BEA’s Orphaned ARCs
For some of us, acquiring advance reading copies at Book Expo America is an exercise in discernment. For others it is more like an athletic event, and for still other it is a blood sport. While the majority of visitors strolls the aisles at a leisurely pace thumbing interesting-looking galleys, bagging some and returning others to their stacks or politely declining the importunities of hopeful young editors, other attendees approach the process like a military operation whose objective is pillage, and who strip the book piles to the carpet like a Biblical horde of locusts.
These marauders have done their homework and mapped their game plans. Studying BEA bulletins, they know which galleys will be offered by which publishers and at what hours they will be released; they have plotted paths through the aisles and noted the booth numbers; they have armed themselves with multiple shopping bags of vast capacity and even wheeled suitcases; they arrive long before the doors open and stand at the foot of the escalators waiting like sprinters for the signal to ascend to the Expo floor.
The moment arrives and the guard steps aside. They stride, rather than glide, up the escalator and hit the floor running. They descend on their objective like well-trained soldiers. They snatch galleys indiscriminately from geometrically stacked piles and hurl them into their bags and carry-ons, check their maps and race to the next destination. Within minutes they have plundered the booths of their wares. When their sacks are replete they scuttle to a corner of the hall and sort through their swag. What they don’t want they surreptitiously leave behind. You may see these piles of discards all over the conference floor. Literally, the floor, reminding one of the empty wallets tossed away by pickpockets after removing the cash and credit cards.
It can be instructive to examine these piles of abandoned books, for they are the earliest harbingers of judgments to be rendered by reviewers and readers. On a few occasions, strollers will examine the galleys and glean one, reaffirming the adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
What happens to the books that those buccaneers have kept for themselves? Do they read them? Sell them? Donate them to libraries? We just don’t know. And those books left on the floor? Our hearts go out to their authors and editors. Indeed, our hearts go out to the books themselves, for they are like children standing unclaimed and forlorn while their parents race through a department store in the opening moments of Black Friday.