Do You Trust Me?
At the end of any given work day I may find myself scrounging about the office in some vain attempt to locate a book worth reviewing on my blog that night. I get my books from fellow librarians, directly from publishers, from authors, from editors, and from people who just want me to see something that they think is worth giving a second glance. Heck, nine times out of ten my books come from the huge pile of ARCs sitting in my boss's office. I honestly don't keep very good track of how one book or another falls into my lap. Then I saw this link through Jen Robinson's Book Page:
The pitfalls of receiving free books, or how not to risk your book blogging credibility.
Personally, I think it's time that book bloggers came clean. It might sound ridiculous, but I honestly think we need a code of conduct. We need to tell our readers when we are reviewing free books or when we are taking part in marketing exercises, because if we don't we run the risk of just becoming yet another cog in the public relations industry. And surely the reason we all started blogging about books was because we were sick of the mainstream media's treatment of books. If we don't clean up our act now, we might as well forget any notion of reading unbiased, reliable and truthful reviews online, because how will we ever be able to tell the difference between a genuine review and one written on obligation? I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that our credibility as book bloggers is at stake.
There's more to it than this, but you get the general gist. I don't spend sleepless nights fretting about my credibility, partly because I don't get paid for this blog. It's amazing the lackadaisical manner one can adopt when one's spending money is not endangered by your online hobby. However, it would be silly of me not to acknowledge that maybe you faithful buckaroos and buckarettes want to know if I've a personal stake in any of the books I promote. You already know that I attend publisher parties with frenzied eye and growling tum. Does that mean I'll refrain from grinding into the dust an undeserving book beneath my sensible librarian heels? Of course not. Books sent to me personally by an editor or author are titles I tend to treat differently, yes. I will never post a negative review of a book I received in the mail directly from its creators. Nor, for that matter, will I ever feel compelled to talk it up. My reviews are always my own honest opinions. I once used to review for an online book review website (which shall remain nameless) that preferred positive to negative reviews of, quite frankly, horrid titles. I'm never EVER going to go back to that again. I think what I think and that's all there is to that. If you send me the book you've spent five years slaving over and I don't like it, I'm just not going to review it. On the flip-side, I may never have gotten around to reading your book in the first place. Assume nothing.
So if you want to know how it is that such n' so a book has come to my attention, you may ask and I'll try to remember. The aforementioned article, by the way, seems partly inspired by a publisher's recent attempt to wrangle bloggers into posting positive notes on one of their titles. Kids, if I don't put ads on my blog (and I don't) then I'm certainly not going to shill for anyone. You may not know me, but you can trust me. I promise.
Please feel free to also check out Gail Gauthier's response to this same article, which is entirely eloquent. And on the opposite side of the spectrum (from Chicken Spaghetti) is Deliver Us From Latter-Day Pooters which is an amusing look at book blogging from a deliciously British P.O.V.