(Side note: I have written and re-written this post so many times. Turns out ARC culture is a complicated topic. Who knew?)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am extremely grateful to be on the receiving end of ARCs. I wouldn't be able to read nearly as much as I do if it wasn't for publishers sending these books to me so often. In this way, I am very privileged, especially as they can be highly sought after - and I can see why. Being on the receiving end of an ARC means you're one of the first people to read the book, and that's exciting - as is the sound of your letterbox creaking open, followed by a loud, book-like thump on the doormat. They're better than bills and junk mail, that's for sure. And you get to be part of an author's journey to publication!
Can you be a book blogger without ARCs? Absolutely! There's nothing to stop you from blogging about the books you already own. There are so, so, so many books already published that deserve attention. I once had a book blogger of two weeks email me asking if it was normal that no publishers had contacted them yet. I don't think anyone gets ARCs as soon as they start blogging, and some don't get any ARCs ever - it's not a right.
However, even though ARCs don't excite me quite as much as they used to, and even though my towering TBR pile scares me a bit, and even though I, too, want people to realise that ARCs are not everything... I have an issue with bloggers constantly going on rants saying that ARCs 'don't matter'. They're not everything, no, but they do matter. Saying that they don't comes from a huge place of privilege. Do you know how amazing it is to suddenly be the owner of hundreds of brand-new books directly from the publisher, sometimes before they're in shops, when your family has never had the money to keep up with your speedy reading before? Do you know how amazing it is to simply be able to read a clean, brand-new book that is all yours when you've mostly had to rely on dusty, drink-spilled, spine-ruined books from the library that you only get to keep for a week? They matter.
It's like when the popular girls at school are all wearing their hair a certain way and you finally succumb to the pressure of also wearing your hair in that style, only for them to laugh at you and tell you it's not cool anymore. (Been there.) You know?
As you can probably tell, I'm on the fence. ARCs aren't everything, and I think everyone comes to realise that sooner or later, but it annoys me when bloggers outright say that ARCs don't matter, because that can be disheartening for new bloggers who, after lots of hard work, are finally getting their own. And of course they matter - an author has spent months nurturing their baby, and the printing of ARCs signifies the beginning of its journey onto bookshelves around the world. And a lovely person in publishing has put time, thought and effort into getting that book to you.
I just feel like we should have more consideration for newer bloggers. We all started somewhere. I still remember getting my first ever ARC from a publisher (The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore) and proudly displaying it face-out on my shelf for weeks. When I got my first review book directly from an author (Chips, Beans and Limousines by Leila Rasheed) I showed it to everyone who came to visit. So, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to get excited about things. It's okay to be enthusiastic. Don't feel weird for jumping up and down when the post comes, and don't feel guilty when bigger bloggers say that the thing you've worked hard for doesn't matter.
And if you don't get ARCs? That's okay too. In fact, it's more than okay. ARCs are not the be all and end all of blogging - there's more to it than that. (Never had an ARC? Well, let me tell you, the covers aren't always pretty and they're usually full of typos. They're rare, they're cool, but finished copies will always be better!) All bloggers start by reviewing books they've bought and borrowed, so if you're not in contact with publishers, you are not a failure. You are doing just fine.
Bottom line: ARCs are important and they matter - but they're not 100% necessary.
What do you think about ARC culture?