Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Free Books

One of the funny things about writing this blog is that I have started to get some free books. This is strange since I don't review books. I read a lot, but I generally only read the stuff I like. I don't have time to read things people send me. I also find this interesting because as President of Bowker - the publisher of books in print remember - I may have received three books in seven years. Two of those were sent by Jane Friedman. So, as a blogger operating in no official capacity I get some books, but as head of house I don't. Curious.

In the past twelve months I have received four books; not a lot thankfully. I haven't read any of them. Two management books (one from Wiley so I may end up reading it), one on being more green and one from a trade publisher. The green title had me slightly concerned since the title was so precise: "78 ways to change the planet" or something. Surely if they concentrated a little more they might have reached 100. No doubt my experience with review copies speaks both to the desperation of smaller publishers to get their titles seen and to the general indiscriminate nature of the process: Send them out in the hope that someone will review them.

I am not sure how much other heads of house share their books with one another. Do they call each other up and ask for a particular book I wonder. Would they be embarassed? If I were publishing something more compact that an 8 volume directory I would have routinely sent my titles to other publishers. I would be proud of them and I would want my peers to enjoy them as I did. (I did consider sending the CD version to publishers but discarded the idea just as quick. I didn't want to visit their office and find it under a wine glass).

About 18mths ago, I realized that my unread pile extended to 60+ books, but the back log is winding down now and so sometime in the next six months I might actually be reading books that have some currency. (At the moment I am reading a biography of Sir Christopher Wren that was published in 2001). Perhaps then I might comment a little.


Kevin Marshall said...

It is interesting to hear about your experience in getting unsolicited an employee of I had access to all kinds of tech. books (but only from a select few publishers that were free and open with review copies).

Now as an employee of Bowker (I joined them in April, so I missed the chance to work directly with you)...I get to see all the information behind the scenes but don't have direct access to any books (as you mentioned)...

Meanwhile, as an author for Apress and O'Reilly I get access to most of their libraries, and as a simple samll-time blogger ( ) I too get copies of various things sent to me for review...

Curious indeed.

Eoin Purcell said...


I love the randomness that TBR piles inject into your reading. This, in my case, is compounded by the fact that I have a tendency to buy books mentioned in articles I really like which can be from several centuries ago. Currency is over rated!

I've wondered on your question before. I tend to be giving books away rather than getting them ad there are several I'd like rivals to send to me rather than buy!


Anonymous said...

Ha ha ... as the owner of an independent bookstore, let me just say that every few months we either donate several hundred ARCs to local libraries and hospices, etc., or they go straight into recycling.

Publishers send these review copies out indiscriminately and in bulk. We only find a real use for 1% of them.