Stuff That Bothers Me: NetGalley, Edelweiss and ebook formats

Ever since I found out about NetGalley, I’ve been requesting books that interested me. I love how easy it is for readers to connect with publishers, to get free eARCs of books and to send feedback directly to the publisher. HOWEVER.

I have NetGalley Logobeen granted a number of books lately that I would really like to read. But most of them are DRM-protected epubs that I load on my reader (Kobo) via Adobe Digital Editions. Now I don’t mind that (apart from my general dislike of DRM) but when I receive an epub copy that is clearly a scanned PDF file, there is really no way of reading it. The font type is tiny and I can’t make it larger on my reader because the file isn’t really text, it’s images. I could zoom in on every page, scroll down – if you have an eReader you know this is no fun – zoom out again, turn the page and repeat. But seriously, who does that for a few hundred pages? I certainly don’t, which means I end up not reading the books I’ve been given. Which again leads to a very guilty conscience on my side.

Am I the only one dealing with this problem? I truly want to hold up my end of the bargain but reading a terribly formatted ebook is so tedious and annoying that even a free book is not worth the effort. Then I’d rather go and buy my own copy and be able to read it like a normal person, on paper or in a format that lets me set the font to a size that won’t ruin my sight.

I don’t get (or ever expect to) paper ARCs because I doubt anyone would want to ship books to Austria – the amateur marketing part of my brain tells me it’s just not worth it. Even if I ended up writing a rave review. So dear publishers. If you want us to read and review the books you offer us for free, then please, please, please give us formats that are readable.

Edelweiss Logo

Just a few weeks ago, I also discovered Edelweiss, another website that makes it possible to request free ebooks prior to publication. Difficult to navigate as it is, I received an ebook of Brom’s Krampus and was on page 50 or so. The next day, I tried to open up the book on my reader and a very friendly message popped up, letting me know that this DRM-protected file had expired. A bit of research informed me that it was the official publication date. So my question here is: Do you NOT want me to review a book once it’s out? This particular blog may still be small and not very well-known but I am still generating free publicity for your publishing company and for a book and its author. I would have been done within the week! Most NetGalley books also expire, but at least they grant you a few weeks after publication date to finish the book.

I guess at this point I should at least mention the publishers who offer good copies of their books. Angry Robot always sent me epubs that were wonderfully readable, St. Martin’s Press answered my e-mail, asking for a properly formatted copy of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, with an invite to download an epub copy. Thanks again for that. I’ve read and reviewed all of these books here on the blog and if another one of their titles strikes me as interesting, I’ll be requesting it. Other publishers? Not so much.

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve read up on discussions about the blogger/publisher relationship. Again, I don’t have any personal experience with receiving paper copies but from what I’ve seen of NetGalley and Edelweiß, I am very close to throwing the towel (is that a Germanism?) and just going back to buying my own books, reading them at my own speed and writing reviews for whoever stumbles upon this page.

What I’m interested in is: Do any of you have the same problems? Do you convert your books (which requires you to remove the DRM-protection) and make them readable that way? Do you contact the publishers directly? Or have you given up on NetGalley?

21 thoughts on “Stuff That Bothers Me: NetGalley, Edelweiss and ebook formats

  1. Birgit says:

    I’ve been using NetGalley for almost two years now and I rarely had trouble reading one of the epub’s – so maybe I got lucky in that regard? However the fact that you “only” have 55 days (in one case it was just 14 days, yikes) until the file expires really got on my nerves as sometimes I simply didn’t get around reading the book and then saw I couldn’t download it again because it has been archived *grumbles*.
    Now that I also own a Kindle I download all galleys on this device as there is no expiration date of the file and so far there were no problems with formatting either.

    As to REAL dead-wood-kind-of-review-copies … give it a try with publishers in the UK! I started requesting certain books I was interested in, and in some cases I found the book in the mail a few weeks later, in other cases I never received any kind of reply. But you know, once you’ve got one foot in with certain publishers … newsletters and e-mails started rolling in asking me whether I was interested in reviewing certain books *yay*. Last month I even got my first unsolicited review copy *gasp*. Und ja, ich bin auch aus Österreich, also ist das mit den “echten” Bücher nicht ganz so abwegig, wie es auf den ersten Blick erscheinen mag. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nadine says:

      Hallo Birgit! Dich kenne ich ja noch (ich gucke immer wieder mal auf deinen Blog :)).

      Maybe I just pick the wrong books… I have only read (or tried to read) a handful of NetGalley books, but I’d say 80% of those were unreadable. Thanks for the tip about UK publishers. You’re right, the UK isn’t that far away, so I will definitely give this a shot.
      I also didn’t consider that Kindle’s mobi-format and the epub-copies publishers give away on NetGalley may have different properties. Me and my Kobo are in the minority when it comes to eReaders – but I love him dearly (yes, I consider my reader a “he”).

      Still, it is inexplicable to me that a Kindle ebook would be sent without expiration date and the same book in epub expires after a while. This entire thing gets me really interested in publishers and the workings behind their curtains.

      Like

  2. Birgit says:

    I haven’t got a clue either why epub’s expire and mobi’s don’t *shrugs* though at least it’s less of a hassle now. What’s currently getting my heart-rate up is how now that they’ve switched to a new layout on NetGalley my account is totally messed up and I can’t even see my “older” downloads anymore. Well, it WOULD be nice if I were able to share my reviews with publishers, right? Apparently they are working on the problem, but who knows how long it will take …
    And about UK publishers – we both have a totally different focus (well, I love sci-fi though I dedicated my blog to non fiction), but these three are great to work with: Penguin, Random House (which have now joined forces anyway) and Pan McMillan.
    With Penguin I suggest you sign up here: http://pressoffice.penguin.co.uk/static/pressofficelogin/register_update.html and if there’s a book you like in their newsletter just request it from the press contact person mentioned. In the other two cases I simply requested particular books and soon after I was also being asked whether I’d be interested in specific titles. Of course you might not always get a requested book though so far it was a 1:2 chance for me to receive a review copy. Good luck!

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    • Nadine says:

      Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to get a little help from an established blogger. 🙂 I already receive newsletters by publishers that interest me (Tor, Orbit, etc.) and I’ll definitely give it a try.

      I actually like the new NetGalley layout, but you’re right. Older titles are gone. I did a review for The White Forest but couldn’t share it with the publisher because that book had also disappeared from my NetGalley downloads. Very strange. But since it’s pretty new, I guess they’ll figure this out in time.

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  3. Dirrogate (@Dirrogate) says:

    Thanks for the post and advice above. I was initially looking at putting up Memories with Maya as a PDF (the typesetting looks better as pdf) but decided against it, and stuck with epub for reader comfort.

    If hard science is your thing, you’re pre-approved. Regards.

    Like

    • Nadine says:

      Hahaha, thanks.
      PDFs are great on tablets (so my boyfriend tells me) but on an e-reader they are a real pain in the ass.
      Also thanks for the pre-approval. I’ll check out the synopsis. Not sure hard science is exactly up my alley, but you never know. 🙂

      Like

  4. Hope H. says:

    Thanks for the info! As a new NetGalley reviewer, I was concerned about the formatting as well. I now know to not download books unless I am prepared to read them ASAP. Other sites I’ve had success with include Goodreads, Smashwords, and Epubbud (if you’re looking for free review copies). Feel free to check out and follow my blog!

    Like

  5. Urthwild says:

    I know this discussion is currently drawing it’s pension but nothing has changed. Books still expire right in the middle of my reading them. What I have trained myself to do is to ensure I download both the Kindle mobi and the Epub file if they are available. Then I list the books on Adobe Digital editions reader in expiry order. It seems to work. I also prefer Adobe for graphic novels, it is so much easier to read them on a pc screen rather than my kindle. I also use the Bluefire reader on my kindle. It is exactly the same as the Adobe reader.

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  6. amandanicolebooks says:

    I gave up on Netgalley as well. I officially can’t stand ebooks. I have weak eye muscles that cause my eyes to “wander” and for some reason ebooks do this within minutes. And then I fall asleep.

    Have you tried goodreads? You can focus the giveaways solely on your country and see what’s available (to win books you need to be active aka click want to read on a lot of books).

    Good luck!

    Like

    • Dina says:

      Yes, I’ve tried Goodreads. I’ve never won anything and I think most givaways are for paper books. I actually prefer ebooks unless it’s my favorite author or the book has a really beautiful cover (and then I’ll usually buy the ebook AND the hardcover… because I’m nuts).
      I still use NetGalley sometimes, mostly requesting books by Tor (DRM-free) or small presses. They tend to have less restricting ebooks that don’t expire so quickly and that I can convert in Calibre into a nice readable format.
      But mostly, I just wait for books to come out and then buy them. NetGalley is still a lovely idea but if you’re not a Kindle owner you definitely have a more difficult time.

      Like

      • Belle says:

        Sorry to necro-thread here, but I was googling the topic of netgalley expiration and came across this- question: wouldn’t loading them in calibre (&/or converting them from epub to epub) cancel out the file’s ability to expire on time? I use open library to borrow epubs, and a lot of the time the covers, titles, etc. are missing, so I’ll edit the metadata in calibre and then do a conversion (epub to epub) so it inserts the metadata. Then I upload it to my tablet- technically, open lib. books expire after a set period, but once in calibre, they no longer expire. I’m wondering if the netgalley issue would be resolved that way? I realize it’s kind of sneaky, but it does seem ludicrous that they’ve entrusted us to review it, but because we’re only on page 200 of 400 by the time it’s published, they don’t want us to bother.

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        • Dina says:

          If the book is DRM-protected, you can’t convert it in Calibre (at least not without using a plugin that forcefully removes the DRM).
          With regular epubs that aren’t DRM-protected, you can do pretty much anything in Calibre. I use it the same way you do – for putting on a nice cover, editing the metadata and so on. I don’t know how library ebooks work, to be honest.

          But even if there were an easy way to get around the expiration date – publishers send out physical ARCs all the time. It’s not like they expect those paperbacks to be sent back after review. Why not send DRM-free ebooks in various formats to make sure all reviewers actually get the chance to review the book?

          Like

  7. peterfromdenmark says:

    Hi 🙂

    Thank you so much for a great post. I’ve look all over for this subject and of course NetGalley doesn’t write anything about it in their knowledge base.

    The Fact is.

    Now it is July 2015, I’m new to e-readers (just got a Kobo Aura) and I’m new to NetGalley, and the problem is exact the same, for the Non-Kindle owners the books appears as PDF’s, and they’re totally unreadle on a 6″ e-ink screen, especially when you pinch and zoom and the e-inks has to render.

    It’s impossible to read the books for my review and I’m so, so, SO disappointed, that non-Kindle readers only can get a format (PDF) that’s unreadle on their ereaders. What kind on sense is that for a publisher, who wants their books reviewed?

    I were so glad because I really liked the NetGalley idea, and because I’ve have an old concussion, so that I can not read a whole book on a LCD/LED screen without getting headaches (then it’s not so fun to review anymore), so it was totally perfect with books I could review on my Kobo Aura.

    But no. I’m getting kind of angry. NetGalley is all about getting us to review books for free, we don’t even get a paper copy, and then they won’t even give us a proper e-reader format of the books, if we’re non-Kindle owners.

    Best wishes from Denmark, Peter 🙂

    Like

    • Dina says:

      Hey, fellow Kobo Aura user. That’s a beautiful little device, isn’t it? 🙂
      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s a difficult line to walk. On the one hand, I am truly happy that I can get an advance copy of a book I’m excited about. And I don’t want to seem entitled (so I don’t bitch about typos or formatting problems, as the book isn’t even finished yet). But if you do take the time to put up a book on NetGalley, I assume it’s because you want publicity. You want people to read and review it. Offering the Kindle format (mobi) and an alternate format is a good start. But like you say – reading PDFs is damn near impossible, at least when we’re talking novel-length texts.

      What makes me a bit anxious is that if I don’t give feedback on these books, my NetGalley rating will go down. To be fair, my (not great) current rating hasn’t kept publishers from granting me review copies yet, but I don’t want to look like someone who begs for free books, then doesn’t deliver a review. That’s not my plan. The opposite is – but for that I need to be able to read the book.

      What happened to me a few weeks ago was even more ridiculous: I requested a comic book. The request was granted. I go to NetGalley to download the PDF only to find out that the comic book has already been archived – why grant a request for a book that’s no longer up for review?! That’s just mean. I’m going to buy a paper copy of the book now anyway but still, I felt a little stupid after that.

      Like

  8. peterfromdenmark says:

    Hi again, Dina 🙂

    Thanks so much for your answer. I responded to it in a loooong e-mail last night to you. Hope you have received it.

    I have a tiny contact to NetGalley now on Goodreads, so I actually made them a video of the problem this morning:

    Best wishes Peter

    Like

  9. Gen Williamson says:

    I don’t write blogs, but make videos and have only had issues such as this a few time. For things such as graphic novels, I have to read on my PC which is annoying. On protected files I have converted them and it’s so much hassle!

    Like

  10. bookwormgirls123 says:

    I understand the struggle! Fortunately, I’ve been pretty lucky with Netgalley, so I haven’t encountered that problem. I haven’t used Edelweiss before, although I’ve heard of it. It looks extremely confusing, and I’m not really sure how to use it, but people always seem to get the best books from there!
    -Amy

    Like

  11. allthebookblognamesaretaken says:

    I have been incredibly lucky with NetGalley and have rarely been granted requests that are in terrible formatting. I have used NetGalley for three years now. I think I have only had one time where it was an issue like you had, with the font too small to read on my Kindle, and the other choice being to download and read on my computer. Plus the benefit of having the Kindle is that the 55 day limit does not apply as it does to those on my laptop.

    (I just realized how late I am to this party, with this post being from 2016, but it is the first one I stumbled on when googling more information about Edelweiss, which I just signed up for today.)

    Like

  12. Alicia says:

    I am extremely late here too, but I found this post while googling about the expiration issue too. I find it so annoying that most books are only available in ADE format and I have to read them on my desktop and then they expire and I don’t even get to keep them. I’m constantly scrambling to re-download and finish books before they expire. It amounts to a ton of work on my part, especially when I get books approved that end up not even being very interesting after all. At this point, reviewing on Net Galley feels like a cross between a library loan and a homework assignment. I feel that we’re doing great marketing for these books for free, with not even a digital book to keep at the end of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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