14 April 09 | Chad W. Post

Last week, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Jenn Northington, Stephanie Anderson, and other independent booksellers started a conversation about the benefits of eARCs—electronic versions of the Advance Reading Copies all publishers send out to reviewers, booksellers, bloggers, etc.

My complete post about this can be found here, but the main impulse behind this idea is that a) ARCs are expensive and wasteful, and b) for booksellers (or reviewers) who receive 50+ books a week, an e-reader makes a lot more sense than hauling around all these titles. (For someone who likes to ride his bike to work, I’ll attest to the fact that these galleys can seem heavier than frickin’ gold at times.)

Over at GalleyCat, Jeff breaks down the galley costs for commercial publishers to demonstrate that a one-time investment could save them millions:

Let’s face it, all the major publishers are pretty much sending their galleys out to the same reviewers year after year. That’s why, if the reviewers’ offices are anything like mine, they have a good stack of 100-150 books coming in every week (no exaggeration) from every major, mini-major and independent publisher.

This is where the “saving the $1.5 million a year” comes in to play. If all the publishers are sending their galleys to the same 1000 reviewers, why don’t they send everyone an eReader.

“But (gasp) Jeff, that would cost too much money!”

Would it? Would it, really?

Let’s examine the costs:

1000 reviewers
x $3/galley
x $1/ U.P.S. mailing cost
x 375 titles/year
$1.5 million /year

That’s $1.5 million a year the average major publisher is spending printing and mailing out to the same 1000 reviewers every year.

Now, let’s examine how much it would cost to mail each reviewer all a Kindle, including shipping costs.

1000 reviewers
x $400 /Kindle
x $0 / galley
x $0 / U.P.S. galley mailing costs
x 375 titles/year

That’s $400,000 the first year and not one penny more year after year.

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that the $400,000 could be split by any number of publishers or publisher associations, thus saving even more than the $1.1 million in the first year.

I hate to play the pessimist, but I’m sure that until the big publishers figure out a DRM scheme that they’re happy with (sounds like 2001 all over again), they’re not going to want to go ahead with this sort of idea.

And although I have my concerns about how the rise of e-books will play out in the marketplace, I do think that in an industry where shipping companies are the only ones that ever seem to make any money, something like this makes a great deal of sense.

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