Chatterbox: Defining ARCs or Review Copies

October 31, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features


I still have a problem with calling my review books ARCs. Technically it stands for an Advance Reading Copy, but it is also used interchangeably with a review copy of a book, no matter how long ago the book was published.

Then there’s a whole bunch of other words that can be used to refer to a review copy, including:

  • finished copy
  • unfinished copy (also unbound copy)
  • proof version
  • review copy
  • publicity version

Not to mention digital ARC or e-ARCs and then physical ARCs…I mean why is this all so confusing?

So I’ll try and explain it all below…

An ARC – also known as unfinished, unbound, proof copies (also e-ARCs)

An ARC is a version of a book that appears before the publication date. They are extremely limited and printed for publicity purposes, and usually contain publicity information on the back, be missing the author acknowledgements or extras like maps and Q&As. Also referred to as proofs, publicity versions, and unfinished/unbound copies, because they don’t resemble the final copy.

I know ARCs are expensive to produce from the publisher due to limited print runs. Sometimes ARCs are printed on whiter, heavier pages as well to make it easier to review. It’s more difficult receiving an ARC from a publisher than a book that has been printed, depending on the individual publisher. Many publishers choose to release ARCs as digital versions available on Netgalley or Edelweiss only.

Some people refer to all review copies as ARCs though, which make it even more confusing.

A review copy (physical or digital) – and finished copies

A review copy is a book that has been sent for review purposes. It’s pretty easy to tell if it’s a finished copy (or the first print of the book that is released into stores and or Amazon/online stores) – if it arrives after the book has been released, or it doesn’t have disclaimers from the publisher saying it is an advance reading copy of the book and it doesn’t represent the final version, then it’s usually a finished copy (which is what they sell in stores or on Amazon).

I tend to refer to all my received review books as a review copy, regardless of whether they are finished or unfinished copies. It makes it easier that way, but then again, there isn’t a specific term for a book that is received for review after the publication date.

Why is it so confusing and why are there so many terms to describe review copies? I think it’s because publishers work with so many people, not just us bloggers. They work with publicity teams, media, printers, editors etc. that they may all have different terminologies in their trade. But for now, I think I’ll just keep on calling them review copies…

Do you guys get confused over ARCs and review copies? What do you usually call them? 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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49 responses to “Chatterbox: Defining ARCs or Review Copies

  1. Thank you Cristina, why are there so many terms we have to deal with lol! I think ARC makes sense to us bloggers but many people don't know what that is either. Definitely confusing!

  2. That's a great point as well, so they need to use whatever lingo they have I think. ARC is definitely not a term that everyone knows, but a lot of book lovers do. Thanks Tanja!

  3. I think that simplifies things, whether they are an ARC or not you can still call them a review copy. I wish we all used the same phrasing as well, but it's confusing enough as it is hehe. Thanks Amanda!

  4. Oh I know, I think all the book tubers pronouce it as "ark" but I actually pronounce it as A.R.C. in my head. Review copies works really well though, it's generic whereas ARCs is more accurately for pre-released books I think.. Luckily I can donate my ARCs to Lifeline, I've picked up a few of those copies too at the bookfest. I don't think your followers would mind if you gave them away like that too!

  5. It is really confusing isn't it? I think I got frustrated over all the different terms and decided to try and work it out in this post lol. Although I think the way you use it sounds accurate enough 🙂

  6. Oh yes, it is easier but I think that's what I get confused with, because sometimes my review copies aren't unreleased books lol. Hehe I love the fangirling and gushing about the books Rach, it's so much fun! Giveaways are great too and ARCs are always popular. and total YES for awesome publicists and stuff!

    I totally know what you mean about those questions, I just redirect everyone to that blog post that Mel did last year or so answering how you get ARCs, or redirect them to Netgalley and stuff. No problems Rach <3

  7. It took me a while to get the hang of all the names, but since all I get are eARCs from NG or EW and the very rare physical ARC in giveaways and the like, all my review books are advanced copies! Well, except for one!!

    But thank you for this very well explained and informative post Jeann!!
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  8. Hmmmm… great point. I never really thought about it before. You're right though. I usually just call them ARCs if they are copies that are out before the published date, and still have the chance of being altered or changed at all, and then finished copies for books after release date. But I honestly don't receive too many, so maybe that's why. I tend to prefer reading books on my Kindle, so Netgalley and Edelweiss is the way to go for me. Great post! 🙂
    Lisa @ Lost in Liter recently posted…Review: How We Fall by Kate BrauningMy Profile

  9. Till i started watching booktube and following book blogs i didn't know the existence of ARCs. To me ARCs are 'un official' version of the book since some of them eventually go trough last minute changes while the review copies are what we see in stores. Great post! very informative!
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    • I think I found out about ARCs on Goodreads and reading people's reviews, but now I know hehe. That's a good idea, it's interesting to see how everyone interprets ARCs different as well!

    • Yes, I prefer to use review copies as well cos the other versions can be used interchangeably and get so confusing lol! I just use Digital or Physical review copy I think that sums it up 🙂

  10. Oh wow! Thank you so much for posting this Jeann – it was really informative! I always assumed that everything given to you before the release date was considered an ARC, and if it was given to you after it's a review copy, but I guess there's a lot more to it than that! Thanks for sharing!
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  11. I agree with you! I use ARCs to talk about the books I get that haven't been published yet, and review copies are those that I was given to review after they've already been released. But yeah, the numerous words used interchangeably with ARC is confusing sometimes. I only use the two I talked about, which can sometimes even get confusing for myself when I sign up for a blog tour and think I'm getting an ARC to review, when it turns out that the book has already been published (that's usually when they're self-pubbed ones, though). Man, it's so weird sometimes!
    Holly U recently posted…I’m Back With a New Name, Design, and Giveaway!My Profile

  12. It definitely get's really confusing! I usually call them review copies because that encompasses both. Most of the time though, I do only get review copies. Even if it's before the release date, it's the finished copy. It does get confusing when people call them the same thing though!
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…STS #49: Better Night Than AtlantiaMy Profile

  13. Bec

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS! I get so confused! I think you're spot on about why there are so many different terms for review books and stuff. Publishers and everyone else in the industry would need to be able to differentiate between all of the different types of review books.

    That being said, if a publishing house offers me any kind of free book, I would JUMP on it, no matter what it's called 🙂
    Bec recently posted…#24 “The Messenger” by Markus ZusakMy Profile

  14. I use to be super confused when I first started blogging haha. I'm better now, but I see why it gets confusing when there's ARCs and there's review copies that's not necessarily "advance". I don't think I ever really paid attention to the different before!

    Thanks for the explanation!
    Cyn @ Book Munchies recently posted…A Very BM HalloweenMy Profile

  15. Great post Jeann! This is something which can definitely get confusing at times, but I have a pretty simple system of classifying mine: If it's an uncorrected proof, or bound without its final cover then I'd call it an ARC, and otherwise other finished copies are review copies to me. Everyone's bound to have their own way of seeing things and classifying the books they get to read, I suppose since there's no 'official' dictated way of doing things then we just have to figure it out for ourselves! 🙂
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  16. I definitely know the difference, but I didn't at the time I started blogging. I only get ARCS though, digital from NetGalley, and not review copies. Which is why my blog is full of only ARCs and not review copies. Well, then I would just call the post title "Review" like I usually do. WELL YEAH. That's it! Haha.
    Valerie recently posted…Review: CressMy Profile

  17. I usually just call them ARCs or review books 🙂 It's easier to lump them all together! I like getting to read ARCs because 1). I get to read the book early 2). I get to spread awareness for the book 3). I get to fangirl and gush and rant about the book and get people excited for the release and want to buy it 4). I can do giveaways for these ARCs so others can read it too and then spread the word 5). I can trade or gift to friends who want to read it 6). I get to interact with awesome publicists & publishers <3

    What kills me are the questions, "how do you get ARCs?? Can you tell me your publicist contracts?? What are some emails I can use?? Will you give me some of your ARCs??" I've been asked all of these questions wayyy too often.

    Thanks for the ARC clarifications, Jeann! <3
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  18. I also think that this division is due to the fact that mostly all publishers also work together with newspapers and different types of media that review book. So yeah ARC sounds more posh if you ask me. I guess I'm just used to it so I really don't pay attention. Great post, Jeann 🙂
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  19. Great post Jeann! Honestly, for blogger it should be called one acronym and call it a day. Seriously. ARC makes the most sense and if it's for somebody who isn't a blogger, then we don't need to know what they call it IMO. *shrugs* It's just so confusing, you know? 😉

  20. This is so handy when you are a beginning blogger. I had no idea there were things as ARC's and I was so confused what they were. I call ARC's/eARC's everything that is unfinished, like books I received before publication. If I receive an already published book I call it a review copy 🙂

  21. To me they're just Review Copies because no matter what, whether they're an ARC or a copy sent after release date, they've been sent to review, so to me, it's a review copy, if that makes sense? I know there's a lot of phrases and it's just confusing, I wish we could all just have like one or two and we ALL used them, it'd be so easier than having 5/6 different ways of saying it.. Greta post though Jeann! 😀
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  22. I'm guilty of calling most books "ARC"s although I usually only get review-copies. I do have a fair few not-official cover ARCs though, so in my head they just end up getting smushed together. >_< BUT IT IS CONFUSING! Because technically "review copy" is right. Oh, but on twitter? It's easier to say ARC than review copy, just for wordcount. I try to always say review copy on my blog posts though. :))
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  23. My brain keeps on pronouncing "ARC" in weird ways. Either I pronounce all the letters separately (A-R-C) or "ark." So even that part is confusing to me. But I refer to most of mine as review copies as well – that's what they're for, after all. I think mostly ARC is used for reviews – "ARC review of Winter by Marissa Meyer" so that people know it's not out yet. And a lot of overseas book vloggers use it as well.

    I think ARCs are cool – I feel special that it's such a limited copy lol. Although if I don't end up liking the book, I can't donate it to the library, which complicates things!
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