A Discouraging Trend – Some Publishers Refuse to Offer Hard-Copy Review Books (Gupta)

If you read this blog with some regularity, you know that I like to read and review books. I review (announce, note, book-author interviews, etc.) about 40-50 books a year here, and another 5-10 for print journals. I am always appreciative to have a free copy from the publishers of these books. I am old-fashioned in the sense that I like to have a hard copy to put on my shelf and I mark-up my books pretty heavily.

I have noticed that over the last few years, some publishers are becoming more picky about who they send books to, and also some are refusing to send out print books at all to reviewers (bloggers or even traditional print-journal reviewers). I understand that printing and shipping is expensive, and that many scholars now have e-readers, but I must say I simply do not like being forced to accept an e-copy for review. To make matters worse, some publishers only offer print-reviewers and bloggers e-copies with an expiration date! You don’t even get to keep the book.

My hope is that publishers will respect the desired medium of reviewers like me, and will factor review copies (more review copies?) into the cost of the book, knowing publicity is a return on investment. I simply do not want to collect a bunch of e-books. I lend books out, I pass them around in class, I like to see them on my shelves as inspiration while I research, write, and prepare lectures.

How do others feel? Should we (reviewers) try to have a “conversation” with these publishers (I have tried personally with no success)? Should we simply accept our fate? Honestly, I will say there have been several books I have refused to review simply because the publisher will only allow an e-pub version. Maybe I am just too stubborn, but I am hoping my intransigence will make a difference in turning this tide!



15 thoughts on “A Discouraging Trend – Some Publishers Refuse to Offer Hard-Copy Review Books (Gupta)

  1. Only a fortnight ago, I sought to obtain a couple of books from a publisher to review on my blog. The publisher’s website advised that only e-books would be available, and that I had to request the books through Edelweiss. However, my requests were declined – which is fair enough, I suppose. Publishers have the right to decline requests, after all. But no reason was given. I asked why my requests had been declined, only to be told that my blog doesn’t meet the publisher’s criteria. I pushed further, asking what the criteria is; I’m still waiting for an answer. What makes this frustrating for me is that this particular publisher has sent me hard copy books to review on my blog in the past. The policy has obviously changed.

    I can understand publishers not wanting to send hard copies to bloggers, but I don’t see what they can possibly lose by sending e-books out for review.

    (I’m not sure this addresses your blog post, but it’s good to vent a little!)

  2. Yes we’ve had that problem at Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. One publisher offered an e-book. Which we declined. The fact is that we’ll probably still note the book’s existence on the blog, but not give it a critical review, so possibly publishers are banking on that.

  3. I’m with you on this one, Nijay. It’s free publicity for them and unpaid labor on our part. This is one of the reasons why the only reviews I have posted on the blog are shorter versions of reviews I have done for journals. I am especially opposed to wasting my time giving them free publicity only to have an e-copy that will eventually expire.

  4. I suppose I understand the policy regarding hardcopies, even if I don’t like it. Every copy of a book given away for review is one that cannot be sold, which is significant if it is a monograph with a limited print run — you know, the kind of book we often like to review so we don’t have to shell out $100+ for it! I, personally, would decline all e-copies or anything else that departs from the original, bound hard-copy release. Would you care to share which publishers have done this direction?

  5. I’m with you, with two exceptions: older books, and books that exist primarily (even only) in electronic form. I run a book review service for the Mathematical Association of America and most publishers have found that sending us books is worth the cost.

  6. (pasted with a slight adjustment from Facebook)

    I agree. I’m old fashioned as well and prefer print by leaps and bounds (what kind of book nerd does not need to mark up their books? not to mention smell the pages wink emoticon ). The bigger point is what Christopher mentioned. While I do review an ebook once in a while from the publishers that refuse to send print, I refuse to review a “disappearing ebook.” Reviewing takes time, and it’s also free publicity for the publisher. A free copy is fair compensation, but if you don’t get to keep even an ebook, I do not see it as fair compensation. We might as well just get a library copy and not spend the time to review then!

  7. As someone who works in publishing (B&H Academic), I’m happy to send a review copy in whatever format the reviewer prefers–and most still prefer print books. This is the first I’ve heard of publishers using “disappearing ebooks.” “Disappearing book” for bibliophiles just has an ominous tone! Anyone who is willing to review a book, in my view, deserves a permanent copy.

  8. I reviewed two books for one publisher, “Reading Backwards” by Richard Hays and “Deep Exegesis” by Peter Leithart. I had the time so I agreed to review them, even though they would expire (after a year). However, they received a shipment of Hays’ book, and after I reviewed it I was actually able to keep it. However, after this I wouldn’t review to-be-expired e-books again. As others have said, if I can’t even keep the books then what is the point?

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