Ebook review copies are something most people think would be the main way of reviewing books these days, but it is still pretty much a fifty-fifty split with ARCs (advanced reader copies) and finished print books.
With the development and growth of ebooks over the last few years, with the format growing in popularity each year — ebook sales are up 43% from last year — it seems logical with the world becoming more and more ecologically- and recycling-minded that reviewing books would just pretty much switch to ebook format only.
But that continues not to be the case.
Perhaps this is because just as the reading world isn’t full of ebook coverts and those fully committed to only reading books in the electronic format, the reviewing world is much the same.
Personally, I like ebooks, enjoy reading them on my Kobo, enjoy the mobility and ease of the format, but still love the real thing. Plus most reviewers review books and don’t get paid for it, but they do it to get their name out there, spread their thoughts and opinions about books, and ideally to get a nice finished copy of a book they really enjoyed reading and reviewing.
With an ebook it’s not quite the same and in some cases you don’t even get to keep the ebook.
Nevertheless, digital review copies are now widely available for book reviewers and they are requested for and acquired in three ways: 1) directly from the publicist, 2) Edelweiss, and 3) NetGalley.
1) This is obviously the easiest way to get digital review copies, with the reviewer requesting the specific book from the publicist and getting their preferred format (EPUB, PDF or MOBI) emailed directly to them; just one of the great benefits of the wonderful compact size of ebooks, making it easy to send across the interwebs.
But the publicist doesn’t always have ebook versions of books available for reviewers; this may change in the future, but at the moment while this is the easiest way, it is the rarest way to get digital review copies.
2) Edelweiss is much more than a site to get digital review copies.
It’s a massive cataloging and one-stop publicity destination for everything to do with books. Many publishers are listed there, providing reviewers, booksellers and many in the book business with things like their latest catalogs — saving a ton in printing costs, most publishers don’t even have a printed catalog anymore — what publicity a particular book is doing, what promotions, costs and print run, reviews, ordering and digital review copy access.
The review copy aspect is just one small part of the Edelweiss site, but it makes it real easy for reviewers. Hundreds of catalogs can be poured through and when a particular book is wanted for reviewing, it is simply a case of click on “request a review copy.”
Reviewers are vetted before being granted membership, their reviewing credentials reviewed, and then they are granted membership and access. It’s a great tool for both reviewers and publicists alike. The reviewer gets the latest catalog and can easily request review copies, while publicists can provide reviewers with direct links to catalogs, as well as books. Reviewers can also rate and post their reviews there.
The one negative I feel Edelweiss has is that most of their digital review copies have a time limit on them.
They’re usually in the PDF or EPUB format with a 60-day time limit on them; some have a 90-day limit. So the reviewer has this much time to read the book and get their review done, as after that time the ebook will be no longer accessible. I understand the thinking by the publisher in wanting the reviewer to review the book, which is why this is done, but still, as I mentioned earlier, a perk for the reviewer — especially those working for free, which is most of us — is getting that free book out of the deal. Here while we do get to read books sometimes months before they’re published, we usually don’t get to keep them after, which is disappointing.
3) NetGalley works in a similar principle to Edelweiss, though the site is solely dedicated to digital review copies.
While there aren’t catalogs available through NetGalley, there are extensive lists of books that can be scoured through by publisher or category, making it pretty easy to find stuff you’re interested in.
Many digital review copies are available instantly, in either the MOBI, EPUB or PDF format, and it’s just a case of clicking the download button; or by requesting the book and then the reviewer is contacted by email when the digital review copy download is available. Generally there is no time limit on NetGalley review copies and there are a number of graphic novels available, but the site doesn’t have as many books and publishers as Edelweiss.
The system for request digital review copies will likely change at some point in the future, and as I’ve said, I’d like to just be able to get the ebook directly through the publicist; but for now this is the best way for reviewers to get digital review copies.
There are some instances when directly interacting with the author, where said author will email their ebook to the reviewer, but for the most part it’s via Edelweiss and NetGalley, and through the publicist in those rare instances.