When Do You Read It? On Pub Dates, Priorities, and Book Discovery

In which a question posted in the Book Bloggers Do It Better Facebook group last week sent me hunting for a post I’d saved to my “Blognotes” notebook in Evernote almost two years ago

“When we have several books that are releasing around the same time to review- do we tend to try to read the debut first (knowing they are really counting on reviews to come in) or the more established author? Or does it matter to you?”

when will you read that book? graphic The 3 Rs Blog

I’m really only concerned about release dates with the ARCs I review for Shelf Awareness, and I have editorial guidelines and assistance that help me prioritize those when necessary. If I’ve received galleys that share a publication date and I don’t think I’ll get them all read in a timely manner, I give preference to the one that looks the most interesting to me at that particular time–granted, “interesting” is highly subjective and not always consistent, but it works for me.

I’ve honestly never considered scheduling my review reading based on whether the author is a first-timer or an old-timer, or thought about debuts “needing” reviews more, although from the perspective of book discovery, I suppose there’s something to that. All of the reviews in Shelf Awareness for Readers conclude with a promotional “discover” hook, and will often mention if the book is a debut. However, I rarely post reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or other sites where they can drive a book’s “discoverability.” Maybe I haven’t thought about it much because “discovering” books is absolutely NOT a problem for me.

And maybe that points to something else about me as a reader and book blogger: even when I’m being paid to review a book, I put my own reading interests first. When I have good things to say about a book, I certainly hope what I say will drive readers to it–IF it aligns with their own reading interests–but I’m not saying it in service to any “needs” of authors or publishers. I’m less motivated by those than by the needs of readers–myself included–for good books.

It’s particularly true about books, but it applies to other forms of culture and entertainment too: it doesn’t have to be “new” to be “new to you“, and “discovery” can happen after hours, or weeks, or even years. Linda Holmes of Pop Culture Happy Hour addressed this in an October 2013 Monkey See post about “release date myopia:”
“New This Week, New Right Now, New And Hot, New And Notable — if you’re talking about culture, you’ve got to have this stuff; you can’t not have it. But a little less preoccupation with becoming one of 50 reviews of a movie 75 percent of people can’t see yet, or one of 25 reviews of a book that has a 20-week waiting list at the library, might lead to more productive conversations on the whole…We might be better off simply starting discussions about things that are interesting and trusting that the audience is always composed of a mix of those who are familiar with them and those who aren’t… 
“Books are available essentially foreverWhenever. If you’re looking on a given weekend for something great to watch or read, the odds are overwhelming — in fact, you can guarantee — that you can find something better among what you’ve missed than among what’s new.”
Parts of the book-blogging community seem to be much less release-date-driven than they once were. A few of my blogger friends have climbed off the book-hype hamster wheel almost entirely–they rarely accept ARCs anymore, and that leaves them free to discover what they want to read, when they want to read it. And when I don’t have a paid-review deadline to meet, sometimes I’ll discover that an ARC just doesn’t speak to me when its release date approaches, and it will remain in TBR for months or even years. (If it doesn’t get purged, that is.)

There are apps that will calculate how long it will take you to read a particular book or to get through your entire TBR collection, but very few of us avid readers will ever have all the time we need for all the books we want to read. How do you discover books? How do you decide what to read next? And do your own needs a reader come first?

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