Warning: This is a commentary, and Lynn is breathing fire.
Oh dear god. Once again, our government works its magic in order to meddle in affairs for which it has no experience or knowledge. What am I talking about? I’m talking about how the Federal Trade Commission has seen fit to revise their “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials.” It states that bloggers who review books or video game systems must now disclose if they got those books or video games for free. Why the necessity for disclosure, you ask?
Because the FTC trembles in fear that those freebie copies we send out – called Advance Reader Copies – are the equivalent of an endorsement – that we send out books with the “expectation of a favorable review.” If these idiots at the FTC knew anything about publishing, they’d realize that we have absolutely zero expectation of a favorable review. Heck, we don’t even know if we’ll even get reviewed. It’s a crapshoot.
I’d sure like to see the FTC’s proof that freebies = favorable endorsement because I don’t know of a single publisher who has seen this be the case at all. In fact, I’ve seen any number online reviews that were anything but laudatory about books they’d read, and we all know the books were sent for free.
This is just all kinds of stupid because it lacks any scintilla of logic. For one thing, book review bloggers are no different from the trade magazines and newspapers who review. But Bureau of Consumer Protection representative, Richard Cleland, insists that newspaper and magazines are exempt because “the newspaper receives the book and it allows the reviewer to review it, it’s still the property of the newspaper.”
Now Cleland has no problem with a blog review provided the blogger doesn’t keep the book after h/she’s done reviewing it. In Cleland’s mind, hanging on to the book is paramount to the blogger being compensated, and this requires a disclosure. Good grief, I can see bookslut.com saying, “Hey, dudes, we got this book for freeeee…” Well no shit, Sherlock. Every reviewer gets free books, and no one is complaining. If no one cares, why does the FTC? Furthermore, why won’t they even listen to those who are in the business?
Does the FTC presume to know more about the publishing/review business than we do? Apparently so, since he told Edward Champion in an interview, “You simply don’t agree, which is your right.” Well, dang my buttons, Mr. Cleland, thanks for at least allowing us to disagree with you. But I’d like to know why is it when someone disagrees with a government action that we are dismissed, rather than consulted as to why we don’t agree. We don’t agree because we know our business – something Cleland clearly lacks.
And get this; if those bloggers don’t comply, they can receive an 11K fine. I’m curious as to how the FTC plans on implementing this policy. Have they hired a bunch of brown shirts to invade the homes of thousands of blog review sites and verify whether those books are sitting on the shelves or have been properly disposed of?
Who the hell is the FTC to make distinctions about what is “compensation” and what is simply going about the course of performing one’s job? You want to talk about an industry dirty secret, let’s talk about magazines who strenuously peddle their ad space? It’s a well-known fact that buying ad space increases your chances of getting a book review. Ad space is far from free. But do we all go running to the government because we don’t like it? Of course not. It’s the nature of doing business.
Just who is getting hurt here? If Cleland spent a week sitting in my chair, he’d realize that bloggers are as far from paid endorsements as the beagle is finding sobriety.
And speaking about those newspapers and magazines; does he really think those books don’t disappear off the shelves once they are reviewed? Puhleeze.
Why is the blogger injudiciously accused of being compensated when there are very big trade magazines that offer paid reviews? They don’t disclose which reviews are paid for, so anyone reading the review section is none the wiser. All the publisher or author has to do is fork over some hefty cash and get a guaranteed big-name review. To me, this is far more compensatory than some blogger who keeps a freaking book because the author or publisher does have the expectation of a favorable review.
Lastly, I wonder why the FTC cares? Cleland’s answer to this is predictably anemic.
“If a blogger received enough books,” said Cleland, “he could open up a used bookstore.”
I really, really want what this guy is smoking.
My god, when I think of all the paid graft that takes place in the entertainment industry, attacking bloggers makes as much sense as sending the beagle to the Betty Ford Clinic. They have some real problems to deal with, like e-book piracy. Attacking a segment of the review industry for some trumped up grievance is pathetic at best.
Why does the government feel the need to “fix” what ain’t broken? I know, I know, the answer is “because screwing things up is what they do best.”
There are some very good articles that articulate the facts far better than I. I excel at righteous outrage.
After reading about this latest gasp at government intrusion, I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines; who is John Galt?