We’ve all heard of the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, there’s no such thing as a free book either, especially if it comes to you direct from an author, publisher or marketing department.
When I received my first solicitation to review a book via my blog back in June 2005 I was ecstactic—someone wanted to give me a free book and all I had to do was post a review. At the time I was naive enough to think I was the only book blogger being approached in this way, but then my journalistic training came into play and I figured that even if I was the only blogger being asked to review a free book, didn’t I have a duty to tell my readers that the book had been given to me for nothing on this basis?
I don't see the logic there. Agreeing to review a book does not prevent a blogger from panning it. And while it might be argued that a tenderhearted individual may feel pressured to write a glowing review, I don't believe any reasonably honest blogger would gush about a book he didn't actually enjoy.
I don't review books here at NRJW, but when my second book was released, I did offer a free autographed copy to any blogger who would write a post about it. I think I ended up giving away nearly fifty books in exchange for some bloggy buzz, and part of the reason so many people were eager to accept my "free" book was that I assured them I was looking for honest reviews, not ego-stroking. Yes, a few bloggers gave my book less than flattering reviews, but if you were reading my blog in February and early March of this year, you saw me link to all of the reviews, good and bad, and thank the bloggers for their time.
The way I figured it, any review was good publicity for my book, because who among us believes every word of every book review we read? Maybe "Bob Blogger" didn't care for my book, but surely a few of the people who read his post--people, by the way, who would never have heard of my book, otherwise--were intrigued enough to check it out for themselves.
Insisting that a blogger is morally obligated to disclose the fact that he's reviewing a book he didn't pay for is silly--unless he has accepted the freebie in exchange for a favorable review (and I've never heard of such a thing). Surely a blogger's integrity is a thread that runs throughout his blog; why should he make a point of it every time he reviews a "free" book? Also, bloggers tend to be deeply interested in building their own readership, so any suggestion that a blogger would risk alienating readers by posting a bunch of smarmy reviews in exchange for free books is ludicrous. On top of that, most bloggers have very healthy egos and would rather die than pretend to admire a book that doesn't meet their usual standards.
I contend that blog readers aren't idiots; they know how the game is played. And any blogger who would give a positive review merely because the book in question was free (or was written by a friend) is a blogger who has no doubt displayed his flimsy backbone in other ways on other posts. So I really don't think we need to worry about readers being duped.
Technorati Tags: books, book+reviews