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Do I dare review more books?

I review books on this blog occasionally. Many of them are books I bought myself and wanted to share with people because I found them interesting or useful. Some are books that have been sent to me by publishers (some of whom also publish books I have worked on).

Apparently the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines will require that starting in December 2009 bloggers who have any connection to publishers will be required to state that fact in any articles they write, whether that connection is employment (which makes sense) or just simply that the publisher provided the product being reviewed for free.

More here on the FTC website.

What do you think? Should I tell publishers not to send me free books in the hopes that I will review them? Should I just stop reviewing books that interest me? Would it bother anyone if you found out that I reviewed the upcoming edition of a Linux book (or something else) after receiving it for free, even if I emphatically state that my opinion is being posted unedited and based not on the fact that the book was free but on the contents of that book?

EDIT: The original article on a news site has disappeared, so I replaced the link to it with a link to the FTC website outlining the policy.


  1. TGM

    Firstly, it’s your website, you make it what you want it to be 🙂

    And if you continue to review books, as long as they’re honest reviews I wouldn’t mind reading them 🙂

  2. Andrew

    I can’t see how getting the book for free (and admitting it) will alter how I view the reviewer. It is generally pretty easy to spot when a reviewer reviews a book with bias, and that is where I have problems.

    Keep the reviews honest, and keep up the reviews.

  3. nicolas

    So why not state how you came by that book and why you review it, if that is not something that you already do?

  4. ScottK

    As long as you disclose that you got it for free, it wouldn’t bother me that you did. Just disclose as needed and keep reviewing.

  5. jimcooncat

    You can give the book away when you’re done with it. If you want to keep it, donate the suggested retail value to a noble cause. If it stinks, recycle it in an appropriate manner.

    An afterword telling your readers the ultimate destination of the free book could be entertaining and valuable. Why would I want to plunk down good cash for something you thought needed shredding?

  6. AndyC

    I agree with Scott. I have enjoyed your reviews and have even recommended a couple of these books after reading your reviews. I think it is fair to say that disclosure is a best practice and helps readers know more about the context of the review.

    I do not think this sort of rule is trying to stop reviewers like you, but it could make it easier to identify “reviews” written by people who are being paid to write a glowing review. Although I’m sure a few will ignore the new requirement, they will eventually be caught (this is the Internet) and the whole system will eventually become more transparent.

  7. Mackenzie

    Getting books for free to review is common practice. I think most people realize this. Or if they don’t…well, do they *really* think the people working for the NYT reviewing books actually *buy* the books to review? Yeah right! Just disclose that you got the book free, and keep doing the reviews

  8. Chuck

    You’re being over dramatic with the title I think. Its a book review. Yes, you should always [have] mention[ed] that you received the book for free. It does not change anything of the review. If the people reading it trusts your opinion that will continue. If they don’t trust your reviews that also will continue.

    My question to you is why do you think it will matter to those reading your reviews where the book came from? Unless of course all of your reviews of free books are positive and those from other sources are not. That goes to bias which is what the new regulations are all about.

    It is really not that important.

  9. andrewsomething

    The DailyKos folks have been very active in protecting rights of bloggers. Adam Bonin, a DK poster and lawyer, has successfully represented Markos Moulitsas, Matt Stoller, Atrios and other high profile political bloggers in front of the Federal Election Commission. When I read that DK post, I took it as Markos looking for a fight. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this end up in court if it is ever enforced. I say keep on doing like you have been.

  10. Shkodran

    It’s just a disclaimer, and it does nothing to discredit your review. Personally, I have zero problems with this and think you should continue doing reviews, if you enjoy it.

  11. Mark Coleman

    I do enjoy reading the occasional review of books and to be honest, a simple disclaimer will not taint my opinion of the reviewer. In addition I am sure you won’t be tainted by the fact you got the book for free. It’s common knowledge that reviewers get free stuff. Relax and enjoy yourself!

  12. Dion

    I do enjoy book reviews from technical people I respect.

    Publishing that you have been given a book for review won’t change my opinion of the review, *as long* as you continue to be objecting in your reviews.

    Knowing you got the book for free won’t diminish my view of you as a reviewer. But disclosure does show good ethics.


  13. Dion


    Objective I mean!


  14. Tony Yarusso

    Eh, just put a note at the beginning or end saying it was sent to you and by whom. That happens all the time, and most people are aware of the context with technical books, so I don’t see why it makes a difference for the review if the review is honest, but think it’s a good thing to have in case it isn’t in the larger picture.

  15. Let me get this straight:
    1) You’ve been getting books for free
    2) You’ve been reviewing them
    3) You think a law requiring you to disclose this information somehow makes the reviews any less valuable?

  16. I’m not so much annoyed with the need to disclose this as I am the disparity of requiring one subset of book reviewers (bloggers) to do so while ignoring the fact that everyone who reviews books (newspapers, magazines, etc.) have received free review copies of books, music, dvds and more from the beginning and still will without any such requirement. I don’t see the need in either case, but if there’s going to be a rule/law, it should have equal application.

  17. nasrullah

    very nice of sharing your experience with us…..

  18. another reviewer

    This is encouraging:

Comments are closed.