The Case for E-galleys

From Publishers Weekly:

One of the biggest “first-world problems” to arise during 2020’s necessary isolation in response to Covid-19 has to do with e-books. I’m specifically talking about e-galleys, the early versions of books that critics, reviewers, and librarians often receive from publishers in place of paper versions.

Back in 2005, I ordered the first-generation Kindle straight away. I loved it, too. But it wasn’t my first go-round with electronic reading. At two magazines where I’d worked, I’d tested different e-readers. I was an early adopter, and I’ll never apologize for it.

However, in the 15 years since buying that first device, I’d fallen off the e-reading bandwagon. I’d moved on from working at the intersection of publishing and technology to a role as a literary journalist and book critic. As I began writing more and more, I began receiving more and more print books. No longer did I have to request a galley or a finished book; the floodgates burst, those floodgates being the shelves in my home office, which now groan with galleys, ARCs, trade paperbacks, and hardcovers.

I’m not complaining. It remains a thrill for me to dig into a pile of book mail and see the beautiful volumes that authors and publishers work so hard to write and produce. My home has “real” books in almost every room, and don’t get me started on the books I’m saving for our daughters to share with their own children one day.

But the e-readers I’ve had over the years have convinced me that there’s a time and place for digital copies. For me, that time and place is in my professional life. Being able to download books from NetGalley and Edelweiss, or receive PDFs from various imprints, has saved my shoulders, eyes, and calendar. I no longer tote multiple books with me on business trips or vacations or even across town. My e-reader allows me to store hundreds of titles, so I always have books for assignments, books to consider, and books for pleasure in one place. The e-ink of the Paperwhite is easy on my eyes, and at times when I choose to read on my phone or a tablet, I can easily adjust the font depending on where I am and which glasses I have nearby.

Almost all of my colleagues—editors and producers and reviewers—say they loathe e-galleys. They complain about them loudly on social media, and more quietly at lunches, moaning about how they need the “feel” of a book, need to be able to flip back and forth, to highlight passages, make notes in the margins. “No e-galleys! No PDFs!” they cry, yearning for the day when Covid-19 isolation ends and they can once more receive large piles of Tyvek envelopes filled with paper.

First, I say, enjoy the feel of a book on your own time; when we’re trying to decide which of a month’s five dozen novels belongs on a list, its feel has nothing to do with its candidacy. Second, you can highlight and annotate e-books quite easily—maybe even more easily, than you can paper books. Third, while it’s true that flipping back and forth is tougher with a digital volume, the blessed search function makes up for it. Want to go back to the spot where the protagonist drops the vial of poison? Just type in vial and there you are. I’ve found the blessings of e-galleys far outweigh their curses, and that goes for PDFs, too—a little more unwieldy, but similarly convenient.

To my digital-shy colleagues, I would also say: think about resources. Digital devices do drain them, but if you have devices already—and I know you do—then receiving digital books saves on the production materials, shipping materials, and fuel used in creating and distributing print galleys.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG recently wanted to read an older book by Aaron Elkins that Mrs. PG had recommended to him and was part of the paper library that hadn’t been donated to the local library.

It just didn’t feel right and making certain he didn’t lose his place when he took a break was a bit of a pain. Instead of just putting his Paperwhite down, knowing that it would look exactly the same when he picked it up again after five minutes, 30 minutes, 90 minutes, etc., PG had to prop the ancient trade paperback open and worry that he might bump it in a typically clumsy fashion when he came back to sit down. (PG knows: First World Problem).

The biggest drawback is that PG loves to read while lying flat on his back. No pillow, just a mattress. Just flat. A careless moment on a motorcycle in college adjusted PG’s spinal column a bit, so ultra flat feels perfect.

He’s mentioned his weird-looking prism glasses before. They slip over PG’s computer glasses (which work better than no-line bifocals) and make reading very pleasurable. The featherweight Paperwhite is easy to hold with one hand and PG’s right thumb is just as automatic as his paper-turning right hand used to be.

5 thoughts on “The Case for E-galleys”

  1. Same general mechanism, but a different purpose, Harald.

    I know. Just giving some historical context.

    I had never heard of a Camera Lucida before, so you’ve taught me something.

    Sacré blue… where is your art history? 😉 Only been around since the 15th century. But I’m a little bit of a nut on the history of imagemaking and especially image permanence. You can read my story of finding the First Photo in France here: https://petapixel.com/2013/10/02/first-photo/

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