ARCs. Argh.

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.

tux-161439_1280My 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?

girl-160172_1280If I had one suggestion to make to publishers, it would be to provide Kindle-ready ARCs rather than PDF versions.

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.

After all…

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!

26 thoughts on “ARCs. Argh.

  1. I’ve had similar issues with the formatting of e-ARCs, though so far none egregious enough I’ve had to stop reading. But I have experienced frustration and sometimes confusion when I couldn’t tell what was happening or what was going on. And while I agree we’re not usually “supposed” to review (or talk about???) format, it’s hard to avoid when you literally cannot read the text that someone has sent you.

    • Right, the first couple of time I read an e-ARC, I was ready to slam the book for being so badly proofread, until I realized that the finished version didn’t look the way the ARC did. But especially when I can’t tell who’s speaking or if a passage is a poem or just weirdly broken up lines, I have a hard time ignoring it. But, if I was really loving a book, I’d keep going despite the format issues. It’s just that if the book hasn’t grabbed me, then the formatting issues might be enough to convince me that it’s not worth the effort.

  2. I rarely get ARCs, but I do occasionally pick up the freebies from indie authors and new authors…And immediately regret it when there are so many mistakes: grammar, spelling, punctuation, story inconsistencies…I don’t get it. If your gonna put your work out there, why would you want it to be so damn bad? I lack the good grace to be quiet about in a review though. If they didn’t want their mistakes to be pointed out, they should have fixed them before hand.

    • I think for self-published I’d agree — if they’re really working on promoting their work and trying to get an audience, then they should be really careful with what they put out there. With ARCs from publishers/NetGalley, they do make it clear that the book is still being prepared for publication and that any errors in the review copies will be corrected in the final version. Still, knowing that doesn’t help me overlook it!

  3. The first time I read an eARC the messy formatting left me very confused and I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reviewing ARCs, but I plowed through it. I actually try to be picky with the books I request because I’m not a huge fan of ebooks and if I receive a book with confusing transitions and the like, I don’t enjoy reading them very much. I like receiving advanced copies, but I don’t think it’s a definite must as a blogger.

    • I think I grabbed at it a lot when I was getting started with blogging and it was a great help, but now I don’t feel like I need to keep up with ARCs quite as much — plus I’m trying to read more according my own tastes and moods rather than by a calendar. I do want to be pickier about what I request, if I do continue requesting.

  4. I haven’t really read any ARCs, but that does sound frustrating!! I’ve had free books (from a friend who worked at a bookshop) which have similar problems. It makes me so mad! Even typos annoy me, and make me not want to read them. I completely understand why you’d want to give up on ARCs if too many are like that

    • So many are like that! I really appreciate sources like NetGalley for making so many titles available, but I’ve reached a point where it feels like every one I try to read has some problem, and this just really sucks the fun out of it!

  5. I’ve had a few irritations, but not so bad that I’ve given up on digital ARCs. I too prefer physical copies, but I understand that the publisher is able to probably dispense more eARCs to us bloggers as it’s cost effective. I do really welcome the money I save on books – I know many people don’t mention that, but it has been helpful for me, as I have a tight budget – I’m sure we all have, if we’re honest! By the time I’ve finished the book and am writing a review, I’ve pretty much forgotten about such minor irritants. I tend to review crime (at – a wee plug!) and most of my advance copies have come from big publishers, so perhaps I’ve just been luckier than you?! (I’m hoping that after reading this I won’t suddenly start noticing problems that I’d previously overlooked, as that’s the sort of thing I would do!) Good post Lisa, thanks!

    • Thanks! You’re absolutely right to point out the benefits of eARCS, of course — I’m sure publishers are able to provide a lot more review copies this way than via physical copies, and I do appreciate how many books I’ve gotten hold of that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to buy. πŸ™‚ And feel free anytime to include a plug!!!

  6. I try and ignore the minor formatting issues, but when the biggies get in the way of the reading and enjoyment of the book, I’ll say so on my review.

    I’ve said things like: the story was decent, but with the inability to change the size of the text (which was tiny) it was physically painful to read; that it took me a third of the book to realise that it was written from 4 different povs, and unfortunately the voices of the women weren’t different enough to overcome the formatting, by which time I really didn’t care about the story enough to try and start again; switching italics on and off in the middle of a sentence or paragraph (or even word sometimes!) is just plain lazy; carriage return in the middle of a word (esp where the second part goes onto the next page)…..; the quality of the ARCs I’m getting better, but I did despair about some….at least publishers have had the time to get used to printing paper books!

    • Ha, exactly! I’ve found myself puzzling over why publishers would provide something that makes it hard to read the story, especially when the whole point is to get people to review the book. The lousy ARCs end up being obstacles, and that definitely affects whether I think well of a book or not.

  7. Its interesting you bring this up because I haven’t really encountered a badly formatted ARC so far. I suppose this is mainly because I’m pretty new to the blogosphere and I only recently began requesting ARCs. I hope your experience improves but you make a good point in saying that you’ll survive if you can’t get your hands on books as soon as it comes out πŸ™‚

    • You’re lucky! Actually, my very first digital ARC was horrendous, but since it was my first one, I didn’t realize it was a common issue and thought it was just a really sloppy book. πŸ™‚ Luckily, I compared against a hard copy at the library before posting a review. I have gotten some that were fine too — but lately, they seem to all have issues!

      • I guess I am! πŸ˜€ Oh its a good thing you compared..I’m just starting to realize how many things actually factor into how we judge a book, from the cover to even the formatting (especially if its digital!)!

  8. You are so right. I HATE it when the formatting sucks. I have been pretty lucky with my NetGalley requests though. I have only had a couple of eARCs where the formatting was just really bad. For the most part, they have been pretty good except for a few minor details that are easy to overlook. I can see why you would want to back off them though.

    • I think if I weren’t overloaded, maybe I’d have more patience. But since I’m trying to cut back on ARCs in general, I’m a lot quicker to walk away if the formatting issues are bothering me.

  9. I agree with you on this so much! Okay, I get it, some things slip up in ARCs, hell some even do in finished books, which I get. You cannot have a book ready 5 months before it’s out, but there are limits. I have gotten a few horrible ARCs before for my KIndle, where there were whole pages just blank, or black, or squared… No breaks or all breaks… It was a mess and it makes the book hard to read. That makes me remember less and all kinds of other drama that makes reading a hassle. I tried to avoid commenting on formatting as well, because like I said, things happen, slip, you can’t put out all the fires at once when you’re in a hurry to get a book out, but come on…
    I am staying away from ARCs myself, have been for months now and I feel good, actually. I am catching up on old reviews and so on, and reading is less stressful now that I don’t have to chase deadlines. So I fully support you on taking a break πŸ˜‰

  10. I wish there were a way for netgalley to give you the choice of requesting an ecopy or a physical copy to review. I’ve had a few arcs where the formatting was so awful I’d have to read every page twice to make sure I knew exactly what was spoken and what was narration etc. So distracting!

  11. Oh yes, bad formatting turns me right off a book 😦 I’ve even gone and bought the Amazon version instead of trying to struggle with my kindle if it’s a book I really want to read (I hate pdf’s – I’ve tried formatting them to mobi before but that made it even worse, I also hate reading on my computer so pdf’s are a big no-no).

    It took me a little while to work out eARC’s just aren’t formatted at all most of the time, I dropped them altogether after that. It’s just too much hassle.

    • You’re smart — I’m really leaning toward dropping them altogether as well, or at least, dropping them nearly altogether. πŸ™‚ I’ve done the same thing — struggle through a bad e-ARC, then end up buying it via Amazon, or abandoning the book until I can finally get it through my library (of course, by then I may have lost interest and moved on to other things.) I hate reading on my computer! I won’t read PDF versions of books — it makes me feel like I’m still at work.

  12. I think the bad formatting made it easier for me to ease off on the digital ARCs last year. Like, I know it’s not the polished copy and there are a few errors still present in the copy but really bad formatting definitely affects the overall reading experience and impression. And PDF eARCs are the bane of the eReader =S We hates it precious, lol =/

    • πŸ™‚ Funny. Since I’m really trying to not plan my reading these days and just go with my mood in the moment, the PDFs and bad formattings are seeming less and less like they’re worth spending time on. Easing off sounds like a great way to go!

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