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Dear John:
I was looking at picking up some Robert Ludlum books and see you have some Advance Reading Copy books, unsigned of his. Are these worth buying and adding to my collection or really are these just reading copies and I would be better with a first/first unsigned copy? I have all his books as a reading copy and about 3 signed, besides all the Jason Bourne series signed.
Further, if I was picking between the two, what would I select purely on the value side? Only as the signed copipes are very expensive now and I could afford one or the other of the two options, which would be the better value to select?


John responds:

Some collectors consider ARC's (advance reading copies or proofs) to be the "true" first edition/first appearance of a given title; and while technically true, the collectibility of an ARC lies with the intensity of the collector.
To the purist, no collection is complete without a full set of ARCs. Created to give reviewers and booksellers an advanced look into an upcoming book, these editions are released months before the actual laydown of the book, and are intended to build demand or interest for the book. Some publishers take their "not intended for resale" policy on ARCs quite seriously, and have sent threatening letters to resellers to stop the practice of selling them.
As a speciality bookstore catering to the collector we offer a wide selection of ARCs, and I must confess my personal collection boasts advances of Digital Fortress, Black Echoand Raise the Titanic, to name a few. So, if you are a "completist" (like most collectors), you may consider adding these to your collection alongside your 1st printings, UK editionsand limited editions.
Regarding what would be more valuable down the track, an ARC or a first edition, I feel that unless you plan to expand your collection to include ARCs for all the titles you collect, this is probably not the place to start. We would opt for a first/first over the ARC in this situation.
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