Sending me electronic files for review and year’s bests…

I was sent a novel yesterday. It popped into my email inbox, attached to a message from a very nice publicist who seemed awfully pleased about having sent it to me. And there was a time when I would have been delighted to get it too, though I’m becoming less and less thrilled as time goes by.

Why? Well the novel is one I really want to read. It’s written by a terrific writer whose work I very much admire and enjoy; someone I’d happily buy a pink drink, should we meet on some continent or other. And definitely someone whose work I would always read.

But, this was a PDF. I get sent a lot of PDFs, or even more helpfully, links to PDFs that I can download. PDFs are, no matter what anyone says, designed to be printed. They are a portable document format. Monday’s PDF was about 500 pages long. There’s not a lot of reformatting to be done in a PDF, so the length is fairly much a given. I’m happy to absorb the cost of downloading handfuls of multi-megabyte PDFs every week. I’m even willing to read a bunch of them, though less and less so. Middle-age is synching up nicely with my short sightedness, making reading on screen uncomfortable for long periods. And that means printing.

Printing out Monday’s document means about $6.00 worth of paper and about $20.00 worth of printing costs. Call it $25.00. That’s close to what the final book will cost to buy, once it’s been published. I can justify that cost from time to time, but not day after day. I get emailed PDFs of novels, anthologies, magazines, and individual stories by publishers, publicists, and whomever. Let’s say an average of $40.00 or $50.00 in printing costs for the various things I do print out. I’d say that’s incredibly low, but it’s a ball park. That’s a couple thousand dollars a year for books I’m reading or looking at to keep up to date as a reviews editor for a magazine, or to consider for my year’s best annual.

I’m seriously not sure this is sustainable. I’m considering restricting year’s best reading to printed copy only. That would mean I’d need pages or whatever of anthologies and magazines. I’d still accept single stories via email. As to novels. I don’t know yet. I need to keep up to date, but this is getting harder to sustain.

We’re going away this weekend, so I’m going to give this some thought and will start to email people. I would say, though, that if you want your magazine issue or anthology considered for my year’s best (and year in review essay) it would be best to send me a printed copy. That way it’ll definitely be considered. If you think you might be affected, or this might be a problem for you, drop me an email and we can discuss it.

11 thoughts on “Sending me electronic files for review and year’s bests…”

  1. If I have to print out, I tend to copy and paste into Word these days and print out on 9 point font. Some of our colleagues do have a penchant for 700 page novels.

  2. I’ve done the same thing, and am happy to continue do so, in limited numbers. The problem I’ve found is that Publicity Depts have moved from being reluctant to distribute electronic copies to sending them out in preference to the expense of sending printed copy. The sheer volume of e-copy is what’s causing the problem.

  3. If you have a full version of Adobe Acrobat, and if the .pdf isn’t locked, you can usually save a .pdf as a rich text format file. Sometimes the formatting gets a little weird. Afterwards you can reformat the text file for smaller point type and margins, reducing the printing cost.

    Or you can do what I did, and buy a Sony Reader.

  4. I’ve certainly done that. But, it still ends up with reading on screen, or covering the cost of a pile of print-out. It works on an occasional basis, but the real problem is that increasingly electronic copies are becoming more and more common. As to the Sony Reader – I’d heard very mixed things about it, especially when it came to PDFs. I know Charles tried it, and seemed far from sold on it.

  5. You mean you don’t buy ink carts in bunk via eBay? Even with shipping to Down Under, it’s a fraction of what you pay at the local store.

  6. I don’t actually use Ebay at all, no. But it’s a good idea. I also find there’s a logistical problem, as well. I have emails with attachments, piles of print out, a thumb drive with copies of files – and so on, and so on. It’s a LOT better than getting nothing, but not as good as an old-fashioned ARC or galley.

  7. Reading text off the screen is the new “found” art. The stuff I get–Keep me reading off the screen and you just might have something.

  8. I have the same problems, Jonathan. I love getting all the “free” stuff but it’s not so free when you print it out. And word or even text formats work better than .pdf, even though .pdf documents are MUCH prettier, simply because a word document, properly reduced, might print in 1/3 as many pages as a .pdf.

    (Printed galleys or ARCs are still better, but I do sympathize with the cost issue.)

    One thing that’s saved me lots of money on ink is my new laser printer, though. (And it’s lots faster than my various inkjets.) The laser printer costs more up front (though mine was a gift), but it doesn’t take long at all, given the amount of printing I do, to make it back, as the cartridges last quite some time.


  9. Frankly, this would be returning to the age of the dinosaurs. It’s clear enough for best-of reading whether something is to be held for further consideration or not from a read online. I think reading novels on a screen is a bit much, but for short fiction in collections or anthologies it’s no real hardship. PDFs are meant to be read on a screen as much as on the page. Also consider that you live in Australia and the US postal service has made it very expensive to ship stuff to you.

    Editors who don’t read stuff off a screen are going to be very rare very soon.


  10. I don’t disagree, which is why I didn’t just change my approach. While I’d prefer to receive printed copies of anthologies, magazines, and collections, I’m going to continue to accept e-copy for the year’s best. I’m not so sure about novels, though, which I get to see for my reviews editor gig. I do read some novels online, but it’s a bit much for me. My middle-aged eyes are starting to revolt.

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