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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Again? Srsly?

Every month or so the debate over the ethics of bloggers accepting books from the publisher raises its head. Because not all bloggers choose to participate in book tours there is a perceived disdain for those who do. Some bloggers who do choose to review ARCs feel a bit defensive for no good reason as most of them are only reading books they would have been interested in reading anyway. I tend to operate under the assumption that my fellow bloggers are honest and fair and aren't trading the promise of a free book for a glowing review. I believe it when bloggers promise to give their honest opinion.

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? posted a lengthy post about where she gets her books, and what percentage of them are from ARCs that addresses some of these issues. Before I made my way over to give my opinion, Amy @ My Friend Amy asked "what about a million reviews of Twilight? or the graveyard book?", which is where I had to open my mouth. If you read my comment there, you already know my opinion, but I felt that it was worthy of a post of it's own, so I am opening the discussion here. Here's what I said at Trish's (with some minor changes to spelling and grammer):

The difference is, Twilight has a million reviews because of word of mouth-
someone liked it so someone else picked it up and reviewed it. With the blog
tours you don’t know that all those people would have picked it up if it weren’t
free from the publisher. I’m not saying they asked for books they didn’t want to
read, but I am saying their reading choice is guided by what was offered to them
from someone with a monetary interest in seeing the book do well. It is not the
same thing as having a good friend offer a book they think you will enjoy, no
matter how honest and unbiased the blogger is. The publisher is paying, in
shipping costs and the cost of the book itself, for that book to appear on X
number of blogs.

I do believe that most* bloggers are sincere in their
review of whatever book it is, but if TRISH gives the book to Amy and AMY loves
it, I usually enjoy that review more, because I know that Trish didn’t have any
other motive for passing it along other than that it was a great book. (Not that
Trish has motives. Just using the two of them as examples since that’s
where I was in the comments.) I believe that bloggers are honest in their
reviews, and there is nothing unethical going on. I just prefer to see a million
reviews of a book that spread by word of mouth, not because the publisher handed
it out like candy. (Yummy candy, but still candy.)

I don't read a lot of ARCs. This is in part because I can't promise to read something on anyone else's schedule (exactly how many challenges have I failed?) and in part because I missed the publisher sign up sheets when they went around (sour grapes? Not really. I'm not upset.) I do read a lot of books that other bloggers loved, including some that were part of blog tours. I feel a bit like a follower and I'm never part of the front line of reviews. I'm ok with this. I like to choose books that have been tested and found to have merit. It's comfortable and relaxing for me. I understand that some people get comfort from being scheduled on their reading, that they are happiest when they know what they are reading next. I don't like to be surprised by a book, I prefer it when someone else previews it for me. Yeah, there are exceptions- favorite authors, series, some plot lines I'll run to the front of the line for, but in general, I like to know it's good before I invest my time.

So why am I posting? Because I wanted to give the view point of someone who doesn't review ARCs. I wanted to try to explain why some reviews are received differently from others. I know I kinda rambled around a bit in that last paragraph, so perhaps my point got lost, but I think you get the idea.

* I say "most" because I DO believe some bloggers just want free books. I don't subscribe to the bloggers I feel this way about, so don't ask who they are.


  1. Great post.

    I too get tired of seeing the same books reviewed over and over and over and over again, especially when I know it's because it was a free book. Bleck.

    I try and do a good mix of new and old books and I don't review anything that I don't have strong feelings about, good or bad.

    Anyway, I think this is a great post and I'm off to share it in Google Reader.

  2. Very nicely said! Unfortunately, the ARC discussion is always going to come up but IMO it is the choice of the blogger if they want to review those kind of books or not. I've decided not to accept ARCs but that is my own decision and I don't expect everyone to follow it :)

  3. I never got the impression that people looked down on blogs that accepted a lot of ARCs. I was surprised to see that when Trish brought it up. I tend not to request very many ARCs only because they look interesting when I request them, but sometimes by the time I get it and/or need to read and review it, my interest has waned. If someone else wants to review tons of ARCs I've got no problem with that. It's their blog and they can do what they want. Though I admit to beginning to skip reading reviews when too many of the same book start popping up.


  4. Want to hear something sick? I BOUGHT 20 books last week. Ok, so 18 of them were used and most of those 18 were for $1 at Half Price Books. There are some of us who aren't receiving tons of ARCs in the mail (um, although I did receive a few review copies in addition to that 20--sick, I know).

    I think you make a great point about buying a book because the word has spread like wildfire on the blogosphere. Sometimes I feel like a git because I can't read this books as quickly as everyone else, but I'll sure as hell add them to my list! I just picked up Nefertiti, a book that killed the blogosphere last year because of ARCs and tours. Do I kind of wish I got my copy for free from the author rather than paying $3 for a used copy? Sure, who wouldn't. But like Lezlie, it got to be too much for too little.

    I LOVE reading from my shelves. Hell--my copy of Catch-22 is 40 years old and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil sat on my shelf for about 6 years before I read it. I realize that I'm not a cool blogger and that I will never be in the know of the lastest and greatest, but you know what? People like the reviews of the old books, too, and in some way I feel like I've found my niche. I actually get more comments and activity when I post about a book that isn't brand spankin' new. Not that I let stats and such dictate my reading--I've got too many books on the shelf to worry about whether I should read X or Y because I'll get more visits.

    I'm kind of rambling a bit (what, Trish ramble?? Never!!), but sometimes I feel like the same people continue to bring up this subject. Do we really still need to be talking about whether or not people are writing honest reviews? If you suspect they aren't, and it bothers you, don't read the review!! Sorry, just feeling a little exasperated over the whole thing.

    What was the point again? Ahh, screw it--going to go look at my shiny new (used) books. :D

  5. And no, I could care less if 90% of your books are review copies (YOU you, not you you). Why should anyone care? ARCs and review copies are not terribly hard to come by and I definitely don't think they always get dealt out based on how good your blog is. So what's all the fuss about? Do what you want people!!

    Ok, now going to go look at those shiny new (used) books.

  6. One more. Crap!

    And I don't want to have to feel guilty for occasionally accepting an ARC and I don't want to have to look over my shoulder thinking that someone might think my review isn't honest. See the problems this leads to?

    Mike and Scott will get really sick of us, huh? :D

  7. I agree with you, I think. Seeing the same review on "blog tours" doesn't mean I don't think the people are being honest, it just means to me that they are joining in the marketing for it. Would all of them have picked it up otherwise? Does it matter to me?

    I don't normally read books until they've been around awhile, and so I don't really have a lot of interest in ARCs. There are a couple new books or books that are being pushed by the publishers that I'd love to read (Julie and Julia; the Jackson biography), but I'm happy putting it on my TBR, trying to win it, and probably checking it out from the library next year. I don't really have time to read it this month anyway, and I wouldn't want to pressure to do so.

  8. Speaking of ARCs, I was sent my first one over a month ago and still haven't read or reviewed it! lol I've had several publishers contact me lately, but I don't even respond because I'm more interested in my library books than the ARCs. I had never really thought about this entire topic, I'm glad you posted about it! I completely agree with you, btw. And I'm going to review what I really think of the ARC I was given, even if it is harsh and even though my contact with the publisher has been really nice. I review books whether I like them or not.

  9. Thanks, Janssen!

    Sam, I agree. Reading the review is a choice as well, and I admit to not reading them after the first few.

    Lezlie, I'm too wishy washy with books I've spent actual money on, I know I'll never read an ARC before it's publication date. I request very very few- I actually don't know where most of them are requested from! But judging by the blog tours I've seen, I wouldn't have requested a lot of them anyway. Now if I could figure out where the YA ARCs are handed out, I might be tempted.

    Trish, I think you're a cool blogger! You get tons of comments on your posts, way more than I ever do. I think you do have an identifiable niche and it seems to work for you.

    Rebecca, I think we can both agree that there is nothing wrong with being part of the marketing for the book, so long as you're aware that you are providing that service. As many bloggers point out, it IS a business deal, without cash changing hands. Everyone gets what they want from it.

    Andrea, I've gotten a small handful. I've never been part of a scheduled tour, though I REALLY wanted to be part of the Kitty and the Midnight Hour tour. I haven't ever managed to read one in a reasonable time frame. I just can't commit to a date, life is too crazy!

  10. I read a lot of ARCs. Some I love and some are simply not for me. I also read an awful lot of library books; they, too, are free. Two of my favorite books so far this year have been ARCs, and both are books that I might never have heard of or even considered otherwise. I do try to make my reviews honest, and I've been surprised that I continue to receive books after mentioning that a particular book didn't appeal at all. I average about 120-140 books a year, most of which are library books.

    Still, if a publisher offers me a book that sounds interesting, I accept. Right now, I have two ARCs that I'm not sure I'll finish--and about 4 that I'm very eager to get around to reading. I really don't like blog tours, but I'll participate if I want the book.

  11. I think it all comes down to the fact that book bloggers should read and review what they want. I don't mind accepting review copies, but I make sure it's a book I'd be interested in reading anyway. But I also make sure that I'm not reading on someone's schedule; that wouldn't be fun. So I make time for library books, books I bought ages ago and still haven't read, etc. Regardless, I'm reading what I want to read at any given time.

    I think if you believe someone isn't providing honest reviews, then stop reading the blog. If you think they're only in it for the free books, stop reading, too. If you're seeing too many reviews of a single book at once, just don't read them.

    Personally, I make a point to be honest in my reviews. It makes no difference to me where the book comes from, I'm telling you what I think about it.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  12. and this discussion continues...ugh...I really just don't know what else to say about this topic.

    Only that I do receive a lot of review copies and I do like to get them. I like being on a schedule because without one I would stare at the shelves endlessly without a clue.

    I do make time for library books, the book club selection, and ones from myself.

    I really just think whoever is reviewing should be honest. simple as that. If you aren't honest about the book, then you are doing your readers a disservice.

  13. Anna, Serena, I'm not questioning anyone's honesty, that's not the point I was trying to make here! I do believe that the reviews are honest (on the blogs I read, anyway). I just don't feel that the method used to choose that book in the first place is entirely natural. There's nothing WRONG with that. My point is that I'd rather see reviews of books that spread because the book is so great that someone has to tell someone else. It's not that I don't believe these books are honestly great.

  14. Lisa, thanks for clarifying. I see your point. I can't speak for anyone else, but maybe I wouldn't have heard about a book if the publisher didn't organize a tour, but in most cases I'm glad I participated. I'm pretty good at selecting books I think I'll like. But I also add to my to-read list based on reading reviews as part of tours I'm not participating in. I don't think I have to participate in a tour and get the book free to want to read it. I could simply go to my library.

    I also don't feel like my reading choices are guided by the books publishers offer me. To be honest, I turn down more requests than I accept. I'm just as likely to read a book because I participated in a tour or saw it on someone's blog than I am to browse the "just-in" section of the library or book store. But that's just me.

    For me, the blogging community feels in most cases like friends discussing books. So a fellow blogger might not pass a book on to me or email me to tell me I should read it, but that's how their reviews feel to me, a recommendation from a friend.

    I do believe that some book tours should be smaller. I don't think there needs to be 50+ bloggers reviewing the same book on the same day or even in the same few weeks. That's a bit much in my opinion.

    Thanks for this post. I think it's worth discussing.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  15. Lisa: I understand your point about ARCs being outside the natural reading habit, but I honestly don't have a great deal of time to read, which is why I primary read literary journals and an occasional book someone shoved into my hands and said read this.

    There are a great number of books I hear about from friends, blogs, etc., that I would love to read based on the reviews or recommendations, which is why I started my TBR list on good reads, which now has over 600 books on it. Will I read every one?! No, not likely, but there is a list I can go to when I want/can afford to buy books or check them out of the library.

    I don't have a natural inclination to read fiction most days. I think receiving interesting books from publishers, authors, etc. has been good for me. Expanding my desire to read fiction beyond the classics.

    As an eclectic reader, a lot of books sound good to me. But as a writer, good prose is difficult to find, even if the premise of a book interests me.

    As for blog tours, I only join those tours I already have a book for or those that interest me most. I turn down a great number of requests because I simply am uninterested or do not have the time to read them all. Some of those blog tours have too many participants. I think 5-10 blogs per tour is plenty, but I'm reading more book review blogs than the average Internet user, so I will see most of those posts.

    I try to pass along to readers my love of the books I read regardless of where they come from.

    I like when bloggers say I read a review on such and such blog and decided to pick up this book, too. I think that is a real testament to the blog review. However, I am really bad about remembering when I see books and what reviews got me interested--probably because I am disorganized.

    Anyway, this is an aspect of the discussion that is interesting to me. Thanks for the discussion.

  16. Anna, this: "I can't speak for anyone else, but maybe I wouldn't have heard about a book if the publisher didn't organize a tour, but in most cases I'm glad I participated." is the exactly of what I'm saying! If it's a book that I never would have heard of without the tour, even if it's a great book, it's different from a book that I would have heard of anyway. The books that I really really want to read are the ones that started with someone at the bookstore or the library shoving it into someone's hands and saying "you HAVE to read this!" I know it's not loved across the board, but one example would be the way "Eat, Pray, Love" spread before Oprah.

    Serena, I completely agree with this: "I like when bloggers say I read a review on such and such blog and decided to pick up this book, too. I think that is a real testament to the blog review." I actually started keeping a list of the blog posts that finally made me add books to my TBR list.

    I am not questioning the worth of the books that are on tour at all. I am just saying that world of mouth carries a lot of weight for me. If you read a book that WAS on tour because of a review DURING the tour, and you loved it, that review means a lot.

  17. Lisa: I agree that those reviews mean more, but unfortunately, I really don't have too many RL friends who read.

    Anna readily recommends books to me and my mother's recommendations are generally only one genre. That's pretty much it. This is probably one of the reasons I started blogging and reading blogs in the first place.

  18. Oh, I get it now. :) Either I'm a dolt or I guess it doesn't really matter to me how I hear about a book, especially if I end up thinking it's a great book. I guess I'd rather hear about it from a tour or the like than not hear about it at all. Like Serena, I don't have may real life friends who read, aside from her.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  19. I can really say that I truly am "not a cool blogger and that I will never be in the know of the latest and greatest." (You and Trish are uber-cool compared to me.) As I commented on Trish's blog, I've had exactly one author send me one book... and not even the original one proposed because I wanted to make sure it would suit my tastes and be a book I'd enjoy. (I did, LOL!) I don't get ARCs. I am a wee bit jealous of those who get ARCs of say Richard Russo's and Margaret Atwood's latest books because those books have been on my wish list for months already, while I've been awaiting publication.

    But I will admit that I also get a wee bit weary of reading reviews for the same books on blog after blog after blog. Actually it turned me OFF to a few books that I originally thought I might like and I do skip reading reviews after reading several for the same book. And, I'll admit this to you Lisa, that at times I have also question the honesty of some of those ARC reviews. I mean, come on, everyone gushing about a book who got a review copy before publication but people who pick it up later, often based on those reviews, are writing reviews that are vastly different. (I have a book that I picked up used on clearance that fits this description. I haven't read it yet but I'll be honest if the pre-publication hype doesn't fit the book.) I liked Amy's (of My Friend Amy) post and link to the Blog with Integrity campaign.

    I buy most of my books used in the clearance section at Half Price books, unless it is a well loved author and then I will buy new if possible.

  20. what an honest post - I definitely enjoyed reading this. I wasn't up to speed on the whole issue and in fact I didn't realize it was going on at all. But I definitely get your meaning and agree with you.

  21. My point with Twilight and The Graveyard Book had to do with the overwhelming number of reviews. I have to admit to skipping those reviews because I saw so many. So to me it's not any different than a book on a blog tour getting a lot of reviews in the case of starting to skip the reviews.

    I guess I don't care that much about who is suggesting (or requesting) that I read a book. I think it actually levels the playing field for books to have bloggers read more than whatever is popular via the normal routes (Oprah, word of mouth). On this I think we will always disagree.


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