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Digiarcs Are Here, With More on the Way

Yesterday’s post about digital ARCs was quickly answered by NetGalley president Fran Toolan, who responded to our expressed desire for electronic advance reading copies that we could read on a Kindle, Sony Reader, or similar device by announcing, “We’re so close to being able to handle this. We are re-engineering our entire content system right now. Our target for Kindle, Sony, and Stanza is April 28. Certainly we will have it all ready by BEA.” Surely we aren’t the only ones to regard that as awesome news—just as we were glad to learn about publishing companies like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oxford University Press, Beacon Press, and Unbridled Books who can already supply us with unencrypted PDFs that we can convert for handheld reading devices.

But we also heard from a marketing director at an imprint of one of the New York-based conglomerates who explained to us why we shouldn’t expect full-scale conversion just yet. “It’s not a matter of trusting reviewers,” he emailed us. “The real issue is that once you introduce unencrypted files into the chain, and you scale that up to several thousand files a month, mistakes will happen. As publishers we have a responsibility not to release something digitally, even if accidentally, in advance of publication. I think the solution, if there is one, is going to have to happen on the device side—with either Sony or Amazon offering some kind of encryption method to publishers—or at least allowing third party encrypted files to run on their devices.”

And though many reviewers might clamor for “digiarcs” to help reduce their clutter, they aren’t the only audience for galleys—”The lion’s share of galleys and ARCs go to marketing bookstores, conventions, sales teams, etc.,” the marketing director added. “And those areas aren’t ready yet for digital only. So there are actually relatively sound budgetary reasons to tack on the reviewer galleys to those print runs.” Heck, even the reviewers aren’t unanimous on the subject: “As much as I need more space,” said the twitterer known as Condalmo, “as a reviewer I’d still rather have a stack of galleys than arcs buried in my email.”

(That said, at least one GalleyCat editor has begun culling the stacks of books dominating his living room floor, writing down the titles he’d replace electronically if he bought a handheld reading device…)

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