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The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2

While trying to catch up on some blog reading (which I’m totally behind on! Like over 1000 posts in my Google Reader! GAH!), I was checking out Raych’s new post (okay, maybe it’s not new when I publish this post, but it was when I read it) and if you look at the vewy vewy bottom you’ll see she says, “Also, because I totally agree with all this blogger-code-of-conduct jazz, I got this book for free from Danielle at Sourcebooks, who is rad.” So I clicked over to the “blogger code of conduct jazz” and was blown away.

I wasn’t blown away because I think the idea is novel or bad, but because I KNOW I read a comment on someone’s blog about blogging tips when I was working on this post that said something like, “Don’t tell me where you got the book. I don’t care if you got it for free, if you bought it at the local B&N, or if you checked it out from the library.” And I was all, Hmm, that person’s certainly a little anal.

But this comment has stayed in the back of my mind and for this post I want us to talk about mentioning where you got the book.

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?

Does WHERE you received the book influence your opinion of a book?

I have to admit: there was one review that I was less than honest in my opinion. I wasn’t DISHONEST, rather, I skirted around my opinion. Why? Well, because I had not only an author interview but also a guest post from that same author, and after it was all over I promised myself I wouldn’t agree to anything like that until AFTER I’d read the book, that way if I think the book is less-than-stellar, I can say so and not feel weird that I didn’t like someone’s book but now they’re going to guest post on my blog. (It should be noted this is the ONLY review where I was less than honest, and I learned my lesson and haven’t let it happen again.)

Very savvy authors have figured out that if they stay in contact with the blogger (or newspaper reviewer, I would assume) and be personable, well, it’s hard to then go ahead and say negative things about that book. For example, have you ever said something about a situation, but then when you find out someone you know is in that situation, it’s harder to be so judgemental? If called on the carpet for your opinion, do you back pedal, saying you don’t know that  person’s situation, so you really can’t hold them to the same standards that you just uttered? It’s easy to bash on someone we don’t know or someone we’re only acquaintenances with, but a friend? SO HARD.

On the other hand, you don’t see the reviews in newspapers saying, “I got this book free from the publisher, so take my review with a grain of salt.” It’s understood the reviewer got the book for free and we EXPECT that the reviewer will be impartial. But how impartial ARE those reviews? How much more do we like a mediocre book just because we like that author in general?

Despite the comment I mentioned above, I’ve continued to mention from whence I received the book, and here’s my reason why: my blog, the way I see it, is where I have a larger audience to discuss things (as opposed to real life, where I have a handful of friends, few of whom let me discuss books ad nauseum like I do here), particularly books. However, I try to make my blog writing as similar as I can to the way I’d talk to my friend. SO, if I would mention to my friend where I received the book from, then I would mention it on my blog. And generally I would mention where I got the book from, if for no other reason that it’s usually a fairly interesting story…in my opinion. For example, right now I’m reading (at the time I’m typing this post, though I should be done with the book by the time I publish this post) Thinner  by Stephen King, which I checked out from the library. It’s SO OLD that it has the little pouch in the front with the date due stamped in the little squares. Interesting, no? Well, I thought it was, at least.

Let’s discuss this, my friends! I’ve purposefully left the question fairly open and I’ve tried to present a few different angles. Frankly, I think kimbofo does a better job of tackling this subject, but I thought it was worth another discussion. So tell me! What do you think? I love discussions.

| Tags: , , , , , 65 comments »

65 Responses to “The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2”

  1. Chris@bookarama

    I have mentioned that I’ve gotten a book from so-and-so but sometimes not. Not because of any sinister reason, I’m not hiding anything and I’m not laughing maniacally at home in front of the computer over messing with you all, no, I just sometimes forget to put it in there! It’s usually something I just find a spot for and if I get wrapped up in my thoughts, I tend to forget. I wonder if I should go back and say so.

    Honestly, I don’t think differently about a review that says where the book came from. A review is a review- or should be anyway. So, you can disclose it or not. I’m ok with that.


  2. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I did a poll on this once and few people thought it was necessary and one person said “Isn’t it a given if you’re an established reviewer you got a review copy?”

    I’m more likely to mention if the book is NOT a review copy!


  3. Anysia (Booklorn on Twitter)

    I don’t mention it because I already state in my About Page that I review books as if I went out and paid good money for them. I also disclose on there where I get them. Many book readers don’t know what an ARC is and mentioning it is distracting.

    If there is a giveaway for the book or the book is brand-spanking new, I assume it was an ARC anyway. If it’s a backlist book, I assume it was owned or borrowed since, unless it’s a series, publicists generally don’t give those away.

    Occasionally I’ll mention it if the reader can get it for free too (usually an ebook download).

    I really don’t see what the issue is here unless you are reviewing “free” books differently than other books. All of the “mainstream” places (magazines, newspapers, etc.) get their books for free, so why is it an issue on book blogs? Book reviews are not even remotely close to “paid reviews” done on products which is what this kind of disclosure was originally used for (AFAIK).

    (I’m not grumping AT you Trish, just the issue in general. 😉 )


  4. Natasha @ Maw Books

    I have never felt a need to disclose where my copy comes from and I don’t think I ever had. I don’t think it matters one way or the other whether or not I got the book from the author, the library, the bookstore, or a publisher, what I have to say about it will be exactly the same. So no, I don’t think I need to say. I’ve never cared where other people have gotten their copies, so I doubt they care where I get mine.

    If I’m on tour, it’s common courtesy to link back to the tour but I’ve never said, “Thanks tour people for sending me this book.”

    The only place where I do mention if it’s a review copy or not is in my tags, where it’s tagged ‘review copy.’ And I only do that because I mention on my contact page that if they send me a review copy, they can look at reviews with that tag to get an idea of what they may get.


  5. Staci

    I see nothing wrong in stating where or how you got the book. I realize that authors want and need to get their book seen and read. In order to do that they contact bloggers, book reviewers, etc. to read their book. They should be able to handle the positive and the negative reviews. I totally understand why you felt you couldn’t be totally honest about the book you received because of doing an author interview. I don’t think though that you should feel obligated to give anyone a positive review if you truly did not like the book. I posted a review the other day of a book that I just didn’t like. Now mind you, I don’t review ARC’s or anything like that but I’m sure if I did I would feel the pressure, whether hinted at or not, to try to find something nice to say about it regardless of how I felt. It’s sort of like a CATCH-22 isn’t it?


  6. Alyce

    I started out acknowledging where I got my review copies from, but it always seemed a little bit awkward & gushy to me. I remember reading the same thing that you did Trish “Don’t tell me where you got the book. I don’t care if you got it for free, if you bought it at the local B&N, or if you checked it out from the library.”

    It made me feel better, because my inclination all along was just to write my opinion about the book, and not take attention away from the book by mentioning who sent it to me. I had also read somewhere (I don’t remember where) that most publicists wouldn’t want their names mentioned because they want the focus to be on the book (although I think this may have been in regards to professional reviews, not blogger reviews.)

    I tend to write more negative reviews for ARCs than I do for books that I’ve checked out from the library. The reason being that the books I check out from the library are usually ones I know I will love (or have come highly recommended). Books that are ARCs are kind of a crap-shoot. You never know what you are going to get. Usually a bestselling author is going to have a good book, but that’s no gaurantee. So I’m just honest about it and I sweat it out. The first few reviews I wrote that were negative I was anxious about what the authors would say, now I don’t worry so much. I’ve only had one author who was a little snarky.

    I wouldn’t be averse to adding a postscript to my reviews that said “provided by such and such publisher” but I don’t think it makes sense to thank the publicist by name. I usually thank the publicist via an email when I have reviewed the book. It’s less public and they still get thanked.


  7. bermudaonion

    This one started quite a conversation on Twitter tonight. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong to it. I think each blogger should do what makes them feel comfortable.


  8. eBookGuru

    I generally don’t talk about where I got a book I am reviewing from. I do always state where our readers can get it though..

    Having said that, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t state where the book came from. Since I do a lot of author-solicited reviews, and that fact is advertised on our contact page, I expect that people would already know where the book came from.



  9. J.C. Montgomery

    Geez. I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now and this is the first I’ve heard of this Blogger Code of Conduct. I feel so, so…noobish.

    The only books I ever get for free are ARC’s and gifts.

    I always give the book information at the beginning of every review, which includes if it was an ARC.

    Other than that, I am not sure what other rules I am breaking or bending, however I don’t think it is a “make or break” issue for me.

    I love to read. I love to share about what I read. I do my best to convey my opinion honestly, regardless of whether or not the book was an advanced copy, one sent to me by an author (this has only happened once), or otherwise.

    Perhaps ignorance has been bliss in my case. But I am interested to see how others feel about this as I feel a little left out of the loop.

    However, I am quite set in my ways and doubt I will change what I do or how I do it unless it is a detriment to our community, and not to sound too egotistical, I don’t think my blog is. But I am always, always, open to learning more about this world I’ve become a part of, and to help make it better any way I can.

    Thanks for a great post and opening up the floor for us to dialogue.


  10. Wendy

    As usual, an excellent post, Trish … Well, I don’t typically mention where the book came from in my reviews because it doesn’t seem to fit there for me. And I don’t adjust my reviews because an author sent me the book. I try to be honest, as I would would ANY book I got, no matter the source. So, the place where readers can find which books came from publishers or authors on my blog is in my Mailbox Monday posts. That is where I list my free books which arrived that week…I’m not hiding that I get free books, I just don’t think that giving accolades to the sender should be in my reviews (but that is just me and how I want to write my reviews).

    Honestly, I don’t think it matters one way or the other and I don’t frown if bloggers name their “sources” or not. I actually think it has very little to do with a code of conduct. To me the code is simple: Review honestly no matter what. Period.


  11. Vasilly

    I think if the book you’re reviewing came from the publisher or author, Library Thing Early Reviewers or something for profit, you should tell your readers so.

    If I’m following someone’s blog and they rave about a book without saying they received it from the publisher/author/Early Reviewers and that fact comes out later, I won’t trust that blogger’s reviews. Did you really love the book or just putting in a good word for someone?

    I see many bloggers who receive a book as a gift from a fellow blogger say so and thank the other blogger again, which I think is really nice.

    Kimbofo had a lot of great points. I heard a lot about The Thirteenth Tale when it first came out because of fellow bloggers. I had never heard of the contest until today. Because of the rave reviews it received online, I checked the book out and read it.

    The contest was dishonest. I understand if the publisher wanted to send out ARCs for bloggers to read, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t understand the bloggers who participated in the contest either. Why tell your readers about a book you hadn’t read? I understand if a fellow blogger is giving away a book. Usually that’s different because the blogger will have a review, good or bad, to accompany the giveaway.

    Great discussion!


  12. monnibo

    On Kimbofo’s post, she is assuming that the SOURCE of the book will influence the tone/opinion of the review. She is ASSUMING that the reviewer is compromised. I don’t agree.

    Sometimes I feel like mentioning where a book came from, or why I wanted to read it. But the WHY is more important than the WHERE. For example, a friend recommended it and lent it to me.

    However, I have made a note to only agree to read & review free copies if I actually want to read the book. For me personally this just means I don’t feel guilty when a book sits around forever (not being read) just because it was free.

    First and foremost: When I get a book — be it from the library, a publisher, an author, or from my local bookstore — I have to want to read it.


  13. Natasha @ Maw Books

    Just following up on the comments here. I thought that Vaslily’s comment was interesting. I don’t state my source, so does that mean my reviews are not to be trusted? I have given just as many negative reviews on those books as I have raving ones. I’ve even given negative reviews on blog tours before. That’s just how brave I am. I don’t write my reviews any differently depending upon my source. Sure, others might. I’m to the point where I only accept review copies of books I’m already interested in. I decline 90% of my offers. I would have checked them out of the library anyways.

    My writing style doesn’t lend itself to stating the source of my books. Every once in a while, sure, but not normally.


  14. Sandra

    The first time I got an ARC (outside of LT) I was told to post a link to the author’s site and a link to the publisher’s site with the review on my blog. I assumed that was required by everyone and made a habit of doing it. I eventually realized that most others never asked for anything other than the review but I post a thank you to the publicist or author who sent me the book because I thought it was polite.
    Knowing, or having contact with an author will not make me find more merit in a book. I decline most offers of ARCs, even within my limited genre, because I don’t think they’ll be a four or five star reading experience for me. Anything less is a waste of my time. I am curious to know what a publicist or author wants book bloggers to do in this regard though. And it never occured to me that another book blogger or even a book blog reader would feel strongly one way or the other about where I got a book I review or whether I say so. Interesting discussion.


  15. Marg

    I do try to acknowlege where I got a book from (if I remember who sent it to me), but mainly from a courtesy point of view. I don’t think that the fact that I was given a copy influences the review that I write. I have however started being a lot more selective in where I get given because I do want to read good books. Am I missing out on some undiscovered gems.

    And to JC Montgomery: I’ve been blogging three years and don’t believe I have ever read the Bloggers Code of Conduct either!


  16. Meghan

    I waver on this. Sometimes I think it’s necessary to acknowledge where I got the book from and sometimes not – and I’ve done it at the bottom of negative reviews, so I wouldn’t say that how I got it sways my opinion! I try to remain impartial. I think I might stop saying who I got it from and just thank the publicist/author in an email.

    I also don’t think that raving about a book and not saying that you got it from the publisher means your reviews are suspect. I have written my share of negative and lukewarm reviews for ARCs. If I say I love a book, then I do, and it shouldn’t matter if it was free for review or if I paid full retail price for it.


  17. Jeane

    I don’t get very many ARCs or review copies from publishers so when I do, I feel it’s worth mentioning. Although I try not to let it influence how I write, I always feel awkward saying negative things about a book if I know the author will be reading what I said. Most books I’ve received this way actually haven’t gotten stellar reviews, but even though I tried to be totally honest I can’t help feeling I toned down my opinions a bit to avoid hurting feelings. That’s why I don’t accept many ARCs anymore. I’d rather pick out books on my own, and feel totally free to say whatever I feel about them.


  18. Julie P.

    This whole discussion has caused me a little discomfort! I’m afraid that I’m one of those braggers, and that’s definitely not what I ever intended. One of the main reasons that I say where I got the book is my opinion/expectations are probably different than if I spend $20+ on it. I think that affects my reviews.

    That being said, I often times don’t say if it’s a review copy. I definitely need to think things through a little more and decide what’s best for me!

    Thanks for bringing this all up! 🙂


  19. Lezlie

    I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned where I got a book. I’m actually shying away from most ARCs in the future. Mostly because I want the freedom to read whatever I want whenever I want, but partly because those same books are being sent to a lot of bloggers, and they’re getting quite a bit of exposure from all over the blogging community, which is great!! But I’d like now to try to provide more thoughts on books that aren’t already covered by numerous other bloggers at the same time. Variety is the spice of life, right? 🙂



  20. melanie

    I usually mention it, but try to do it in a different way each time. Sometimes just saying when offered, or asked to review this i did, or thanking the publisher rep at the end. It gives them some publicity, which I think is the point. I don’t think it matters either way – if you mention where you get them or not. I do like to give credit if the book was recommended to me by another blogger, or friend, or publisher…maybe because I know lots of people irl that like to take credit for “discovering” things. Plus as a book blogger, I spend a decent amount of time researching what I choose (websites, author interviews, other blogs) more so than a casual reader. Oddly, most ARCs I end up reviewing negatively…even though they are books I am curious to read.


  21. sassymonkey

    Interesting…I only mention where I got the book *if* I’ve received it for free as a review copy. Ok, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I’ll comment that I’m glad to have gotten the book from the library b/c I didn’t love it or vice versa. Or you know, if I read a book at the library and loved it so much that I ran out and bought copies for myself and everyone I know.

    But review copies from publishers, etc. I absolutely disclose. Not just for the purposes of transparency but also because I *do* like to thank the people who sent them to me. Whether or not I like the book or not (and I am truthful about that) I’m very thankful to the people who send these items to me. And let’s be honest, some of those publishers have given my blog good exposure in return for the exposure I’ve given a book.

    I do tend to veer away from blog tours though. And author interviews. I’ve done few but they tend to be authors I’ve had some form of a relationship or connection with prior to the interview.


  22. Amanda

    Oh I totally mention where and usually why I picked up a book. And I love when others do too. I think it’s because I think it makes a difference when you read the book. Not all the time but a lot of the time. One of my favorite books is a one that I picked up on a discount shelf at a used book store, just because I liked the title, the cover, and it was a buck seventy-five. And I LOVED the story! Now…if someone recommended it to me and said it was the best story ever, blah blah blah, and I bought it at Barnes and Noble…now I might not like it as much.

    Love the conversation! Thanks!


  23. sagustocox

    I like mentioning where I got the book so that way people know if its an early review copy or something the author is striving to promote on their own. I think its helpful…but I try to remain honest in my reviews even if I don’t like a book that much…I’m willing to say it regardless of whether the author has an interview or guest post for me.


  24. Florinda

    I mention where I got the book if I received it specifically for review. I don’t solicit review books except for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers raffles – usually, I’m contacted by an author or publicist with a review offer, and I don’t accept all of those. When I do, though, I feel that I should acknowledge it in my review.

    If I bought the book myself, or received it as a gift, I don’t say where it came from. No matter how I got the book, though, I’ll link to the author’s and publisher’s websites in the review. That’s just providing more info for the reader, in my opinion.

    Interesting discussion!


  25. raych


    – In an ideal world, we should all be reviewing books as though we had paid for them ourselves.

    – Most bloggers are honest, and I trust them.

    – Most bloggers are also nice, and we have ALL fudged things a little because we like an author (even me. Oh my shame).

    – That’s fine.

    – HowEVER, when publicists start offering CASH MONEY PRIZES for reviewing books, and said books suddenly start cropping up all over the blogosphere with glowing reviews and no mention of said CASH MONEY PRIZES, and then later it all comes out and none of us are sure whether someone who reviewed the book did so for the CASH MONEY or because they saw it at the library and snagged it, or what have you, and then EVERYONE IS UNDER SUSPICION AND WE LIVE IN SOVIET BOOK RUSSIA, that’s when we have to start being more transparent about anything that may or may not have affected our opinions.


  26. Wendy

    Wow, Raych, I would really like to know what *that* is about. I get a lot of free books from authors and publishers alike. I’ve never been offered cash in exchange for a glowing review – and if I were, I’d not only turn down the offer, but I would never accept another book from that source again. So I’d love to know who is doing this so I can a) boycott their books, and b) boycott the blogs who said “yes”

    You are right – one bad apple spoils the bunch…

    But here is a good question…do print reviewers disclose when they get a “free” book? Do they thank their sources for books? The answer is “no”…it is assumed they get free books. No one is policing their reviews…but we all learn which ones we can trust (eventually). The same is true of bloggers.


  27. Wendy

    …I should add to my comment above…”Do they PUBLICLY thank they sources…”


  28. Jeanne

    I was one of the minority of people who, early on (before the code of conduct was drafted) said that I thought anyone who was reviewing a book they got in exchange for writing a review should acknowledge that. So I do this–so far I’ve done it twice in almost a year of book blogging.
    But I’m not a typical book blogger. My TBR pile is enormous without anything added to it. Also I don’t think I’m typical in that I welcome (and get) more critical comments. There’s an interesting post about this by a brand-new blogger:


  29. Joanne

    Lots of interesting opinions here. My thoughts are that it’s a personal thing – the reviewer should choose whether they want to disclose where the book came from based on how they feel about the issue. It’s their blog and their choice, unless the publisher/author requests acknowledgment. I don’t usually add this info, but I always include links to the publisher and the author’s website.

    As for the reader of reviews, no matter where you may read reviews and regardless of whether it’s about books, movies or toilet paper it’s the readers right and responsibility to decide if the review is of any help to them. Even if it comes from a respected blogger, you have to decide for yourself if the review sounds honest.

    In a perfect world this ethical dilemma would be easy, but all we can do is trust our own judgment and do what we can to sleep easy at night.


  30. lisamm

    Wendy- I think Raych is referring to the Thirteenth Tale contest that kimbofo wrote about (the link is near the bottom of Trish’s post).

    I almost never think to say where a book came from when I write a review. Half the time I can’t remember! I do mention where books come from in Monday Mailbox posts. If I really like a book I might thank a publisher for sending it to me. It’s safe to assume that if you’re reviewing a book that isn’t even out yet, someone must have sent it to you. But I think if you have integrity, it shouldn’t matter if you state where the book came from. You’ll write what you think of it- good or bad.

    Regardless of where I get the book, I’m honest in my review. I can think of only one time when I felt pressured to say nice things about a book that I didn’t love- I learned so much from that experience. I had bizarre feelings of guilt over not liking a book sent by an author who developed an email relationship with me that became rather chummy. And even in that situation, I was honest in my review. That relentless author continues to this day to give me updates when his book is mentioned somewhere, asking me to share the info with my readers. The book has been reviewed on my blog, given away in both hardcover and paperback, and the author has guest posted. Enough already! I like the guy but I’m not part of his sales force!


  31. lisamm

    Wendy- I think Raych is referring to the Thirteenth Tale contest that kimbofo wrote about (the link is near the bottom of Trish’s post).

    I almost never think to say where a book came from when I write a review. Half the time I can’t remember! I do mention where books come from in Monday Mailbox posts. If I really like a book I might thank a publisher for sending it to me. It’s safe to assume that if you’re reviewing a book that isn’t even out yet, someone must have sent it to you. But I think if you have integrity, it shouldn’t matter if you state where the book came from. You’ll write what you think of it- good or bad.

    Regardless of where I get the book, I’m honest in my review. I can think of only one time when I felt pressured to say nice things about a book that I didn’t love- I learned so much from that experience. I had bizarre feelings of guilt over not liking a book sent by an author who developed an email relationship with me that became rather chummy. And even in that situation, I was honest in my review. That relentless author continues to this day to give me updates when his book is mentioned somewhere, asking me to share the info with my readers. The book has been reviewed on my blog, given away in both hardcover and paperback, and the author has guest posted. Enough already! I like the guy but I’m not part of his sales force!


  32. Anna

    Sometimes I’ll say who sent me the book and a thank you as a courtesy. But I don’t care how I got the book, I’m going to be honest in my review. This is a great discussion.


  33. Wendy

    Oh thanks, Lisa – guess I missed all of that *laughs* Well I read The Thirteenth Tale when it first came out and loved it…but I had no idea there was some sort of contest (and I bought my hardcover edition too!).

    Sometimes I feel like I should have a huge banner on my blog which says: “If I like it, I say so; If it sucks, I say that too” and then just be done with it! *smiles*

    But here is a thought: do you ever wonder about other authors giving accolades to a new author’s work? I always wonder if it is friends helping friends out.

    Oh, by the way (then I’ll shut up here!), I just had a friend offer me his wife’s sister’s book for review. I turned it down partially because I knew I would not be able to be objective. To me it would be a huge conflict of interest. Have any of you been faced with a sticky situation like this?


  34. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Wendy–I’ve found out that I can’t trust some authors blurbs. I do know that authors receive a lot of galleys for endorsements, and that they don’t necessarily know the authors in every case, but I also think this is a situation that is just as frustrating for them. There are probably many schools of thought on it, just as there are for book blogs.


  35. JP reader

    I’m a reader of reviews, not a reviewer or a blogger. From that perspective, it doesn’t matter to me where you get your books. I’m not offended if you mention it, but given my choice I’d rather it was not there, or was somewhere easily to skip over (like in a link). I just want to read your wonderful writing about the books!

    Look at it this way – if I find that a blog’s reviews lead me to books that don’t work for me, does it matter whether it’s because we have different taste or because the blogger is pulling punches? Either way, I’m going to lose interest.


  36. Kim L

    You’ve got some great points. I guess I have never really bothered disclosing where I received books from, and I don’t think I will be doing it anytime soon because I just don’t see it as a big deal. I see my blog as my personal reading journal and a way to network, and I don’t see it as something where I have to defend myself in that particular way.

    Anyhow, thanks for the insight!


  37. Teddy

    I always mention who I got the book from if it is an ARC . I usually says something like, ” thak you to Patsy of ABC Books for the advance copy of this book.

    That said, If I’m less than please with a book I don’t give it a rave review. What I do do is try to give both negatives and possitives. I try to give fair and constructive feedback. I think it’s important to be honest both for my readers and the authors sake.


  38. avisannschild

    First off, let me just say that I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with a crazy backlog of posts in her reader, Trish!

    This is a great topic! In my case, most of the books I review are ARCs or review copies and I do always mention where they came from (although I don’t thank individual people by name). I guess I do think of it as publicity for the folks who sent me the book for free… And since I’m often thanking the publisher, it’s also a link to somewhere to get more info on the book. (I don’t include more than a one- or two-line synopsis in my reviews and I never link to Amazon or other online bookstores, although I do link to LibraryThing.) I do my best not to let my relationship with whoever I got the book from influence my reviews — and I’ve certainly written my share of negative reviews. But I tend to agree with others who’ve basically said “to each their own”: I don’t really see this as a big deal one way or the other. I do think there are bloggers out there who don’t write negative reviews for fear of offending, or at least I’ve certainly read “reviews” where I couldn’t tell if the person actually liked the book or not. To me this is more problematic than whether or not they’ve acknowledged that they received the book for free. But again, there are so many blogs out there that it’s easy enough to skip over or stop reading those that write that type of review.


  39. A Soldier's Girl

    hmmm….I never thought about this. To me it doesn’t make a difference and I’m not “put off” by someone mentioning where/how they got a book. I am like you though…when I blog, I like to act like I am talking to a friend, which means that I include all of the details (even if the person doesn’t care :))

    As always, a little something for me to think about…thanks!

    Take care 🙂


  40. Marta

    I’m pretty new to doing reviews and I’d seen quite a few people had posted where they got their books. I wasn’t sure if this was something we were supposed to do vs. wanting to do. It’s interesting to see everyone’s opinions on it…what a discussion!
    I always know where I got the book from because I log them in on a spreadsheet when they arrive along with who I got it from so I can send them a notice when I post a review of the book. This is something I’m definitely going to have to consider doing.


  41. Lenore

    I think this might have been a bigger issue back when the post you link to was written (2006), when it was probably more rare for bloggers to get review books.
    I know many of the reviews I read are from bloggers who got a free book. So what?
    I remember reading that “I don’t care where you got your book from…” comment too, and at the time, I actually thought it was kind of interesting to read where someone got the book (I still do) but it made me shy away from mentioning it myself.


  42. Melissa (ForstRose)

    I scanned through the comments here and read the article a few days ago. Many of those saying they share the source of their books seem to be bloggers who are sharing about books they are reading in the normal course of their literary lives and receive few if any ARC’s or free books specifically to review.

    I started my blog expressly for posting reviews, interviews and a variety of bookish type posts but with the primary intent of sharing these books with other readers in cyberspace and my circle of friends and acquaintances. Among the first 10 or so reviews I posted that were my personal thoughts on a book there were some library books, books I purchased personally or won in contests but I would say in my case nearly 100% of the material reviewed has been copies received for book tours or reviewing purposes therefore I’ve seen no reason to share where the books come from or why I’m reading them. Not to say I’d hide this fact from anyone if they asked but readers familiar with the blogosphere probably either already know that the books are most often review copies or they don’t care anyway.

    In my case I think tacking on the source of a book I’ve read is extraneous information which happens to be a personal pet peeve so I try to keep things as on topic in my posts as I can.


  43. Jo

    I don’t think it matters where you got the book, nor do I think you need to include that information out of some sort of attempt at transparency. But I do enjoy stories about where the book came from if they’re interesting. I liked the detail about your copy of “Thinner” still having a card. If you buy a book at a used book sale and it has a photo or something that the previous owner stuck in or notes made in the margins, it’s something other people might find to be interesting. It has nothing to do with your opinion of the book, but it changes the experience of reading it.


  44. Lisa

    I’m reading this discussion way late and I have nothing exciting to add, but I wanted to say that I do disclose it if it’s a review copy or one I’ve won in a giveaway. I don’t get very many review copies and I’ve never done a blog tour so it doesn’t come up a lot for me. I will say that the first couple times I see a book on a blog tour I think “oh, that looks interesting” but once I realize I’m seeing something that everyone is reviewing as part of a tour I assume the reviews are written with a more positive slant. When I think about the individual blogger I don’t believe it, but collectively I do. My point is, when it shows up on dozens of blogs it doesn’t matter if you say where it’s from because it’s easy to tell.


  45. Natasha @ Maw Books

    Wow Trish. Lots and lots of comments on this one and I’m following up again. In response to Lisa’s comment, I have given three negative reviews to three books all on blog tour and declined interviews with the authors because I didn’t care for the book. Just because it’s on tour doesn’t mean all the reviews will be positive. I state why it didn’t work for me and who I think the better audience would be.


  46. callista83

    I always mention if the book is a review book, although I don’t know why, mostly just because other’s do. I really don’t care if you say it or not because i would never assume that your review would be different because it’s a free book since mine aren’t. Where I got the book from has NO bearing on my review.

    Sometimes I like to know it’s a review book because then I want to know how if there is another place to get review books that I don’t know about. As someone who can’t afford to buy books, ever, of course I love getting free books. I still offer a truthful review though.


  47. Megan

    I make every attempt to review every book that I read honestly – not cruelly so – but yes, honestly. I don’t make it a point to mention how I came by the book I’m reading. If it comes up while I’m rambling aimlessly before I get to the review, and it sometimes does, then whatever, but it’s not something I’m dedicated to mentioning.

    Given that I’m pretty dedicated to honesty in book reviewing, it just makes me think that if I went out of my way to tell people that certain books I’m reviewing I received free for the purpose of reviewing, I might be undercutting my own *honest* positive reviews. If I say I loved a book, then I really did *love* it, but if I say that I received that book as a free review copy, does that make it look like I actually loved the book less than I did and I’m gushing only to please the author/publisher/publicist? Because I’d really just hate for that to happen. If an author writes something awesome that I happened to receive for free, I would hate for them to miss out on my wholehearted praise because people think I compromised the truthfulness my review just because I got a free book in the mail.

    So, yeah, I guess I feel like if I make it a point to emphasize that I got a copy for free for review, it implies that I’m being less honest in those reviews which is absolutely not the case, so I definitely don’t plan on going out of my way to make mention of it.


  48. Jeanne

    I object to the prevailing attitude which comes across as “oh, anyone who knows anything about the blogosphere knows we get these books for free.” It seems to me much like the days back when doctors also dispensed medicine.


  49. Weekly Link Round Up « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

    […] start with me, shall we? This week, one of the most well-discussed topics was whether bloggers should disclose from where they get the books they review. I was actually surprised at most people’s […]

  50. marie

    After having done a bunch of reviews for people, I think it DOES make it harder to be negative when you’ve been in touch with authors, or (especially for me) when you’re doing a blog tour. I don’t do blog tours anymore (with the exception of a Jewish kids-book tour for award winners- and I didn’t even get a copy of the book for free) for that reason. I did two, and they were both miserable experiences for me because I hated the books and didn’t feel free to say so. In one other case I took a free book from an author who I felt was looking over my shoulder throughout the process, which made it awkward for me and my review was less than totally frank. Again I just felt bad about the whole thing.

    As far as disclosing when we’re getting books for free, why not? Not only is it honest but it enables readers to find opportunities for review. Anyway there’s no reason to hide it or be ashamed of it, especially if the blogger is confident that their objectivity hasn’t been affected.


  51. Weekly Link Round-Up « Bermudaonion’s Weblog

    […] of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?  had the comments flying with this post on The Ethics of Book Reviews.  She discussed whether bloggers should disclose where their books […]

  52. Tina

    I always mention where I get the book that I am reviewing if I got it for free and I have no problem being hard on the review if I need to be and I have NEVER gotten pushback about my honest reviews (even when I hated the book).

    Publishers still ask me to review books and so do authors.

    I agree with Lenore who commented that this might have been a bigger problem in 2006.

    I have also visited many other sites who have commented very honestly and not always in the positive way on books that they have gotten for free.


  53. CB James

    52 comments!!! I am so jealous!!

    I agree with Marie above that it can be very difficult when you hate a book you’re reading for a book tour. This happened to me one. I sort of dodged the issue by printing an interview with the author instead of a review. I’ve suspected this was the case for other people who went with guest posts instead of reviews. But I enjoyed two of the three blog tours I’ve done.

    That said, I don’t think you have to state where you got the book. People who write movie reviews for instance, all get to go to free screenings. If you read movie reviews you soon learn whose opinion to take seriously. The same is true for book reviews and for book blogs.


  54. Jennifer, 5 Minutes for Books

    Great thoughts here!

    You just made me update my “welcome” page stating that some books are from our personal collections, others are on loan from friends or the library, but most are review copies sent by publishers, authors, or PR firms.

    I agree that it’s best not to promise enhanced coverage — via an interview, guest post or giveaway — unless the book has been read and enjoyed. I also completely agree that it’s harder to pan a book from an author with whom I’ve been friendly.

    I recently read a novel by a woman whose previous work I loved. LOVED. This novel was not bad, but it wasn’t good either. I never published a review, as tempted as I was to give her some good press.

    That’s our policy — you know that we liked the book, because regardless of where we got it, we only publish reviews of books we feel that we can recommend. Otherwise, we pass.


  55. Susan

    I know I’m the 55th person to comment! I don’t mention where I get a book because I don’t do reviews for ARCS – I don’t have time, really – and my aim is to be honest as possible about a book I’ve read on my blog. I agree with your point about being sensitive to reviewing authors who have made contact with you – it does put one in an awkward position, but I resolved by realizing if that was all they wanted was a favourable review, then they should write a good book. I was a bookseller too long and I can’t lie – if I don’t like a book, I say why, as gently as I can, because I realize work has gone into writing it. Unless it’s a dreadful book!! when I read other people’s blogs, I don’t pay attention to if it’s an arc except to realize they get what we used to get in the bookstores, advanced copies. I trust the blogger to be honest no matter where the book comes from!

    Anyway, interesting topic, Trish!!


  56. Amy(The Sleepy Reader)

    Wow! How did I miss out on this discussion? Oh yeah I am behind in my blog-hopping. 🙂

    This is a great discussion. I sometimes post where I got a book and sometimes I don’t. Frankly, sometimes I forget. However, if I post where it came from, it’s usually so someone else might be able to request an ARC or review copy if they are interested.

    I try to be up front and honest either way.


  57. JLS Hall

    Really interesting discussion going on here, and I’m very late in picking up on it. Yes, I’m behind on my blog-reading, like everybody else, it seems.

    I never really thought about whether mentioning where I get my books might have an ethical aspect. But it’s certainly food for thought. Lots to mull over. In fact, I ended up having to do my own blog post in order to keep from hogging your comments section!

    Thanks for bringing up such a controversial topic and keeping us all on our toes.


  58. Sally

    It’s so good to read your post and these comments.

    I seldom mention where my book came from. I try hard to give a critique and not a book report. If a book is poorly written, I will mention it whether or not the author has kept in touch.

    And so far, I have not posted anything that I have not read.


  59. Elizabeth

    Very timely post for me personally! I began reviewing books for a publisher in December and just read one I didn’t like. It’s getting good reviews from the mass media, so it certainly didn’t need mine. It wasn’t a BAD book, just not my cup of tea, and I wouldn’t waste my time on another book by this first-time author, especially since he is already under contract writing a sequel and they will probably become a series. There is a market for this book, it’s just not me or most of the people with whom I share books. I didn’t come out and write that, I just wrote about 2 big problems I had with the book.
    I’ve spoken/written to my contact at the publishing house and she tells me to be honest. But I also wonder if I’m supposed to review from my own point of view, or be more global and consider if it is well-written and appealing to people with taste different from mine. IDK, these are just the things I think about when I am writing my reviews!
    If I review a book I got from the library or bookstore, I usually don’t include a “From the Publisher” blurb, and I usually mention where I got them., but I don’t mention when it’s from a publisher. I think I will start to.
    I’ll probably have to do a post about this!


  60. Links for 2009-1-25 « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

    […] The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2 « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? Trish’s (from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?) own views on reviewing free books. (tags: books blogging) […]

  61. Lorin

    Hm, I’ve never thought about it from an ethics point of view. I do tag all of my LT ER books and will usually mention how I got my books, but only in a conversational way (a friend thought I might enjoy x because I liked y, etc).

    I would like to point out that the potential for conflicts of interest are not limited to bloggers. Professional reviewers are more likely to be friendly with the publishers, etc than me at home.


  62. Biblibio

    I tried to talk about this issue but I don’t think I knew nearly enough about the book-blogging world to get a good image of the situation… This post, however, pinpoints the problem very nicely. Kudos.

    I did want to respond to something you mentioned though: the honesty test. I think the reason a lot of people care (or actively don’t care) about the source of a book is related to the honesty of the reviewer. If a reviewer has a lot of integrity and you know that they won’t start flubbing and lying just because the book was free, then it’s okay, I think, for them not to mention it. Because once reviewers are entirely impartial and honest regardless of the source of the book, the source is entirely irrelevant. If a reviewer is lying about a book because it was free, that isn’t a reviewer I’d trust.

    I think maybe it’s worth a mention if you spent money on the book. Say something like, “Well, I didn’t actually buy the book, but it’s worth spending the money” or “I checked it out from the library. If you want to read it, so should you. Don’t waste twenty bucks on a book not worth it.” Something like that. Specify not the type of book, but the quality control status. Worth a read, not the money. Worth read and money. Not worth anything. But honesty at all costs, certainly. I think that goes without saying, though.

    Anyways, good post, good follow ups, good comments. It’s things like this that make book blogs truly interesting.


  63. Melissa

    I try to remember to include a simple thank you to the publisher that sent the ARC at the end of my review. I think it’s a nice way to give them a mention without being obnoxious about it. But if I forget, it’s not the end of the world either…


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    […] The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2 […]

  65. Links for 2009-1-25 - Here There Be Books

    […] The Ethics of Book Reviews, Part 2 « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? Trish’s (from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?) own views on reviewing free books. (tags: books blogging) […]

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