Shortly after the Federal Trade Commission issued its “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” yesterday, the world learned that the FTC judges newspapers and blogs by different standards—while newspapers (and magazines, and radio shows, and TV shows) are able to receive consumer products for the purposes of review with no requirement to disclose the provenance of those products, the FTC’s stated position is that bloggers are receiving those same consumer products as compensation for a presumed endorsement: Nobody but a blockhead ever gave a blogger anything, according to the FTC, except for good reviews.
Excuse me while I laugh. The idea that I might generate even the tiniest bit of income from this blog is ridiculous. I blog because I love: I love to read and I love to blog about what I read. And for the record, I have bought the majority of the books I review on this blog, with the notable exceptions of LIAR by Justine Larbalestier and CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins, the ARCs of which I borrowed from Russ. (And I went and bought the hardcover for CATCHING FIRE anyway, so nyah.)
The major difference between me and The New York Times book review is that 1) they are a professional organization known the world over, and 2) they are a professional organization known the world over. People buy their words, either via newsprint itself or online ad-space.
Nobody buys my words. No one sends me books for a good review. No one sends me books, period. If most of the reviews on my blog are positive (there are a few exceptions in there, I promise), it’s because I’ve spent my own dollars on books I have actually wanted to read. Honestly, nothing sucks more than having to slog through a novel you have no interest in finishing just for the sake of writing a
book report review.
The other problem with the FTC’s new guidelines is with regards to the “word-of-mouth” buzz that develops. Books are not like iPhones or new camera models or other products because of one very important reason:
In all likelihood, people don’t know about books unless they’ve read about it somewhere.
Unlike the iPhone or Windows 7 or other products, the default setting isn’t “buy”. Generally, a lot of people decide to buy a product and then look up reviews of the product for reasons not to purchase. Movies are like that as well. See a trailer, decide whether or not you’re going to see it, then read critics’ reviews to see if it’s worth the $12.50 you’re going to spend. (That’s what it costs to watch a movie in New York City these days.)
Books are often the opposite. People look at reviews of novels for reasons to buy. This is a crucial difference, and why it’s silly to treat novels like any other other product for consumption.
I mean, the new regulations are silly. What about books you borrow from friends, and then review on your blog? If I make money on my review blog from ads, does this mean that I can go out and claim my book-buying as a “business expense” on my taxes? Really, FTC, really?
Anyway, I’m off to review PAPER TOWNS by John Green. Which I bought in paperback because I am poor. And not to mention all my other John Green novels are in paperback and I’m OCD that way.