I think I’m giving up on ARCs.
More specifically, I’ve just had it up to here with badly formatted e-ARCs.
In theory, digital review copies should make my life as a reader, reviewer, and blogger easier, but lately, I’m finding them nothing but frustrating.
My most recent DNF was an e-ARC, and while the story itself didn’t particularly grab me, there were substantial formatting issues that certainly didn’t help. This historical novel included a map at the beginning showing key story locations and landmarks. Unfortunately, whether I tried using my Kindle, IPad, or phone app, the map appeared in three separate sections and was impossible to read. Funny, but if there had been no map, I wouldn’t have missed it. But knowing that I should be able to see it, but having it be unreadable, just ticked me off.
Beyond that, it was the usual litany of digital ARC woes:
No paragraph breaks. Dialogue without line breaks. No chapter breaks built into the document — so flipping back to the beginning of a chapter to check a date or a title is impossible.
Problems like these just make the reading experience so unenjoyable. I’ve read digital ARCS where the sections breaks were missing, so from one paragraph to another, a whole week has gone by in the narrative. I’m sure that would be clearer in the printed version, but until I figured this out, I just thought it was a badly written book!
And that’s really the crux of the matter: When the formatting gets in the way of being able to follow the story, or is so clunky that I have to stop and think about whose line of dialogue I just read, then my brain is focused on the wrong thing. How can I concentrate on the narrative and enjoy it if I’m constantly having to figure out the book’s layout issues?
I hate to say it, but even knowing that the finished product will not have all the format flaws, they’re really hard to ignore. I know better than to criticize the formatting in my reviews, but at the same time, I do believe I feel less favorably toward books when I have to struggle with bad formatting to get through them. If I don’t enjoy the reading experience, how can I enjoy the book itself?
At this point, I think I’ve reached some sort of moment of truth when it comes to digital ARCs. Right now, I have a backload of eARCs from NetGalley, and I want to honor my commitments and work my way through them… slowly. But going forward, I’ve more or less decided to cut back on (or eliminate altogether) any new NetGalley requests.
Let’s face it. I have plenty of books to read without getting digital review copies. Plenty. Piles. Boatloads. And if I don’t read the newest new releases the second they come out, I’ll survive. Hey, that’s what libraries are for.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to read physical ARCs (hint, hint, in case anyone who cares is reading this!) — but mostly, I’ll stick to the books on my shelf, the books I borrow from the library or my kind bookish friends, and the perfectly formatted books on my Kindle.
Life’s too short to read badly formatted books.
How about you? Does bad formatting get in the way of your enjoyment of ARCs? Or do you consider it a reasonable trade-off for access to early copies of upcoming releases?
Please share your thoughts!