I have collected advance reading copies, also described, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, as ARCs, uncorrected proofs, or bound galleys, for many years. Originally, I was drawn to them because many of the books and authors that I was interested in had their “first edition” release in mass-market paperback, and while I like mass-market paperbacks just fine for reading, they didn’t strike me in my youthful ignorance as overly exciting collectibles.
Over the years, my attitude towards these—I’ll call them “ARCs,” for the sake of convenience—has changed somewhat, and if anything I like them more now than I ever did. Talk to an ARC collector, and they’ll give you a variety of reasons for their appeal: they are the “true first edition,” preceding any other published state of a book; they represent an opportunity to read a book prior to the official publication date; and (one of my own primary considerations) they represent a version of the book that potentially differs from the one which is ultimately released.
I’ve included a photo with this posting of the ARC of Charles de Lint’s most recent novel, The Mystery of Grace, which happen(s, ed) to be running as a banner ad atop this website. Aside from any textual differences that there may be between the published version, released on March 17, 2009, and my copy (available before that time), there is one thing that leaps out at you immediately: the cover art and design used on the ARC is completely different.
More significant changes are often made between the pre-release state(s) and the published book, which calls for an explanation of the different types of “advance copies” and how they can differ. Though the terms above, and others, are sometimes used interchangably, they are not always the same thing.