Along those lines, there's been an interesting conversation going on this past week, over at Trish's blog (Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin?), about "The Ethics of Book Reviewing," and whether or not book reviewers should reveal the sources of the books they review; and how that might affect the real or perceived honesty of their reviews. Trish asks:
Is it important to mention where you received a book? Obviously, it *probably* doesn’t matter if you received the book from the library or it was loaned to you from a friend or you bought the book yourself. But what about ARCs/AREs? Or books we might get from Library Thing through the Early Reviewers program? Or Harper Collins? Or books offered directly from authors?So far, the article has received over fifty comments, with many different opinions and points of view. Seems no two book bloggers agree completely on what the "ethics of book reviewing" really are. But there does seem to be a split between bloggers who see themselves as "reviewers" and those who just read books and blog about them.
Does WHERE you received the book influence your opinion of a book?
Well, I guess I'm pretty firmly in the second group. I think of my blogs primarily as journals – collections of my own thoughts and experiences, literary and otherwise. I'm flattered and happy when I know someone else is reading (and sometimes, I hope, enjoying) what I've written, but I'd probably go on blogging even if there were no "reader" out there besides myself. And I like "book blogging" mainly because it keeps me reading. I do enjoy the contact with other readers (even if it's only "virtual" contact), and the give-and-take of literary debate. But mostly I just want to keep my mind engaged, my imagination working, and my eyes glued to the printed page instead of the TV screen as much as possible.
And, personally, when I write a blog post about a book, I don't really think of it as a "review," although I may call it that in the blogosphere. Privately, I really see these entries more as notes to myself – or little book reports – something I can look at a few years from now, after the books are a fading memory. Just a little jotting to remind me of plot, characters, and what I thought about the book at the time. And also, possibly, where I got the book. This may not be of any interest to anyone else, but sometimes the history of the book and how I came to read it may be of great interest to me.
However, it's not a hard and fast rule – sometimes I may mention where a book came from and sometimes not. So, does not stating that a book was an ARC, or that it was sent to me by the author, mean my review is less than honest? Should this bit of information be included with all reviews, as a form of disclosure? Or is that a form of bragging, and simply more information than most readers want or need?
Well, this is all part of the larger question of how much honesty is enough or too much in book reviews, isn't it? And that seems to be a very sticky problem. I do try to be honest in my reviews, in the main because of what I've said above. My blog is first and foremost my personal record of what I think of something – books, movies, restaurants, doing the laundry, whatever. So I want it to reflect my true feelings. Most of the reviews I post have a positive slant – I don't write many negative reviews, and the simple reason for that is that I don't generally finish reading books I don't like. And since I'm not a professional reviewer, I prefer to read purely for pleasure. These are the main reasons that I've almost completely stopped requesting or accepting advance review copies of books. I don't mind receiving an occasional book from LibraryThing or Shelf Awareness. But if I'm going to accept a book directly from an author, I make very sure that he/she understands in advance that my review will be totally honest. If that's a problem for the author, then I don't accept the book. Once that agreement is made, I feel completely free to say what I think of the book, good or bad.
So, I guess when all is said and done, I'm not too worried about my ethical conduct in my blogging. As in all things, I believe in being as honest as possible, but I don't want to go out of my way to hurt any feelings or stir up bad blood, either. Honesty is a very good policy, but so are tact and courtesy. I really believe if I use that as my guideline, I can write my "reviews" without too many qualms or worries.
I really didn't mean to ramble on this long, and I certainly don't expect that anyone has stuck with me to the end. And I guess all I really wanted to say is that as long as I keep thinking of my blog as a personal record, I'll just keep right on making up my own rules. And that's all I expect from other book bloggers, as well.
(See Trish's article here.)