book is released
- Why Collect Uncorrected Bound Proofs and Advance Reader Copies?
- What to do with Advanced Reader Copies