Skip to main content

The sad fate of the bound proof

Some have boring covers, others look like the
real thing, but there's usually a clue...
What do you call a book that's not a book? A bound proof (or if you are American and like a good acronym, an ARC, standing for Advanced Reading/Reader Copy).

It sort of makes sense. While I, as a reader, would always prefer to read a finished copy of a book, the publisher likes to get reviews in as early as possible, particularly if the reviewer is likely to provide snappy remarks to put on the cover. So quite often, before the book is actually produced, they will typeset and bind as a paperback the uncorrected proofs and send them out to eager reviewers.

The reviewer reads this not-quite-a-book as usual and produces his or her words of wisdom. But what to do next?

With a real book I have two choices. If I love it, I put it on the shelf for future re-reading. But shelf space is very limited and I can only do this with 2 or 3 books a year, where I review about 50. The rest, I'm afraid, I resell. Some people mutter about a free copy being sold, but short of putting it in the recycling, whatever I do will result in that free copy going on the market. And bearing in mind I don't get paid for the reviews I do for, I don't think this is an unreasonable thing to do. (It's not just me. One of my favourite bits of Brian Aldiss's excellent autobiography, Bury My Heart at W. H. Smith is his description of John Betjeman regularly coming into the bookshop Aldiss worked in with a pile of review books to sell on.)

However, with a bound proof I am faced with much more of a quandary. I don't really want to keep it, even if it is a great book, because it's not the real thing and doesn't look good on the shelf. And I can't sell it or even give it away. So they really do end up in the recycling. And that feels awfully sad.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Best writing advice

I saw on Twitter the other day (via someone I know answering it), the question 'What's the best writing advice you would give to someone who wants to become a writer?' My knee-jerk response was 'Don't do it, because you aren't one.' What I mean by this is that - at least in my personal experience - you don't become a writer. Either you are one, or you aren't. There's plenty of advice to be had on how to become a better writer, or how to become a published writer... but certainly my case I always was one - certainly as soon as I started reading books.  While I was at school, I made comics. I wrote stories.  My first novel was written in my teens (thankfully now lost). I had a first career that wasn't about being a writer, but I still wrote in my spare time, sending articles off to magazines and writing a handful of novels. And eventually writing took over entirely. If you are a writer, you can't help yourself. You just do it. I'm writ