As I prefer to read interesting stuff, I’ve been avoiding the ballyhoo about the proposed FTC regulation affecting bloggers who review books or other products. My bad. Today I found out it will affect me and my little blog reviews as of December 1, 2009.
I don’t profess to understand it all, but in an effort to protect people from being mislead by advertisers, manufacturers, and endorsers of goods and/or services (that’s me), the FTC says we must disclose a “compensation arrangement or other material connection” with whoever sends us books (or products) to review.
Apparently the US FTC thinks us bloggers who get books for free are a threat to the public. We are automatically considered biased, and probably dishonest. They think we are going to lie and give glowing reviews just so we can continue to get free books.
They don’t mind professional reviewers who get paid since they think people are smart enough to realize the paid reviewers might be biased. But if I can’t prove I gave my honest, unbiased opinion, and I received the book for free—with or without being required to post a review—I can get in big trouble. I can be sued and fined and possibly punished in other ways that could make my life miserable if I don’t tell you all about any connections to anyone who sends me books to review.
So here it is, as clearly as I know how to say it:
I get books for free and am asked to provide an HONEST review of them.
I am asked to post the review on my blog and on one public site that accepts book reviews, such as Amazon.com.
I am allowed to keep the books or get rid of them. They don’t ask me what I do with them after I’m done with my review.
If I decide I don’t want to review any more books, they don’t make me, don’t punish me, and probably don’t care.
Thomas Nelson usually restricts me from getting another book until I post my review of the one I already have, but once in a great while they let me have a second book simultaneously in connection with a special promotion.
They let me put cool little buttons and other advertising thingamajigs on my blog, but I do not have to put them there. I freely chose to put them there because I like flashy things.
If you click on any of those images on my sidebar, I do NOT benefit in any way.
I haven’t received any books from WaterBrook Multnomah yet, but since they have cute things to put in my sidebar, for free, I put it on my blog. When I actually do a review of one of their books, I will tell you.
I don’t get any money, fame, or recognition for my reviews other than a polite thank you, which appears to be computer generated, after I notify them I would like to review a book.
My sole connection and/or arrangement with publishers, agents, authors, or other book providers is limited to giving my HONEST, UNBIASED, opinion of the book.
So far no one has expressed interest in paying me for my reviews, and nobody has paid to read them either. If someone ever pays me in money, or otherwise, I will tell my readers.
Under no circumstances will I be influenced by anyone when writing my reviews. I try to be polite, but if I don’t like something, I will tell you so.
Even the FTC recognizes that book reviews are subjective, but just in case I’m supposed to point that out—PLEASE read my reviews with the understanding that you might not like the book even if I do, or you might like it even if I don’t.
My reviews may look biased since most are favorable, but that simply reflects the fact that I get to pick the books I want to review from the list of books the publisher has available. I avoid books that look like I wouldn’t be interested in reading them. If they sent them at random, I would probably encounter some I didn’t care for, but I’m not willingly going to spend precious hours of my life reading stuff I don’t like.
In a further effort to comply with the new, and in my opinion ridiculous, FTC regulation, I’ve updated my Book Review page introduction. I’m in the process of putting a disclaimer on each review I’ve already posted, and will continue to do so in the future. Just to cover all the pages, I’ve added this post as a disclaimer, too.
If you review books, products, or services on your blog, you might want to read this easy-to-understand post by a lawyer on The Boston Bibliophile site: http://www.bostonbibliophile.com/2009/10/guest-post-ftc-faq-for-book-bloggers.html
If I run across other sites that clarify this regulation, I’ll add it later.
So, is there any doubt in your mind that I am trying to comply with the FTC rules? Have you protected yourself with a disclaimer on your blog? What do you think about this government oversight of amateur, unpaid bloggers?
Does anyone know if this applies to reviews where we bought the books or borrowed them from the library?