October 2009
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My Thoughts on the FTC Guidelines

How many of you are aware of the FTC’s new guidelines which will impact book bloggers who accept ARCs and review copies for review? Their announcement this week that the guidelines will take effect December 1st set off an avalanche of posts from bloggers. Many are worth reading. Check out Melissa’s Argument for Bias, and  Marie’s Guest Post by attorney Jeffrey Hermes who answered questions about the new regulations.

Bottom line: Bloggers who receive books from authors, publishers or publicists for review must conspicuously disclose this. Apparently the FTC feels that book bloggers might just be unethical enough to endorse a book they either a) did not completely finish reading, or b) didn’t really like. Being a government agency, the FTC keeps the guidelines pretty vague. They don’t tell bloggers what they mean by “conspicuous disclosure,” and they don’t explain how they would enforce the guidelines (although rumors of an $11, 000 fine are apparently false). They also do not have a good explanation as to why bloggers are targeted, but print reviewers get a pass on the guidelines. Oh, and they suggest we return our ARCs and review copies.

It is no secret that I accept books for review here. I post all the books I receive on my Mailbox Monday posts with links to where the book came from…is this conspicuous enough? I’m not sure. I suppose interested readers could also go to my Library Thing tags where every single book received for review is tagged as such. Despite this, I have been advised that this is really not enough either.

reviewcopy2So beginning December 1st, those readers who are worried that my reviews might be tainted because the book arrived free to my home (despite this recent ARC which I disliked so much I did not finish it), will now be able to instantly know which reviews were for books accepted from publishers, authors and publicists. Just scroll to the bottom of the review and there in the right hand corner will be this cute little kitten who is surrendering. Because that is what I guess I have to do – surrender to a government body which knows nothing about book blogging, which apparently thinks bloggers are making a gazillion dollars from their blogging endeavors, and which has nothing better to do with our tax payer dollars than to harass us.

And here I thought we had bigger issues in this country – like 10% unemployment and a war or two. But I digress….

I will not be returning my review copies after reading them. I think, given that the FTC feels this is compensation for a review, that I’ve earned the right to keep them or give them away to friends. I also want to point out that there are no advertisements on Caribousmom…and not because I am some sort of saint, but because when I did try doing the Amazon Associate thing, I realized that the “profit” for cluttering up my blog was about $5.00 a year. Good thing I didn’t quit my day job.

Now, back to the regular scheduled programming….

23 Comments

  1. October 10, 2009    

    You probably can’t hear me, but I’m totally clapping right now. I think your post’s tone as well as its content absolutely match up with my thoughts on this thing, which, if you ask me, is totally asinine. And, if anyone’s wondering, I’ve received no compensation, nor have I been unduly influenced by any free stuff in expressing this view. *eye roll*

  2. October 10, 2009    

    I never have received many ARCs (I think about eight in two entire years) and I think I’ve always disclosed where they came from (and most got an average or below rating from me, I didn’t rave about a single one). The only thing this might really change from me is taking off those links to amazon and powell’s- which have earned me a whopping five or six dollars in a year. Yeah, that’s an income! (not even enough to buy a book and the shipping)

  3. October 10, 2009    

    Wendy, I think you spoke for a lot of us bloggers. My immediate response when i first read about this was “This is the most important pressing issue the FTC has to worry about”??

    If it becomes a real hassle, I’ll read and review my own books and library books only. Heaven knows there are plenty of those easily accessible….LOL

  4. October 10, 2009    

    Wendy, this is a very well written post – I completely agree with everything you said! You are right, that we as book bloggers have earned the right to keep books we are given. I have been sent 2 books from publishers and neither one I specifically sought out. I am definitely willing to disclose that they were sent to me as a review copy, but this whole debacle is a little crazy. Diane was right to think that THIS is the FTC’s most pressing issue?!

  5. October 10, 2009    

    Thanks for this blog post Wendy. I heard wind of this but didn’t know the details. Thanks for the explanation, and I love the kitty!

  6. October 10, 2009    

    Can we use your kitty??????

  7. October 10, 2009    

    Nice pic!!!! I agree that it’s annoying and the FTC hasn’t done their homework.

  8. October 10, 2009    

    I think in so far as it applies to book bloggers this new law is ridiculous! The only reason for these new guidelines that i can think of is that some lawmaker in DC received a poor review on his book and is still bitter.

    Great post, Wendy!

  9. October 10, 2009    

    I wonder how this affects Aussie reviewers? I get arc’s from US publishers

  10. October 11, 2009    

    haha, I like the picture!

    I think it is really stupid that there is the assumption that people say they like something just because it was given to them. I write reviews about review copies and say that I hate them! I don’t worry about it because it is supposedly freedom of speech and all that jazz…

  11. October 11, 2009    

    Why anyone would think that a book – whether it costs $15 or $35 – is adequate payment for the time spent reading it and writing a review, I cannot imagine. My cleaning lady gets paid better rates per hour…

  12. October 11, 2009    

    Megan: Thanks for the applause!

    Jeane: I was so disappointed by the Amazon thing – the amount of money earned through them is so poor it is not even worth it.

    Diane: I know what you mean – its not like I don’t have plenty of other books to choose from!

    Katie: Thanks – I don’t know why they care really. And their ability to actually enforce anything seems poor at best.

    Faith: You’re welcome – glad you like my button 🙂

    Staci: LOL! I love that kitty 🙂 I especially like his shocked expression. I don’t mind if you use him.

    Amy: It all feels so knee-jerk to me.

    Typ0: *laughs* So maybe we should accept any books from lawmakers!??!?

    Sally: My guess would be it doesn’t affect anyone outside of the United States. Our government can’t enforce laws outside its boundaries.

    Kailana: Exactly! I think if anyone WERE to get fined, this would end up in court on a Freedom of Speech issue.

    Lisa: I think once I figured out I made about $1.20 and hour to read and review a book. BUT, actually, an ARC is worth nothing because technically it cannot be sold…therefore when I get an ARC, I read and review it for not one penny 🙂

  13. October 11, 2009    

    This also made my blood boil this week – and I don’t even get ARCs! I imagine it would apply to any new book provided by the publicist that you’ve won in a give-away too. What I wonder is what brought this on? (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”)

  14. October 11, 2009    

    I know what you mean! I think if we were compensated, it would be an entirely different story!

  15. October 11, 2009    

    Wendy, somehow I missed this post yesterday but I’m applauding, too. Admittedly since I read so many classics & prizewinners, I haven’t jumped on the ARC bandwagon. But I do think this is a tough issue. Your kitty is perfect and just might be the one saving grace of this whole thing!

  16. October 12, 2009    

    Lori: I actually think the FTC is more focused on the bloggers who are reviewing baby items, etc…rather than books. We got lumped into the mix, which I think was wrong.

    Sheri: That’s the thing – book bloggers not only review for free (as I think it should be, by the way), but we also give away books like there is no tomorrow. Perhaps a few bloggers give positive reviews rather than lukewarm ones because of feeling “obligated” … but I truly believe most book bloggers are brutally honest.

    Laura: My kitty button is my way of keeping my humor in the face of insanity 🙂 Thanks for weighing in!

  17. October 14, 2009    

    Hmm. I don’t intend to change my strategies AT ALL. I don’t receive a large amount of review books, but I do get some from LibraryThing. However, I think I’ve always been clear (usually in the first paragraph) that I’m reviewing an ARC. I won’t be returning my review copies either. If I like the book, I’ll keep it. If it’s “meh” or disliked, I’ll BookMooch it or give it away some other way. What, is the federal government going to come get me? They’re not paying any attention to this. Well, at least not to my little blog. And if they are, fine me. I dare ya. I don’t have any money anyway. 🙂

  18. October 15, 2009    

    I love that little adorable kitten! He’s cute. Although I think you have to disclose that you got the book for free, not just that it is a review copy.

    I really can’t believe the FTC has nothing better to do with its time and our dollars.

  19. October 16, 2009    

    Bravo.

    These “guidelines” are (to put it politely) hogwash, particularly in light of all the serious corruption going on in government and everywhere else.

  20. October 17, 2009    

    Wendy….I came over to check on what you’ve been reading and saw this link to your comments.
    I had no idea that this was something that the FTC would even bother to get involved with!…WOW…what lunacy!

    Your thoughts on it are dead on!

    I can’t believe they are wasting their time harrassing the Blogger Community, which is basically readers helping and sharing with other readers in an open and altruistic environment!

    geeeeezzzzzz………
    Suz
    p.s….miss your posts at the Cafe.

  21. October 18, 2009    

    Lexi: That is how I feel…I mean, come on, are they going to be sending Federal agents out after book bloggers?!??!?

    Serena: They obviously need more to do *dripping with sarcasm* Re: review copies…I think the implication is that if I get a review copy/ARC is is ALWAYS free…and if the FTC doesn’t understand that, the heck with them. They should do their homework!

    RR: Absolutely!!

    Susanne: Thanks for dropping by! It does seem ludicrous, doesn’t it? Re: the Cafe…I just need to scale back right now…I’ll be back full steam ahead for the January read 🙂

  22. October 23, 2009    

    Amen Wendy! This whole thing is ridiculous! I guess, at this time it doesn’t affect Canadian book bloggers but who knows what the future will be.

  23. October 25, 2009    

    Teddy: I don’t get the feeling that Canada is as rabid about these things…but I guess time will tell.

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