12 February 2012

{Respect The ARC} When Good Book Stores, Go Bad

By: Me My Shelf And I | 12 February 2012 at 10:20 AM | | | | |


I want to believe that my experience at a local Half Price Books store was a fluke. A mishap on the part of a new employee. A sick twist in the time space continuum, where it forced everything to be backward for a short span of time?

I don’t even think that last bit made sense, but let’s just go with it. Kthanks.


Yesterday I went shopping with my family, and Half Price Books was on our list of stops. I’ve been known to pop into the few locations around me, sometimes several times a week. Looking for something new, something for a giveaway, something unique. Never in all my time shopping there have I ever found an ARC on their shelves. So when this very thing happened yesterday, you can bet your bottom bookmark I was a bit ticked off.

Below is the letter I wrote to the customer care department of Half Price Books, and I think sharing it should sum up my feelings for you:

Dear Customer Care for Half Price Books,

I have to say that I was rather taken aback at my experience in Half Price Books yesterday. I have been shopping at HPB for years, and I've been known to be in several times a week to several different locations. Never once have I ever seen what I saw yesterday at your Roseville Minnesota location.

While perusing the Young Adult section with my daughter, I came across not one or two, but several ARC's, (Advanced Readers Copies). Uncorrected proofs used by a publishing house for promotional reasons. As a writer, a book reviewer and having friends who are published authors, I know these books are not intended for sale and in fact on 99% of the books, it has it says so on the cover. I will go ahead and say I could understand a few of the copies being on the shelves, as they didn't actually say Not For Sale on it, and one could argue that obviously leaves you able to sell it. Even though it is labeled an ARC and the knowledge of what it is, remains.

However, one book in fact did have Not For Sale printed quite plainly on the cover. The sale sticker placement shows it was clearly positioned in a way that was an effort to actually cover it. The ARC was POSSESSION by Elana Johnson, a YA novel. I took the copy to the counter when I checked out, because I believed or at least hoped the ARC's wound up on the shelf due to some mishap, even though the number of them and intake dates on the labels certainly suggest otherwise.

I handed the copy to the cashier, and quietly said I thought she should take the copy off the shelf along with the handful of others I found, as it was illegal to sell them. She smiled at me like she thought it was "so cute I thought I knew what I was talking about", and said "No, this is an uncorrected proof, that's all" and went back to ringing up my items. At this point I was a little upset to find out the ARCs on the shelf clearly were not accidentally put there, the staff knew they were there, what they were and were still being instructed to sell them. I smiled, politely even though I was being talked down to, and said "I know what they are. They say very clearly on the covers Not For Sale. It's illegal to sell them." She set the book to the side while we finished the transaction and I went home with my family hoping the girl would do the right thing.


Now, I like to always think the best of people, but I'm willing to bet that book went right back to the shelf after I left. And I'm willing to bet if I stop back into the shop over the next few days I will find more ARCs on the shelf. If I should stop in, and if I should find more ARCs I fully intend to contact the author and publisher with the info for them to reach out in whatever manner they feel fit. I intend to do this very thing in this case as well.

I think this total lack of respect for the very same publishing process that keeps you in business is despicable. I hope that my e-mail sets wheels in motion for you to remind your locations that the selling of ARCs is illegal, as well as immoral. You are selling novels, in some cases, that are not even published and on bookshelves yet. This effects the author, their sales and even the possibility of sequels potentially. One ripple in the pond can effect dozens of aspects of that one authors world, and you shove it aside for your bottom line. 

I hope that I will not find ARCs on your shelves from here on out. Sadly if I do I will be forced to stop shopping at HPB because I refuse to support a book store that has such a blatant disregard for the very community that keeps their doors open.

To my readers, to bloggers, to anyone who has the ability to receive the gift of ARC’s from publishers, authors or elsewhere – please RESPECT them. Do not sell them and if you donate them please be sure the place you are giving them too will use them for good!!

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  1. That is horrible! Not only that they had the ARCs on their shelves but to be so ignorant as to what an ARC means is discusting!! Those are copies that authors/publishers put out in good faith for reviews or promoting! GAH!

  2. I really can't believe that a store would risk their reputation by doing this! Such a shame!

  3. Wow! I've never come across an ARC at a bookstore. This is just so sad. Respect the ARC!!!

  4. That's horrible. It's worse that they know what's happening and don't seem to care.

  5. Wow, that's appalling. Thank you for speaking up! I hope it makes a difference.

  6. That makes me very sad.. i love half price books too.

    Hopefully they will do something about it!

  7. Ugh, that is so terrible and the cashier was very rude. I hope that your letter makes a difference, I'm glad that you spoke up.

    I also hope that it's just that one store and not a reflection of the chain overall. Honestly, I would hope that the higher ups in a book store especially a chain would know how the publishing industry works.

  8. I hope they decided to stop selling ARCs! And shame on the person who brought it in to be sold. I'm sure they knew better.

  9. That is horrible! I work at Barnes and Noble, and that would never happen in our store. I wonder, do Half Price bookstores get ARCs sent to them? Not sure exactly how their store works. Maybe they're just unaware of it?

  10. It's unfortunate that you were talked down to that way, and that they have a blatant disregard for the legality of their business. I've always wondered what to do with my ARC's. Do you donate ones you get? If so, where do you donate them to if you don't mind me asking?

  11. @Lisa Mandina, they work strictly on what people bring in to sell. I asked them once if they got them, and they said yes but also explained they can't sell them and tell the people that and then wind up just throwing them out for them.

    I asked if they could toss them all in a pile for a month and let me have them for my blog but they said it was too much hassle.

    @Melissa, I give mine away on the blog normally, trade with other bloggers or Book Soulmates has the great thing called Random Acts of Kindness where people sing up with their wish lists and you can browse through, find someone who wants/needs it and send it to them.

    Here's a link to the info:http://booksoulmates.blogspot.com/2011/09/random-act-of-kindness-september-sign.html

    and a link to the Feb sign up ( You DO NOT need to sign up to send your books off, only sign up if you too want to be in the pool for possible items sent to you)

    and the link to those looking for books & Their lists: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0As4fr55TjlOydHNGcThRdkNNNUZsSE1rbGdTRFZ4RFE#gid=0

  12. Funny that you mention this bc I was at my local Half Price Books yesterday & they had 2 ARCs on their shelves in the YA section. I told the cashier, but got about the same response you did. Good idea writing a letter - I'll have to do that.

  13. Please do. Maybe we can get them
    To stop if there is enough of us!!

  14. I wouldn't have been that nice lol. No, if this issue is showing up at other store locations in other areas, then I would say the company may be turning the other cheek. I hope they take care of that because that's just not right. I hope when you check back that they've removed the ARC's.
    Is HPB like a consignment book store?

  15. @Lyns - for the most part yes, you take in your old books/movies and such, they give you money based on how much they can sell the book for...usually you don't get much and you never buy anything from the store for more than Half the original price of the book....

    I'm still waiting to hear back from them, if they don't respond to me I will get really angry.

    I passed this info on to the author mentioned in the e-mail and to the publisher who is currently looking into the situation as well.

  16. Oh ok.. we have a couple of book stores like that too, but they go by a different name. I guess I should start paying more attention to the shelves, but the 2 stores we have they're YA section is pretty small. I was just wondering how on earth they could get their hands on that many ARC's. I can't believe people would get rid of them. To me, if you get an ARC that's something you keep because its not every day you get one and when you do get one there's a really good reason for getting it.
    I hope they respond, they probably will to the publisher. I doubt they can avoid them...attorneys lol.

  17. I was really shocked to see so many on the shelf. You could tell that they went out of their way to put up only the ones where Not For Sale could be over looked - or wasn't there...

    Also, one had an autographed bookmark abandoned in it and another was signed by the author....??? Okay I get unloading ARCs or wanting to when you have too many but you give them to other readers and bloggers! And why would you get rid of something that was signed? That was what got me.

  18. If they had the stores on the east coast, I would go looking in a few just to see if they added any ARCs. I don't like it when people sell them because it literally makes my stomach hurt from seeing it happen. It's just my biggest pet peeve in regards to books.

  19. sadly i don't think this is the only used bookstore that does this. to them it's just a used book. it's like that in the music industry. we send out cds with things that say
    "promotional only, not for sale" and i tell you that a large percentage of the cds in a used record will be promo copies. i've even seen limited edition promo items on ebay the week after we mail them out. and it's industry professionals doing this. i don't really know if there's a way to stop this since the rules in the secondhand market seem to be different than those of say a bookstore that only sells new books.

    i am interested to hear what the store responds with.

  20. Hello-
    I was just wondering what happened with this? What did customer care say? Did the store remove the ARCs?

  21. Lyns,

    They never responded. I intend to send a follow up e-mail asking why they are ignoring it. And yes, i consider the situation being ignored because if they cared they would send a note letting me know they were looking into it. I've since stopped shopping there and I URGE everyone who has a HPB in their area to stop in and look for ARCs.

    If they have them, complain. Write a note to Customer Care. One voice can be lost in the crowd but if we all speak up, we will be heard.

  22. This is horrid. Who would think it's okay to sell an ARC? It's damaging to an author. I'm sorry, this steams my broccoli.

  23. Great post! I will definitely be on the look-out for illegally-sold ARCs in my Half-Price Books stores.

    Ugh! I really hope you receive a response and that they do the right thing.


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