Monday, July 27, 2009

Bloggers and Commercialism, Part Two

First of all, I want to thank all of you who commented on my Bloggers and Commercialism post last week; I really appreciate hearing from all of you and it gave me a lot to think about. So one of the responses I got, from blogger King Rat of Rat's Reading, was particularly thought-provoking. He said that if we bloggers want to be sure we're blogging with integrity, we should stop accepting review copies and just review books that we buy (or, presumably, borrow or trade) ourselves, whether they be new or used, bargain-tabled or full price. But no more freebies- no more purely promotional work. What would that mean for our blogs? For our reading? Is the only reason we blog to receive free books?

Receiving free books is not the only reason I blog. I would be lying if I said that when I started my blog, it never occurred to me that I might snag a freebie or review copy here and there, but I started Boston Bibliophile mainly to improve my writing and to meet and talk to readers who like what I like. If I got on the galley train, great. If not, so be it.

Like many of you I've been fairly successful in parlaying my reviewing and blogging into some freebies now and then, although probably less so than some. Some star book bloggers seem to almost never buy their own books! As for me, to borrow a metaphor from comedian Kathy Griffin, I definitely consider myself to be a book-blogging D-lister. I don't do blog tours, I don't get a lot of glitzy interviews or do fancy multi-volume book giveaways, and there are still entire, major publishers from whom I have never had an offer or received a book.

The contact with authors, the chance to do interviews, and the ability to supplement my professional reading with current fiction and nonfiction has been wonderful. And I've read a lot of great books I would never have read otherwise. Much of this would disappear were I to stop accepting and requesting review copies.

And of course I enjoy it- interacting with authors and publishers, and those flattering emails saying how much they enjoy my blog- whether those emails are sent to me alone or to a thousand other bloggers at the same time. And I won't lie- I love the access I have to galleys.

So how much do I depend on freebies? It's hard to quantify exactly, but I'll take a somewhat random, totally non-representative sample to get started. I'll list the 20 most recent books I've read and tell you where they came from. It's not 100% representative but I hope it gives an idea:
So out of the last 20 books I've read, I received eight free for review- three from LibraryThing, which encourages reviews, three review copies that I requested and two that were offered to me, all of which I've promised to write about. I read two books that I took from the library, got three through professional channels, traded for one and bought the remaining six at a variety of bookstores.

With the exception of library books, books that I receive for free tend to be recent- upcoming releases or just-outs, which makes perfect sense. Most of the books I buy are paperbacks and backlist- among other things I am cheap, and I have to really want to read a book right now to pony up for a hardcover- and that does not happen often! I believe that I use the library often for graphic novels and speciality books- and this lists bears that out, too.

So my blog is profiting from free books- no doubt about it. But personal buying and borrowing still makes up a decent percentage of what I'm reading and writing about.

But what would happen to my blog- to my writing- if I stopped accepting review copies? First, since I still have a professional obligation to stay current on the literature in my field, I would continue to receive and read galleys. I just wouldn't review them here. So the quantity of reviews I post would lessen.

The books I would review would be things that I bought, and so would probably be older- paperback backlisters instead of brand-spanking-new-releases. Freed from the distractions of trendy "it" books (and the competition to get them) my reading would probably be more diverse in some ways (more idiosyncratic personal choices, less "everyone is else is reading it") and less diverse in others (more "Marie" books and less outside-the-box experimentation).

I might even be able to get back to my original reason for starting the blog- sharing the kinds of books I love with people who share my interests, instead of just reading the same books everyone else is reading. I'd miss being in this giant virtual book club and sharing opinions about the books we're all reading, but I wouldn't miss being part of the marketing machine.

This is sounding better all the time.

But in reality, it's not going to happen. I'm not going to stop asking for and accepting review opportunities- and neither should you. I do think that we owe it to ourselves to do some real thinking about ethics behind it all and make sure that it squares with our sense of fairness and honesty. I think we should think about how we're treating our readers- if we're being honest with them or acting as shills- as well as how we treat publishers and authors- if we're taking advantage of a trend or providing something valuable to them in return. And we should pay attention to how they're treating us. I think if we feel like someone is taking advantage of our time, or our good nature, or just being a nag, we should call them out on it and not worry that the gravy train is going to dry up. Because even if it does, I read books before I started blogging and I'll continue to read them when I stop. And I think most of you will, too.

42 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Great post, and so true.
And as long as we are not in it just to get free books then why not accept a review copy if freely given.
I still get most of my books from the library, or win them.
My blog will never be overrun by review copies in that way

J.C. Montgomery said...

When I began blogging in 2007 I didn't know what ARC's were. I learned about them through LibraryThing. Which is ironic as I haven't "won" a book in ages.

I admit. I like getting them - when I can. But I only ask for those I am truly interested in reading.

I can't say I've turned down as many as I have accepted, but it is definitely not one-sided.

Honestly, I would always like the option to get ARC's, but if cut off completely, my blog, the reason I keep it, and my reading habits will not be severely affected.

Perhaps that is the true test. Does receiving free books affect what I do, how I do it, and the passion I have for it?

The answer is no.

And if someone wants numbers:

Of the 22 books I've reviewed this year, 4 have been free, and I have 10 on my TBR shelves right now. (Which is over 200 books and growing)

Percentage wise, it is evident that the majority of my library is paid for, thereby showing (I think) that free books are a part of what I do, but a very, very small part.

Nymeth said...

I'm a D-lister too. Geography probably has something to do with it, but I've received a total of 8-10 review copies in two years and a half of blogging. The bright side is that this allows me to focus on my enormous tbr pile more, and also to read and review older books.

Not that I have anything against review copies or blogs that feature them, of course. And I think you're all lucky to be offered such awesome books as the new A.S. Byatt or the new Atwood. I do get a tiny bit of ARC envy when it comes to books I'm dying to read :P But it's what you said: we all love books, and with or without ARCs, most of us would be here anyway.

Marie said...

Nymeth- I only got the Byatt because I begged for it (it wasn't offered to me) and I don't have the Atwood :-) - yet! :-)

ANovelMenagerie said...

I don't know which letter of the alphabet lister I am, but I love Kathy Griffin!

Uh.. I think that it's a mutally benefical relationship between publishers and bloggers. They get free advertising out of the deal... good or bad... it's fresh, updated content that is brought up by a simple Google Search. Yes, we get a free book in exchange. So, each party gets something out of the exchange.

Some bloggers, also post their reviews on Amazon, Library Thing, etc. and publishers/authors are getting 2 or 3 places where the review hits. Again, all for the price of the book plus shipping.

Bloggers also put in the hours into reading the book and writing the review.. unpaid.

You can tell by now that I think that everybody is getting something great out of this. What needs to stay in tact is the blogger providing an honest review. I do that. I hold myself accountable to my readers. They do not want me being fake about a book and I think they appreciate my honesty if a book doesn't suit me. I've got a solid list of books I didn't care for. But, what I try to do is always say something positive, even in a bad review. After all... at least that author accomplished writing a book. That's more than I can say for myself.

Sorry for the long winded comment.

Sheri

bermudaonion said...

Another great post! I'm glad to see you supporting so many booksellers. I think we can keep our integrity and accept review books - professional reviewers certainly do it. (By the way, I didn't start my blog to receive galleys - I never knew it was a possibility and was shocked by my first offer.)

iwriteinbooks said...

I think I tend to review books-bought more positively than books-received because I have the pressure to enjoy something I've shelled out $30 for, you know?
I am also a Z-lister though so maybe I don't understand the full flashy effect. I have received several ARCs, most of which I pass on and replace with a real copy when the copies hit shelves.
I think $15-$30 is hardly a stab at integrity but again, I'm not into book tours and such so maybe when you get higher up, things change.
I started my blog to write about my books, not receive free books and while it's certainly a perk, it's neither incentive enough nor often enough to make me question my true intentions.
Heavy question for Monday morning!

Lenore said...

You inspired me to list the sources of my last 20 reviewed books:

http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com/2009/07/where-my-last-20-reviewed-books-came.html

caite said...

I agree that you are right that this is an issue that every blogger who accepts any free books must think about.

I won't lie either. I like a free book, and maybe ever more, I love getting my hands on a book I really want to read before it is generally available {{still hoping for that Atwood book}}. But I think you have to be aware of what is going on in terms of your relationship with publicists and authors and keep things in balance.

For me, that means declining to be involved in tours or author interviews. I have no desire to be a publicist for any author or publisher and at some point that is almost what you can become. I just don't feel I can, for example, say yes to an interview with an author and still give an honest review of their book. Actually, for me, the less author or even publicist contact before the review, the better.

As an example, awhile ago I got an e-mail from an author asking if I would like a copy of their book to read and review. Since it sounded just like my cup of tea, I accepted. The book arrived, signed by the author, with a nice note thanking me for taking the time to read and review the book, with a few cards and things. Now, I read it...and thought it was ok, but with some real problems. But I found, as I start to think about the review, I almost hated to be totally honest because the author seems so nice and I hate to hurt their feelings.

Don't worry, when I write it I will be honest and I may hurt their feeling and I may not hear from that author or publisher again. But so be it.
I am just saying, the closer our ties, the harder it is to be honest. And as a reader, the harder for me to trust the reviews of those who seem very chummy.

As with so many things, it is a matter of balance.

Diane said...

Such a well written post. I agree with you, I read books before blogging and would continue to read and review even if I did not have a blog. Although I get some free books, I still love the library and the INDIE bookstores I visit along the way.

I will never feel pressured by reading something I don't want to read either.

booksslicedanddiced said...

It all boils down to the fact that you are reading books and writing about them. I tune into the blog because I want to hear what you, and other bloggers, have to say about the books I've read or may like to read. Doesn't matter to me at all where those books come from, as long as the reviews are genuine, truthful and helpful to me.

Meghan said...

I don't blog for the ARCs either. I have lately considered giving them up; I just like the books I choose for myself more most of the time. In the end, though, I do think I can keep my integrity and also receive review copies. And given that I only accept/request those I would either buy or check out from the library, I try to treat all books the same.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

King Rat said...

@iwriteinbooks: that's called "confirmation bias" and it's something psychologists and economists study a fair amount.

as for the post, what's most interesting to me is the change in what you would cover. in some ways that's good. You get to participate in the book club aspect. But in other ways it's bad because you pick fewer books that you would normally cover. When the change is small, i don't really have a problem with it. But when it's large, I don't want to read the person anymore. You can see this with the book bloggers that have a lot of books by second tier publishers.

Oddly enough, a blogger can get enough free books that the problem goes away. If they get so many that the books cover everything they would read anyway, they will probably just cover those books. This is essentially why I don't mind it that newspapers take the books free. They get the ones their editorial judgment would have them cover, plus some.

The other thing that makes me question the practice comes from basic economics. Things that have no cost to people aren't valued as much. Take driving. The gas you buy and the insurance you pay is not tied directly to the miles you drive. So people drive more. As that becomes more expensive, people do drive less, but the connection is not very strong. But when places put tolls on roads, particularly when they tied the tolls amounts to congestion, people drive those roads less. The connection is far stronger.

In other words, it's easy to say "This book is worth reading if you don't have to pay for it." to people. But most readers (aside from the fact that most book blog readers seem to be other book bloggers) will have to pay for the book. Can you really tell them the book is worth paying $25 for if you don't pay that? It was as I was writing that comment on the other post that I realized this is one of my problems and why I've instituted the policy where I'm donating the equivalent cost of my review copies to charity. Still need to think about what to do for those cases where I win books. Picking them up from used bookstores doesn't present a problem to me because that means the book is old enough to be likely that other folks can get it used too.

(And yeah, I probably do think about this too much.)

Marie said...

King Rat- you make some great points and as always I'm glad you commented on this. You're right about blogs losing their charm when all they do is review the same books as everyone else- those blogs ARE boring and I hope I don't fall into that trap. You're also right about the economics of value- things aren't worth as much when they're free. There was a book I reviewed recently that caught my eye when it was in hardcover but it wasn't worth it to me to pay $25 for it; when I was offered a free copy I took it happily and reviewed it. Would I expect someone else to pay $25 for that book? In that case, no- in that case, I'd say it was worth borrowing but not paying for. Maybe I need to start a buy-borrow-beg ratings system to address that! There are plenty of cases where I would encourage someone to buy a brand-new book if I really think it's that good- but I'm cheap and rarely do that myself, and I would not expect anyone to do something I wouldn't do myself.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I've really enjoyed these posts and it got me thinking about my reviewing. I do accept review copies, but try hard to balance them with book I either own or get from the library. Without this balance I would get burned out on always reviewing on a deadline.

Since I've never actually counted where my recent review books came from, I did. 13 were mine (or library books) and 7 were for review. I'm sure these number fluctuate some, but they probably stay right around 50/50. This is a balance I'm happy with, and as long as blogging is still fun, I'll still probably accept review copies.

I've haven't been great about disclosing where my copies come from. The reason I haven't is I never wanted it to seem like I was pointing out the review books, kind of like a look what I got...I may have to rethink this.

Amy said...

This is something that we do need to constantly consider, I agree. I need to get in the better practice of disclosing my sources.

King Rat's position is certainly not new to me, ;) but I do disagree.

A book blogger has to be careful that the review copies do not end up owning them. In so many different ways. And I think it's something we all come to realize at different times in our blogging.

I accept a lot of review copies and do my best by them. I will put my foot down if anyone tells me how to blog. I do accept things like guest posts in exchange for nothing. I dont' mind spreading the word about different kinds of books from what I would read, but I don't want it to be my whole blog.

Pamela said...

I accept some ARC's but only from 2 or 3 publishers I like. I do not overwhelm myself, my TBR pile is 2 books right now. One from Library Thing Early Reviewer and one from Little Brown. I also normally do not participate in blog tours, I did one for a novella and am doing one for Bran Hambric, because I am excited about that release! I blog for me. I buy at least 85% of my books, and have recently started using the library. Great post!

MotherReader said...

Your last paragraph really brings it home. Check in with your own integrity and make sure you are neither using nor being used.

I've been watching the Revenge of the Mommy Bloggers (as I like to call it) show recently, and it comes to me as a warning - not a direct correlation of how book bloggers handle things. It's not accepting review copies that is the problem, so much as where that it can take us.

iwriteinbooks said...

King Rat, I know confirmation bias well and I think that's the very nature of the debate, regardless of which books one is giving preferential treatment. Some find that they give positive light to ARCs, some to bought books. I don't do it often and certainly catch myself if i start to; I simply meant that as we discuss foregoing the practice of receiving books from publishers, lest it impair our reviewing glasses, I am swayed more so by what I have bought than by what I have been given.

I do understand the question of the change in reading and I find that I only take books, bought or given, that I would read, regardless.
regarding the economics of it, most bloggers I know do buy the books they receive ARCs of. I love the writing industry and i wouldn't want my lack of buying books to upset the balance. Of course, I know my sole consumption really wouldn't tip the scales...although, my book shelves might beg to differ...

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't agree that you value things more if you pay for them, or I would be at the gym right now!

I started out accepting any and all free books, but there was so much I did not want to read, I stopped doing that. I figured there were more deserving recipients out there. I'm much more selective now.

I also prefer to win a book rather than get a book for review. Then there is no pressure (not even internal) either to read or review, or to say something positive or not.

I do agree that I read a lot less "quality" books now. But like you Marie, I also value being in on contemporary cultural commentary.

Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe said...

Marie, this is a good post to make you think why you blog in the first place. I do get many ARC's too many to count. I pick the books I want from the publisher and authors. But, still it makes you think who are you writing for and why. I started blogging because I wanted to spread the word about my passion of the written word. But also to share with the book community. The problem like you say the publishers are taking advantage as well as the bloggers for free books. I don't write reviews as much as other bloggers do. It will make me think what I write about for now on. The blogging should be for truthful blogging for our readers. Not to impress the publishers to get new books. And for bloggers to see who is on top. It appears to me that bloggers are in competition with each other to see who gets more ARC's too. Very Political in the book blogging world.

Booklogged said...

I've enjoyed reading your posts and the comments. I started blogging to keep track of the books I read, something I had been doing for years in longhand. I didn't realize there was a community of book bloggers out there and was elated when my blog started receiving comments.

Two years into blogging I was asked to review a book. Totally amazing that a normal, pedestrian person in small town, USA would be asked to review a book. Of course, I accepted. Then more and more requests came in and I found myself toppling under the weight of the books as well as the responsibility to read and review them all.

I found I didn't have time to read all the wonderful books other bloggers were discussing and I became frustrated. Now I rarely accept ARCs.

I don't have a problem in the least with other reviewers accepting and reviewing ARCs. To each his own.

Marie Burton said...

I'll have to go back and read that first post, how did I miss it?

I am definitely SOMEHOW going to start toning down my requests for Freebies. Not that I want to lay credence to the comment that Bloggers have integrity only if the review bought books. That's hogwash.

Like your list, with many Bought Books, I am similar. Today I came home to 8 books, and only one was from the Author. The rest I paid for or ordered from Paperbackswap. Like you, I get them used.

The only reason I wish to tone down the ARC arrivals is for the mere fact I am tired of the schedule issues with reviews, and I have 200 books here at home I would truly like to read already.

And those 200 reviews that i do get to someday will not in any way change the fact if I have integrity today or tomorrow. For most bloggers, we blog about what we read, for FUN. And I certainly don't think anyone would take time out of their day to read and review a book just in order to get a book. Thanks for the post!!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Fantastic post - I really like how you looked at both sides of the coin, didn't simply defend where you are now.

I started blogging to improve my rusting writing skills, and, perhaps more pressing, to improve my rusty memory! It was about a year after we moved out of state, away from my girlfriends/support/book group I had known for 7 years. I read and read ... then couldn't remember why I liked (or didn't) a particular book when I'd get the chance to talk to my friends :) Sad, but true ... old age strikes!

I discovered LibraryThing and Early Reviewers, and connections have grown from there. I don't accept every book that's offered, and I don't feel obligated to review books that are sent unsolicited.

I review every book I read - purchased, borrowed, swapped, ARCs, etc. The good, the bad, the ugly.

My reading has become more diversified for the opportunities I've responded to, I've stretched outside my reading comfort zone. In doing so, I've explored some genres I hadn't read before; some were hits that I'll explore further, some were misses and I know to stay away from them.

If my access to some ARCs dried up, I'd still blog about every book I read ... my wish list is very long, and I enjoy it!

Chris said...

I understand what King Rat is saying and since I'm a frugal reader I do think about the cost of a book to readers. For example, when I reviewed Martha Stewart's Cooking Encyclopedia I knew that a $50 Cdn price tag is a lot for a book. I recommended it because I believed it was good value (I take it out weekly). I thought about it a lot before I made my review.

The ARCs I receive are the ones I am interested in but they are also ones I might never have picked up. I still buy books and go to the library. I just wish I could read more.

Interesting post and great blog!

claire said...

Well I'm one of those who started my blog without any idea that I could get free books at all. I started blogging as a journal for myself. It was only later that I discovered other book blogs and saw that a lot of them had giveaways and was amazed that I could get free books. Being unemployed as a stay-at-home mom of three little ones, I have a very limited budget for purchasing books and free books are a big help.

After a few months of blogging I started receiving offers from publishers to review their books. I rejected most of the offers because I refuse to read a book I'm not at all interested in. However, I began to find a few books being offered for review that I would actually love to read. So why not?

Most of the books I read, though, are still purchased from my own (or, actually, my husband's) pockets, or from the library, and the books I receive for free are a teeny tiny percentage of the lot I read, so not receiving free books wouldn't change my blog, but why would I want that? A few free books a year is a lot of savings for me, and I get to read and discover more amazing books.

I don't do blog tours or author interviews, however, because I can't stick to a schedule with my reads.

Amy said...

This is a really good post. I happen to have no problem with people reviewing free copies. I always say where I got a book but I also give an honest review. I have real issues with bloggers who have a certain type of blog such a a book blog suddenly posting about the wonders of a Swiffer just because they got free swag from the company or are getting paid to do so. I think honestly reviewing a free book is a much different thing.

-Amy
(Life by Candlelight)

Jew Wishes said...

Excellent and well-articulated post, Marie!

I don't rely on review copies. I am constantly buying books, as you well know. The majority of my reviewing is pertinent to the books I purchase. I accept review copies, and read them, review them, but they are a small statistic of the books I review...approximately 10% if that high.

I started my blog to read and review Jewish authors and Jewish-related books, whether fiction or non-fiction...books that I personally have bought and own. I collect Survivor memoirs, and books relating to the Holocaust, so for me, free books was never an issue, an intention of mine, or reason to blog. My blog's purpose was primarily for personal reasons, and to write reviews, in order to try to foster awareness and cultural understanding to any person who happened to stop by to visit my blog.

Most of my review copies come from authors who have visited my site, and have asked me if I will review their book...or from a marketing individual affiliated with a publisher. If I don't like the sound of the book or am not interested in it, I will not accept a review copy. I don't want books just for the sake of getting them for free.

Once in a while I will email a publisher and request a specific title of an upcoming book, so I can review it. Recently, I have received three books from Library Thing, books I have requested. They are not Jewish-related in any aspect, so I will not be reviewing them in my Jew Wishes blog.

My blog has brought me a great deal of satisfaction, and it is rewarding in many aspects. I have met several wonderful individuals, and have been rewarded with finding a community of Jewish individuals who share the same ideals and thoughts as I do. I have common ground with those who are not Jewish, also...many of us read the same Literature, or are trying to understand each other's cultural aspects, no matter our religious affiliation.

I will continue to write on the issues that I initially started my blog for, continue to be selective in any books that I get for review, and continue to incorporate my thoughts and feelings into my writings. I will continue to purchase the books I want to read, and not hold my breath for a review copy. I get great pleasure in my purchases, and they are like treasures to me. Nothing will change...my Jew Wishes blog will wander ever forward.

Thanks for the great post!

~~Lorri

caite said...

I have to disagree too KingRat. :-)
"Things that have no cost to people aren't valued as much."
If a book is free, if I bought it, if I borrowed it, I treasure them all.

When I write a review, primary in my mind is if I can honestly tell a reader this is a book worth spending their money and time on. I take that trust, that someone may make a decision based on what I say, very seriously.
How I came by the book ultimately makes no difference.

Marie said...

Amy- yeah I felt pretty dirty after the whole Book Buddy experience. Even though I really do love it. But that was the last product "review" I'll do.

Jew Wishes said...

As an addition to my comments, I seen nothing wrong with review copies. I am a collector of books on the Holocaust, WWII, and Judaism, and therefore, will purchase them to add to my collection. My book collection is a legacy of sorts to my children and grandchildren.

Some of the best books I have read were review copies. I treasure all books, purchased or review copies.

If there is a book I want to read, but don't want to buy, I will check it out of the library. Some times I will sit in a book store cafe and read a book. If I like it well enough and it will be a good addition to my Jewish-related book collection, I will buy it. Otherwise I will just read it there, without guilt. I spend enough money in book stores, buying books, so guilt doesn't enter my mind. All the clerks at the book stores know me, anyway.

Serena said...

I'm not as organized as most bloggers and to tell you the truth I guess that's ok with me because I often forget where books came from originally and simply read them because I want to--I think that helps my reviews remain honest.

I usually do participate in blog tours, but I think this is not because I want the book per se, but because I love doing interviews--selfishly, I want to pick their brains about writing and how they became published because I too am working on a number of projects I want published someday.

As for only reviewing books that I buy, borrow, or trade, I could do that, but I think I would blog less and talk about them less because I don't have contact information for the authors and a majority of reviews I really love are poetry books I receive from publishers and authors. I love promoting poets...I want to see their readership increase...and if I am a small part in that process, fantastic! If not, I'm still trying.

Sorry for the long comment, but I think it comes down to your own ethics. If you are ethical, you are less likely to skew reviews regardless of where the book came from.

Bonnie said...

Marie, I found your first post very thought provoking and this one has made me think even more about my blogging and goals. I agree whole heartedly about blogging with integrity. I don't agree that accepting review books is blogging without integrity..it is all about how you handle reviewing those free books that is what is important. For me, I had gotten overzealous initially in my acceptance of ARC's or author requests. I got very overwhelmed with the pressure of "having" to read and review a book at a certain time. I don't mind a deadline or two but for me blogging is about writing and sharing my love of books, book clubs, finding new books,authors etc. I am working on finding a balance between accepting review copies and reading and reviewing my own books that I have piles of on my bookshelves. I have mixed feelings about disclosing the source of our review books. I tend to share where my books come from if they are a review copy, from a publisher, author etc. I am not consistent in sharing that a book was from the library or off of my own shelves as a purchase or swap/trade. I hadn't thought of posting about the value of the book vs price cost as I hadn't purchased the book if it was a review copy. This discussion has certainly given me a lot to think about and it is very timely as I have been pondering the future goals of my blog.

Sandra said...

You make some great points. I've just posted my thoughts on it under the heading "Is the only reason we blog to receive free books?". I read what Kitting Books and Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? had to say and they referred to you. My two cents worth about my last 20 reviews is here if it interests anyone:

http://freshinkbooks.blogspot.com/2009/07/is-only-reason-we-blog-to-receive-free.html

Tina said...

Thanks for a great post and for facilitating such a great discussion. I've posted about this linking back to you. It really helped me clarify my own review policies. I look forward to more great input from everyone.

Anna said...

I started blogging in 2007, and I didn't even know there were other book bloggers out there. I certainly had no idea that publishers and authors were offering free copies to review. I enjoy receiving review copies because it opens me to new authors, new books, new genres, but I started blogging before receiving them and I would continue blogging without them. I have hundreds of non-review copies in my personal library, so there's no shortage of reading materials in my house.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Winning Readings said...

Wow! What a topic!

I am a brand new reviewer - I have 3 book reviews on my blog so far (and it is NOT primarily a book review blog).

However, I am racking up the ARCs. I've got about 35 "free" books to read at the moment - about 1/2 from giveaways and 1/2 for review. 24 books in just the past 2 weeks.

And yes, I started requesting the ARCs because they were free. I don't see anything wrong with that. Quite frankly, the time I spend reading and reviewing is far more valuable at my hourly rate than the cost of the book.

I am still trying to connect with the sources that will provide the genre & books I WANT primarily to read. Now that I have a better idea of how things work, I'll be more selective.

If a book doesn't fit in the genre of my blog audience (family friendly), I don't review it on my blog; I'll review it on other sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, Library Thing...

As long as I'm honest in my reviews, I'm not ashamed to say I'm all over the ARCs because they are free.

Thanks for bringing up a great topic - it's something I need to think about as a new reviewer.

Rebecca :) said...

When I started my blog in January, I did it to do reading challenges and share my love of books. It never even occurred to me that someone would offer me a free book to review! I learned about ARCs through Library Thing (which, ironically I have not received anything from, just from the member giveaways) and other bloggers as I came across their blogs. In fact, my reading challenges were filled with my own books in my TBR pile when I began. I have only altered the original challenge reading lists when a substitution for a DNF book has been needed. I also trade a lot of my books at Book Mooch.

If someone feels I only blog for free books, they don't know me, don't interact with me, and they don't read my blog.

Rebecca :) said...

Oh, and I wanted to add that I have turned down far more free review copies than I have accepted. I was a little over eager when I first began getting offers, but have since learned that a) I only want to review books that I feel comfortable with the author/PR/Publishing company and b) that I have been wanting to read or are in a genre that I read a lot of. I will save my risks for the library.

Tracie said...

I've been thinking about this same thing...I've received some more offers for "free" books and the ones that I do not think are at all interesting, I have turned down. I don't think it's fair to give a review on a book that I know I'm probably not going to like.

Second, I have no desire to do author interviews. I don't want to not like a book from a really nice person whose feelings I have to worry about. I like to write myself and I know that my friends and family are much nicer to me then a teacher is. So, I made the personal decision to keep that separate. However, I am trying to think of ways to incorporate authors into my site without feeling like I need to give them a nice review.

All very complicated stuff...and here I thought I was just sharing my love of reading.

Marie said...

Tracie, I've various experiences with author interviews. In one case I promised to do an interview but hated the book, so did the interview without reviewing the book and as nicely as I could, used the things I didn't like as the basis for polite questions. In another case, I had to reneg on an interview because I hated the book. Eventually I decided I would try to hold off on promising to do interviews until after I'd read the book and decided I liked it enough to do the extra promo work- because that's really what it amounts to. That policy has served me in good stead!

Alexia561 said...

Found this posting in sort of a roundabout way, but I'm glad I did! This is a really interesting topic, with lots of great comments. I posted my own thoughts on the subject on my blog, with a link back to this post.

Like a few others, I started my book blog with no idea that review copies were even an option. I do take advantage of ARC offers, but am learning to say no to books I don't think I'll like.

Don't know if I'll start including where I received the book in my reviews or not, as I tend to treat all of my books the same, but it's something I'll certainly think about now.

And I have to disagree with King Rat's theory that things that are free aren't valued as highly. The books I borrow from the library are free, and I value them just as much as the books I've purchased.

Thanks for starting such a great discussion Marie!