Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle board of directors, recently questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for online book reviewers (like me) to provide links to sites like Amazon for the books they review. I think Kevin Holtsberry put it wonderfully:
All kidding aside, or at least most kidding aside, this whole kerflufle is the height of silliness. Do people really think I take the time to read books and write reviews on this site so I can rake in the tens of dollars that Amazon might send my way? Is this a huge ethical dilemma?! Give me a break.This is a hobby people! We do it because we enjoy it and have a passion about books. The pressure comes from a desire to write well and successfully communicate not from a desire to up our Amazon affiliate numbers. As every book blogger will tell you, the joy comes from finding good books and telling others about them. The money is so laughably small given the book buying budgets of most folks that I really have a hard time believing it influences anyone.
I would simply add two things. Under this theory, isn’t it also a conflict of interest for a book reviewer to receive the gratis review copies from the publisher? I think I purchased at least half or more of the books reviewed, something that probably can’t be said for “professional” reviewers. Second, whether a link appears has nothing to do with what I think of a book. I provide links for every book, even those I pan.
So here comes the big disclosure: I’ve received roughly $15 over the life of this blog from Amazon sales, including the princely sum of $3.64 so far this year. (Only two of the purchases were books reviewed here, one originally published in 1988.) With all that cash rolling in, it’s no wonder I keep going out and buying books so I can post reviews here.
Oh, oh. I hope this disclosure and post don’t scotch my NBCC membership application.
We call the intention good which is right in itself, but the action is good, not because it contains within it some good, but because it issues from a good intention.