Jim West asks Are Biblioblogs Losing Their Souls And Becoming Little More Than Publicity Tools? In the spirit of Jim’s post I’ll offer a disclaimer:
I too love to review books. Many folks might not realize this, but I was reviewing books on my blog long before I ever got them for free. I still review books that I purchase with my own money. So my love for books and reviewing books is in no way linked to my love of getting them for free. Having said that, I do love me some free books! It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see a book that looks interesting, contact a publisher, and then find said volume in the mail a few weeks/months later. Sometimes the books are fantastic and I enthusiastically recommend them. Sometimes they’re awful and I warn readers to stay far, far away. And like Jim I’ve found certain publishers to not appreciate the latter. Oh well. Their loss.
Now back to Jim. In the body of his post he says:
But I’m beginning to become a bit worried. Are bibliobloggers becoming nothing more than publicity tools for publishers? Are reviewers forthright in their reviews or do they simply say all the kindest things simply so that the flow of free books remains unimpeded? Are publishers using bloggers and are bloggers using publishers, not to disseminate worthwhile volumes but to line their shelves? Are books even being read?
This is a subject I’ve tackled a few times over the years. In answer to his questions I’d say:
- Certain bloggers have sold out in order to become nothing more than publicity tools. I won’t name names but we all know who they are. You can’t blame the publishers for this (unless of course they refuse to provide review copies unless favorable reviews are written in return).
- Many bloggers are not forthright in their reviews and rarely, if ever, say anything critical because they don’t want to get cut off from the source of free books. Like I said, I’ve had one or two publishers (who shall remain nameless) refuse me additional review copies once I reviewed certain of their titles negatively.
- The relationship between blogger and publisher should be mutually beneficial. If publishers are willing to send out books for free then they should get some free publicity out of the deal. But bloggers have to realize that the press can be both good and bad and that they shouldn’t feel obligated to say only good things. What’s that old saying? Any press is good press?
- But—and this is what irks me more than anything—many bloggers are not reading the books they review, hence the shallow reviews that do nothing but heap praise upon the book in their glorified blurbs. But this isn’t limited to only positive reviews. I’m sure we’ve all come across negative reviews written by people who hadn’t so much as cracked the cover of the book they were reviewing.
I’d add that I think certain review programs have contributed to the decline Jim has been noticing. Offering a free book with the stipulation that it be posted within a relatively short period of time and not be too long so that it can be cross-posted on a retailer website does not encourage sustained interaction with the text in hand. Now to be fair, not every program is like this, and some of the ones that are don’t offer books that actually merit sustained interaction, but it would seem that publicity is the main goal over and above substantive reviews.
So I’m sorry to say that Jim’s fears are real and they’re most likely here to stay. Thank God for all of the thoughtful reviewers out there and all the publishers seeking honest reviews of their titles.