I can’t decide if I’m more surprised that Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead early reader access platform is shutting down this July, or that it took so long. I took a dive into FirstToRead’s point and review system in 2016, and even then, the signs weren’t great; the program’s social media accounts had been abandoned, the books on offer were also available on NetGalley, and the site went down for two whole days in the middle of my investigations…
Still, FirstToRead’s system of getting people to read and review its books appeared to be working. From my 2016 math, for every 100 free advanced galleys released per available book, the review feedback rates were in the 20-40 percent range. That review rate seems to be on par with NetGalley review rates for small or coop publishers.
And yet, and yet. For an established publisher like Penguin? The payoff probably wasn’t enough to justify staffing, hosting and maintenance—especially since FirstToRead merely replicated some of Penguin’s NetGalley offerings.
And so the FirstToRead platform is being officially shut down this July.
Where To Next: Reader Rewards
Even as FirstToRead enters its end days, Penguin is advertising its new program, Reader Rewards, a pay-to-play rewards system in which you register eligible purchases to earn points for a free book.
According to the website’s FAQ, earning “120 points (the equivalent of uploading proof of purchase for 12 books)” gets you “any eligible book(s) on penguinrandomhouse.com for free (up to a $30 value).” Points expire after two years, and code expires within six months of issue.
So, What Now?
If you have a FirstToRead account, check in and use up any spare points on May’s book lotteries. They won’t carry over once the program shuts down in July 2019.
If you’re a regular buyer of Penguin Random House books—and any of its insane number of imprints—then sure, sign up for ReaderRewards and take advantage of your purchases.
And if you’re mostly looking for ARCs, there’s always NetGalley.
Canaries, have you ever used any of these platforms?
What’s been your experience?