I have never understood the drama surrounding ARCs. From what I can tell, book bloggers feel like they are in competition with each other in order to get more views so they can get more ARCs. The purpose of the ARCs is to get more views. Which, in turn, will presumably get them…more ARCs? There is no money in book blogging. We have too few views, when compared to the millions a food or fashion blogger might receive, for anyone to want to sponsor or endorse us. Therefore, the competition must solely be in order to cyclically gain more views to get more ARCs until suddenly we book bloggers are buried in volumes and wondering how we will ever stop panicking long enough to write the reviews we promised.
Interestingly, however, my own experience tells me that ARC reviews do not get noticeably more views than other reviews. In fact, publishing a review of a very popular book the same day it is released has not proven a very successful view-generating strategy for me in the past. I believe that this is because the purpose of ARCs conflicts with the purpose of book blogs. ARCs are marketing tools. Book blogs are sites that build community and foster discussion. Our readers do not seem invested in reading reviews of popular books before they have read the same book themselves. They do not want to be spoiled. They want to wait to read the book themselves, then perhaps return to share their thoughts.
Requesting ARCs in order to compete with other bloggers thus seems an inherently flawed strategy. There are no benefits to requesting ARCs you do not want to read or do not have time to read. But there are plenty of downsides, such as having to read a book you are not really interested in or even dislike, having to read to a schedule that stresses you out, and having to deal with feelings of guilt that you entered into an agreement you may not be able to fulfill. All to write a review that might not generate much traffic anyway! I see no problem with requesting ARCs for books that seem exciting or with wanting to spread the word about a talented author or a delightful story. However, requesting ARCS in order to “compete” with others seems like a strategy with no clear winners.