Do you read on an e-reader or tablet? Are you interested in getting books to read ahead of publication from hundreds of publishers, at no cost? Then you might consider signing up on one of the e-galley websites. There is just one hitch–you need to be a serious book reviewer with a website or blog.
There are two major sites that provide e-galleys of forthcoming titles. The better known of the two is NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com). NetGalley has what I think is the more visually elegant and easily accessible website of the two. When you sign up, you create a profile, which tells publishers about yourself, your audience, and helps answer the question of why they should approve your requests for e-galleys. The homepage features new recommended books based on your profile information. Across the top of the page, you have four clickable boxes. Dashboard features available titles in your categories, shows the different categories of books you are interested in reading and any “favorite” publishers. Your Shelf shows books you are currently reading, books you’ve downloaded that you have not given feedback on, those you have, and those that are “not active,” usually those you’ve been declined or those where you have requests pending. Find Titles allows you to search for titles you can request. There are options to see those from your favorite publishers, books that you are auto-approved for (usually from a publisher you frequently review books for) and from a whole list of categories. Browse Publishers allows you to see the list of all publishers on NetGalley, and to search the offerings each publisher currently has available. You can also find out what kinds of reviewers they are most likely to approve requests for.
The other source for e-galleys I’ve worked with is Edelweiss (https://www.edelweiss.plus/). Personally, I’ve found Edelweiss a bit clunkier to work with (although their Edelweiss+ website seems an improvement and will be the basis of my comments even though it is currently in Beta). One thing I notice is that the Edelweiss home page is much more content rich. The unique feature of Edelweiss is that it also allows you to access publisher catalogs as well as new review copies. The Home page has a column on the left with a publisher list. Then there are four horizontal rows to the right. The topmost is “My Edelweiss” summarizing your activity. The next is a list of recent catalogs, followed by a list of new books, and last is the list of books you have reviewed. There is also a menu bar at the top of the page that, besides Home, includes Catalogs (with more detailed info about each new catalog and a clickable link to search all the books in the catalog), Buzz (logs your activity on Edelweiss in the last month), Review copies (what is new in the last month and your own request history over the last three months), People (which I haven’t figured out but it appears to connect you with other users somehow), My reading (which includes what you anticipate reading, are reading, and have reviewed), Tags and Orders I have not used. I also receive a weekly email from Edelweiss that alerts me to newly available books and catalogs on the site.
I’ve reviewed about 50 titles on NetGalley, only six so far on Edelweiss, not including one I am currently reading. Both sites work similarly in that you request a review copy which the publisher must approve. Then you are able to download the e-galley. Both allow you to send it to your Kindle email address if you read on that platform or download and transfer files. You do need to watch. Some books on NetGalley are only available as .pdf or Adobe Digital Edition versions, the latter not readable on a Kindle, although I am able to read these via the Aldiko app on my smartphone. There is also a reader you can download for your computer, but I don’t like reading books on my computer.
I suspect publishers like e-galleys as a much more economical way to get advanced review copies out to readers, particularly with the explosion of online book blogging and e-readers and apps. It is also a much quicker turnaround from request to obtaining the e-galley for review. This service is paid for by the publishers, but these “gateways” serve to connect publishers to a wider audience of early readers, which along with the lower costs are the argument for the use of such sites.
For the reviewer who reviews a lot of books, it reduces the amount of books you physically have to store or get rid of, as well as the dilemma of selling advance copies which technically you are not supposed to sell! It is also one more source of learning of new titles, whether you request them for review or not.
There are several downsides to e-galleys.
- In common with e-books, the reading experience is different and I find them less preferable for many of the theological texts or other closely written books I tend to review. But sometimes this is the only way you can get approved for a review copy.
- E-galleys are not finished versions. They are not always in final format which can mean variable type sizes and missing material. A book I am currently reading leaves out all the “fi” and “fl” combinations in words, so I have to supply these as I read. It also leaves out nearly all numbers, and since the book features quite a bit of quantitative data, I feel I’m missing a good bit. And the numerous tables don’t render. I do feel here that if publishers are going to take their reviewers seriously, they would provide a closer to finished version.
- E-galleys often lack hypertext links from chapters to the particular part of the book and other such features that you would find in a final digital version of a book.
- It’s also easy to request more books than you will read but this can hurt you when you make future requests and have a low feedback percentage.
Most of us who review a number of books can’t afford to buy them all. E-galleys are a good source of advance review copies in many cases if you are willing to live with the downsides. You get to pick, you learn of a wider array of books, and you don’t have to figure out what to do with them afterwards.