I think by now everyone’s aware of ARCGate, or whatever other name that’s been spawned for it, where a blogger posted a twenty-two minute video about the books she received from ALA, and posted a picture of the piles themselves, one for her and duplicates of every book for her non-book-world-related sister. A librarian spoke out about it in a tone I was picking up as rather melancholy more than anything that while she was using ALA for its intended purpose, she missed her chance to grab a couple of ARCs she really wanted while this blogger not only got copies but appeared to have hoarded every other book on the floor itself. People reacted, obviously taking sides, and the issue proceeded to blow up exponentially.
I’ve commented across a few different blog posts and even posted on the offending blogger’s own post about it but I fall a bit in the middle. I do believe librarians have a level of entitlement to ARCs at their own conference. If you don’t think so then I really think you need to re-evaluate what you believe conferences like ALA really are, and what ALA actually means. In the same breath I don’t think ARC hoarders can be entirely to blame in the situation.
Let me explain. I don’t think they’re 100% to blame. Let’s not remove personal responsibility and self control here. If you need a POD container to transport all your ARCs at the end of the conference then you’ve gone too far. Would you go into BJs and take the entire tray of samples they were offering simply because they were free and because you could? Of course not. You’d look like a greedy hog and I really don’t think you’d be allowed to to that.
Therein lies the stop gap: YOU WOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO. At conferences like ALA and BEA there aren’t any kind of checks and balances in place to prevent ARC hoarding. Yes, I firmly believe people should not be salivating ARC whores and grab anything and everything they can get their hands on and do this of their own accord. In a perfect world people would be polite and ask and say please and thank you and know their limits. In case you’ve been asleep since the Medieval Ages, this isn’t the world we live in, where there are nut allergy warnings on containers of peanuts, where you can order 47 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s and then sue for getting sick, AND WIN, where society as a whole bitches and moans about how people act but doesn’t suffer them any repercussions for their actions.
This is a broken system. Anyone that’s been to an open bar can attest that you’re going to have people that drink a silo’s worth simply because they’re not paying for it. Why would it be any different here? Of course we want people to THINK. But what we want and what we get are two different things.
This is obviously a broken system that needs to be fixed at rungs far above us carpet dwellers that snake around the convention floor. For $25 ANYONE can buy an all access exhibit floor pass thus giving them access to all of these ARCs. Really? BECAUSE NOTHING BAD CAN COME OF THAT. I understand that it’s really hard for the publishers to keep track of who’s getting the ARCs they’re setting out simply because the floors are mob scenes and it’s a Where’s Waldo? of the professionals versus the bloggers. But maybe not dumping the ARCs on the floor for anyone to grab would be a good start for thwarting ARC hoarding? Chopping up the pile, setting some aside for those professionals utilizing the conferences for what they’re supposed to be for so they can get books they’d like since they don’t have the time to troll the floor? FORCING ORDER so people stop acting like stampeding wildebeests for a stack of bound paper? Because OBVIOUSLY they’re not going to do it themselves. This is why people as a whole have governing bodies because people can’t be trusted to govern themselves. Because even those that do play by the rules end up getting forced to conform to the mob somewhat or end up getting left in the bookish dust with the rest going WHAT THE FUCK?
The thing is extremes are rarely beneficial and shaming anyone, including the hoarders, for obtaining ARCs certainly isn’t going to help anyone. Whenever I see people comment in the ilk of “I only picked up X number of books at this convention because blah blah blah which makes me awesome blah,” not only does it make me irrationally angry but it sets a bar. So you’re saying people that picked up more than that number are ARC hoarders? It’s a passive-aggressive jab that makes a whole shitload of people feel guilty because maybe they picked up Y, which is only slightly higher than X so does that mean they now suck? They’re “but” statements that soften a harsher blow that someone might not want to necessarily come out and say forthright. I’ve been seeing this for years and every time I see it it makes me angrier. It’s just a shitty way to attempt to make one person look awesome while making the rest look like trash.
The bottom line is bloggers should get ARCs. Period. Who gets what and why is entirely the publisher’s prerogative. I don’t think only people with thousands of unique hits a day deserve them over all others. Because WE ALL KNOW that there are bloggers out there doing sheisty things to stay on top, or loading their numbers by doing nothing but giveaways and if you follow you get a billion extra entries or whatever else it is. NUMBERS DON’T MEAN EVERYTHING. My measly little blog, per the author, singlehandedly helped launch her career with my outward support and my 150 unique hits a day. Who’s to say of those 150 people 50 of them aren’t from blogs ten times my size that’ll take what I say and explode it everywhere? While the law of large numbers may not be in my favor, just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s quality.
So stop making me feel guilty because publishers send me ARCs, because they’re willing, when they find out I’m a book blogger, to hand me an extra ARC at BEA because I asked. It’s not anyone else’s call but the publishers. They can always say no and I’m certainly not going to pitch a toddler fit on the show floor if I don’t get an ARC. But it really pisses me the FUCK off when I see people basically make heinously uneducated comments and they’re taken as gold because of the mouth it’s coming out of.
I was once a first time attendee to BEA. I’m well aware of the overwhelming awe one experiences when unleashed upon the floor. I certainly came home with far more books than what I intended. I don’t think that makes me a horrible person. In that same breath I also didn’t need a dump truck to transport all of them either. I was able to carry and move everything in the single bag I had. With much difficulty. But I did it. I don’t believe you can put a number on hoarding but it’s something you know when you see it. If you can build a multi-level fort for children to play in with the book you received you went overboard. But it’s a learning experience. I’d like to hope. The more conferences you go to the less of a concern the ARCs become and therefore the fewer you acquire.
There are problems at every level when it comes to something like this and it needs to be remedied, first and foremost, by the organizers and publishers themselves. I do think that people that hoard THAT many ARCs do deserve to feel some shame for grabbing that much. That’s just ridiculously excessive. But shaming your regular blogger that gets a tenth of that, either because you didn’t grab even that many or you don’t feel they deserve them to begin with is not a rehabilitative approach to fixing the problem. You’re making people ashamed to read and that’s far more detrimental to the purpose of these conventions than people taking to many ARCs and not having enough for others.
Word of mouth is word of mouth. I’m proof that even a quieter voice can help launch books so cut the shaming shit. But hoarders need to get their compulsions in check as well. Hopefully this whole shenanniganery will get convention organizers’ attention and they’ll institute change from the top because I think it’s fairly obvious that people can’t be left to their own devices and be expected to police themselves. But if they’re forced to they’ll fall in line quickly enough if they want something bad enough. I just think all this blame is a bit misguided. Nothing is stopping bloggers from attending these book conventions. There aren’t any by-laws or constitutions or bills being passed that ban book bloggers from exhibit floors and obtaining ARCs. Publishers are handing over ARCs with the full knowledge that they’re being given to book bloggers. And people are getting cranky when book bloggers accept. Seriously? If someone offers you a glass of water on a hot day should we all expect you to turn it down because there’s probably someone that’s even thirstier that deserves it more? Let’s get real here.