Free e-books for reviews: bad idea?

Well, this is fairly tone-deaf and yet remarkably predictable. Kim Ukura on BookRiot reports on publisher Crown Publishing Group’s book review program, “Blogging for Books.” This program sends books to bloggers to review…and then they have to review it, publicly, or get dropped from the program.

Under Blogging for Books, the vision of an ideal reader is one who reads everything, writes about it, then shares those thoughts across the web to create “buzz” about titles. It’s not enough to read a book and tell a friend – your feelings have to be made public (preferably on a retail site).

This vision of the enthusiastic, verbal, retail-oriented reader is not exclusive to book bloggers or book reviewers, either – it’s becoming part of the way The Publishing Industry thinks it is going to save itself.

Isn’t that just what you’d expect from a traditional publishing company? They hear that blogging, review, and social network buzz are incredibly important for selling books…so they set out to make some, mechanistically. Yeah, that’s going to work.

But regardless of whether the program is likely to meet the publisher’s goals in the longer term, Ukura wonders why it isn’t enough just to read a book anymore and only wax enthusiastic about the books you like,. She has a point, but on the other hand, no one’s making you participate in the program, and “just reading a book” doesn’t drive sales. And if the publishing company’s giving you a book free, they have some expectation of getting a favor in return. (Just be sure you disclose that you got it free in your review, or the FTC might be mad at you.)

3 Comments on Free e-books for reviews: bad idea?

  1. I must have missed something. What’s wrong with being obliged to perform some service in return for receiving a free book? As long as the bloggers aren’t being pressured to come up with positive reviews, I don’t see the problem. In fact it’s possible that requiring people to review books rather than leaving it up to them will actually produce a higher proportion of negative reviews — which given Sturgeon’s Law, is probably a good thing.

  2. My father reviewed scholarly books, which he received for free. Mainstream media reviewers get ARCs. What’s the problem here?

  3. I think readers have to work for the free books. It’s not a free lunch program.

    I wonder what would happen if a reader got a bad free book but felt obligated to give the review. Do bad reviews get the reader dropped? Could it lead to more false positive comments?

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