Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post by Laurie Gold: Are You Ready for e-Galleys?

By Laurie Gold

NBCC member Laurie Gold answers Question 4 in our series:

Earlier this year I wrote a short piece about my adventures in e-reading. In it I discussed my long-time use of electronic reading devices. I also shared that at the time of the article's publication, I'd only been assigned one book for PW in digital form, and that I looked forward to more in the future. Not only do I review for PW, I am an Amazon Vine reviewer as well, and recently returned to blogging.

So as to supplement the books I can pick and choose from at Amazon, this summer I set up an account at netgalley, and requested and received several books to review from HarperCollins and four of Harlequin's imprints, including HQN, MIRA, Spice, and Carina Press (Harlequin's e-book only imprint). The experience is just what I'd hoped for, and goes something like this: I browse through an online catalog and request books; Publishers approve and send digital copies to my Kindle email address; I turn on my Kindle and download books to read, and subsequently review. On my recent summer vacation I read five books on my Kindle, and when I returned home, I reviewed them, using netgalley's system to forward a copy of each review to the publisher, along with links as to their placement at Amazon and/or my blog.The only change I would make to the system as currently set up would be in the file naming. Users are given the option of downloading a file or having it sent to their Kindle address, which automatically updates the e-device when it next connects to the Internet. Users who choose the former download files to their computers that are easily identified, but those of us who choose the latter (which avoids all sorts of conversion complications) see files on our devices with numeric file names as opposed to authors and titles. A small thing, really, but as I do more of these reviews, this small thing will make managing my digital library more difficult, and I would imagine that librarians, the fast-growing users of the system according to PW, would find this troublesome as well. Netgalley is aware of the problem, which is not of their doing; Lindsey Rudnickas, the company's liaison between publishers and reviewers, indicates that Amazon changes the file name during the transfer process. She hopes to see this fixed in the future. Some on-line sleuthing revealed a work-around that I've begun to use; those interested might link here in order to try it themselves.

My understanding is that those publishers who have signed up with netgalley make up to 50 titles available to the overall catalog each month. As a reader and long-time reviewer who's fully embraced digital reading, I'm thrilled that netgalley exists. I imagine that in subsequent months more of the large publishing houses will sign on so that, in addition to romances, I'll be able to read and review digital versions of other types of popular, literary, and genre fiction, such as urban fantasy, which is one of my favorite genres.

Since 2005 I've read hundreds of short stories and novels digitally, as well as a smaller grouping of memoirs and other non-fiction – most recently Sebastian Junger's WAR – and never once missed the physical, print book. I would imagine that as netgalley (and other sites that might develop which are similar), the difficulty for the site and the publishers who use it will eventually be in determining the “openness” of who can join and/or receive digital galleys.