Like so many attempts by the publishing industry to engage readers, this one doesn’t quite get it. According to the press release, First to Read is:

 …a new online book discovery initiative that closely mimics what NetGalley does for book reviewers and publishing professionals but for consumers. The program is aimed at sparking word-of-mouth discussion around a book months before it is available in bookstores.

Naturally, I dropped by to create a profile. Because you can sign in with Facebook, and I was feeling lazy, I did so. Apologies to my Facebook friends who just got spammed with several First to Read posts. 🙁

Other than that, creating a profile is easy, but check out the Program Terms once you’ve done so. They talk about Rewards you can earn for using the site. Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it in a minute.

You’ll also select a list of genres you’re interested in. Hold on to that thought too.

Once you’re set up, you’ll see a list of books you can request.

As you can see, I requested a copy of Linwood Barclay’s upcoming book. Apparently it’s a lottery sort of thing, and I’ll find out in five days or so if I was one of the lucky recipients.

However, apparently if you have enough reward points, you can ensure you’ll automatically be one of the recipients. So how many points does it take? Good question. Remember that “Program Terms” I told you to remember? Here’s the relevant section:

For a full listing of currently available Rewards and information on how to obtain them, visit

Okay. The Program Terms page does talk (in vague terms) about how to earn rewards. Apparently clicking around the site works. When I signed up, they gave me 575 points. Now I have 845, so I must be doing something right. However, I can’t find a “list of available rewards” or any idea how many points I need to redeem something. So I have 845 points, but no clue what that means. Frustrating.

Now, regarding genres. Glance back at the screen shot above. When I set up my profile, I selected “Fantasy,” “Historical Fiction,” “Science Fiction,” “Thriller,” and “Mystery.” I definitely did not select “Romance.” (No offense intended to those of you who love a good romance.)

Why did they ask me to select categories if they were just going to throw everything at me? Many of the readers I know are sticklers about only seeing what they are interested in. Maybe this is a short-term thing, just until people know more about the program?

I’m not as concerned about the DRMing of the books as Nate is over at The Digital Reader, but I will acknowledge that he has a point. The program is Kindle unfriendly, and I think that’s a bad idea, considering the number of active, vocal Kindle readers there are. But then Penguin has shown itself to be hostile to Amazon in the past.

First to Read isn’t a bad idea. I like it. I just think the implementation currently leaves something to be desired. Hopefully this article hasn’t blown my chance at the Barclay lottery I entered.


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