When I stepped into the world of book reviewing and began accepting ARCs and post-release review copies of books from all sorts of sources two years ago, I genuinely thought I preferred physical printed books over digital copies. Instagram and YouTube book circles had me hooked on the aesthetics of a colourful, overflowing bookshelf and those “Advanced Reader Copy” and “Not For Sale” permanent stickers across the spines and covers of ARC readers felt like badges of honour. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a little kid and every few years I have to purge books I won’t read again from the shelf in order to fit new ones in, I buy books that often, so the idea of books I want to read anyway coming to me for free to review seemed like a dream come true.
Then I started accepting more and more review copies for organized blog tours with pre-set posting dates. Sometimes I have to have a review live for upwards of 4-5 books in the same week. Can I read that much, that fast? Absolutely, but at the cost of losing time to attend to other things during the week because my hands and eyes are tied up with the task of reading for the hours it takes to get through that book.
Audiobooks have become my best friend because I can read while doing cognitively passive things that need to be done. I can read while cooking, cleaning, folding the laundry, and even building book promo posts from provided media kits that require no unique written content contributed by yours truly. (You know, the excerpt spotlights blitz tours and such.) When I choose new books to read just for the sake of reading them and not because someone else wants me to review them, I borrow audiobooks from my library through Libby. This has become my preferred method of acquiring books and that preference is so strong that I no longer get excited about buying a physical book unless it’s something I’ve already read, or an author I always read, and I want a forever copy on my shelf.
All of this has had an interesting impact on my preference for review copies, and I think it’s something that wouldn’t have happened or been possible if I had entered the book review world several years earlier than when I did. Although I do post for one tour company that is exclusively geared toward audiobooks and several other tour companies, publicists, and independent authors do occasionally offer audiobooks, most of my sources of review copies usually don’t. The question is still print book or ebook.
I was a fairly early adopter of eReaders and bought my first e-ink dedicated eReader device in 2007, just 3 years after the Sony Librie hit the market and long before it was common to own a tablet-like device and casually bring it out on the bus. I’ve understood and appreciated the convenience of being able to carry a library of books in a single, light-weight device for well over a decade now. There are entire fantasy series runs of books that I’ve never physically held in my hands, yet I’ve read the series in full and still own copies in the cloud. Up until 2020, however, this didn’t change anything about the amount of time reading took away from other tasks. Holding the device and “turning pages” still required my hands. Reading still required my eyes. eBooks and eReaders were just the Marry Poppins carpet bag version of my physical book collection.
Then I discovered screen readers.
Any eBook can be an audiobook.
It doesn’t matter what format it comes in, either, because free software resources like Calibre exist, and once Adobe Digital Editions opens those protected eBook files that NetGalley and Edelweiss+ send us, it re-saves the files as unlocked epubs. Put it in Calibre, convert to desired format and make sure that beautiful cover art is correctly attached (I’m looking at you, NetGalley!,) email it to the tablet, and we’re off!
I supposed that’s a fun little bit of insight into my review process if you’re an author I’ve worked with. If you send me an eBook, Alexa played the role of audiobook narrator (she’s better than you’d think!) and I probably knocked some household chores off the list while listening. Actually, there’s a 50-50 chance I produced art for my YouTube channel while listening. That has the interesting effect of forever linking my artwork to your book in my mind. If I look at pieces I created while listening to something, even a year or more later, I can tell you what I was listening to.
The ultimate point here is that the need to read faster than I could if I were choosing between reading time and completing other tasks has pushed me to start preferring ebooks, not because they’re portable and require less physical storage space, but because I can stop reading for myself and let a computer read to me at any time.
What book format is your current first choice and why? Let’s discuss!
Looking for more bookish articles that aren’t reviews and book spotlights? Check out the Booktalk post category. I’d like to highlight the guest posted article “5 Predictions for Publishing Trends in 2021 and Beyond” submitted by Savannah Cordova, and my analysis of the new covers for the special run of Neil Gaiman books introduced last year.
Comments on “Print or Digital? The ARC and Review Reader’s Conundrum”
This was such an interesting post! I’ve talked with some author peeps about this and we all always assume physical ARCs are tops, but this is reassuring (and also easier on us sometimes).
Also – interesting about Alexa and epubs! That is really cool. 🙂
I’m glad this was insightful for you! It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about since Book Riot posted about also shifting to eBooks a couple of weeks ago.