So far and yet so near…
As most of my readers know, I live in Israel. Because of this, sometimes when I request advance reader copies (or ARCs) of books from sites like NetGalley, publishers sometimes decline my requests. No, this isn’t antisemitism or some nasty BDS “gotcha.” The reason they give is that they don’t have the rights to give out ARCs to locations outside their domain. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking this is a bit strange, and if you think about it, effectively outmoded, especially when it comes to people who review books for the Internet (remember, it is call the World Wide Web, because it connects all corners of the globe).
Let me explain. On the one hand, it is true that publishers sometimes release physical books weeks, days and sometimes, even years in their own country before they decide to release them in other countries. There are also books that publishers never release abroad. Interested readers from other countries either are totally out of luck, or forced to incur high shipping costs. Of course, other options are getting friend to bring these books on a visit, or waiting to buy them on their next visit to the publication country. However, if that book really takes off, that publisher then has the possibility of making more money by selling the foreign rights to another publisher, or giving their affiliate publishers abroad the rights to publish these best sellers. As usual, everything is about knowing their markets and increasing their profits, so publishers probably do have good reasons to have regional rights for print books.
However, the Internet has made the world a whole lot smaller. For example, despite how strange this seems, I can’t buy kindle editions of books from Amazon’s UK site, but I can buy print versions from them. On the other hand, I can buy kindle books through Amazon’s American site, but recently, they won’t let me buy print books anymore (because I don’t have a US based credit card). Mind you, shipping costs from both Amazon sites for print books are unbelievably high.
On the other hand, there are also sites like the Book Depository, which ships books worldwide without charging for shipping (yes, their basic book prices are a touch higher than other places, but they’re nothing like the final prices you’ll be charged after you add the exorbitant shipping costs from bigger sellers). Of course, there are other online sites to buy both eBooks and print books. Some don’t care where your IP address originates from, but others do. (I haven’t quite figured out how iTunes works out their international buyers due to the lack of Apple products we own.) Still, when it comes to buying books, it seems to me that where you live no longer matters. With just a little searching (and any number of work-around options), you can get almost any book in any format, these days, no matter where you live.
You should know that on NetGalley, when a publisher sets regions for books, they are mostly for English speaking countries, with the EU sometimes included. Often I’ll see a US flag, with or without the flag for Canada. UK flags are sometimes on their own, but they often come with EU flags or with flags of Australia and New Zealand.
With that in mind, let’s look at my blog. I have noticed that my blog gets visitors from across the world. In fact, well over 60% of my page views come from the USA. A look at the top-ten of countries where my page views have come from – just since I started this new blog – will give you this list:
As you can see from the countries marked in bold, my blog gets significant page views and/or impressions from most of the regions where books are restricted. This, combined with today’s ability to purchase both print and eBooks internationally, is why I wonder if there should still a problem with approving a region specific book to someone who lives outside that region. More importantly, why do North American publishers refuse my requests, when no matter which way you slice it, my blog gets the majority of its views and impressions from the within that region?