I’ve been thinking about what, if any, difference it has made to my reading habits working in an Indie bookshop.
Before I was a bookseller, I knew nothing about ARC’s (advanced reading copies). Each and every book that I purchased was a precious thing, new or used. I would spend hours browsing, to-ing and fro-ing about which book/s to read next. The local library was my testing ground for new authors and recommendations and book borrows from friends supplemented my own growing library of favourites. Word of mouth and synchronicity was my was usual approach to finding new books.
If I bought a book, I read it through, regardless. DNF (did not finish) was not an option. I finished every book I started (eventually).
However since working in a bookshop the whole wide wonderful world of ARC’s and gratis reads has opened up to me. Suddenly my shelves (cupboards, under the bed and bedside chair) were overflowing with options that I hadn’t had to pay for.
Many times, this process revealed amazing new authors and stories that I might never have picked up otherwise. And that is, of course why publishing companies release ARC’s. Word of mouth and personal recommendations are still one of the biggest ways to get a book ‘out there’.
But I’ve also had lots of duds. And for the first time ever, I’ve failed to finish books that I started. Personally this has been a struggle. So much time, money, energy and effort has gone into putting this particular book in front of me, I feel obliged to finish it. Perhaps it’s just a slow start, maybe I’m not in the right mood to appreciate it, perhaps the amazing, insightful ending is worth the hard slog to get there?
For years, I ploughed through books that weren’t working for me. Until a colleague, who had been in the book industry a lot longer than me, told me to stop. Her view was that no book was ever going to suit every reader. And that is was actually my bookseller’s duty to only read books that interested me so that I could happily, faithfully and genuinely recommend them to our customers. My sense of relief was immense!
However, I’ve finessed this idea somewhat over time.
It is not necessarily a bad thing to not finish a book. The DNF’s may not be my cup of tea, but by reading a few early chapters, I get the gist of the book and get a feel for which kind of reader I could recommend the book to. Also, by working out why I didn’t like a book, I can honestly let readers know what my concerns were and they can chose whether or not it is something that is a problem for them too.
I’m definitely reading more widely since being a bookseller, especially contemporary, debut authors across all genres and age groups. These are the authors who the publishers are usually keen to get ‘out there’ via ARC’s. Creating a buzz around a new book before it hits the shops, is good for everyone concerned…as long as it’s genuine.
I’ve broadened the range and type of book that I would normally have read, but my basic criteria has remained the same. The book has to grab my attention, I have to feel impatient to pick it up again each day and it has to create a world for me to fall into or give me characters to love and hate and live with through their trials and tribulations.
The glut of ARC’s that can swamp the back office of a bookshop sometimes feels like a cheapening of the reading process though. All those books that I’m only half-interested in, waiting to be opened, read and loved, can feel like clutter rather than something worthy of my attention.
Abandoning books at the 50 page mark has also become my thing. If it hasn’t grabbed me or convinced me by page 50, then hasta la vista baby! Life’s too short to read a boring book. It’s not as if I don’t have something else to fall back onto.
Does reading a book you haven’t paid for and don’t have to return change your reading experience? Does it enhance and expand your reading? Or does it lower your expectations?