Booking Through Thursday: Reviewer obligations

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

I addressed this somewhat indirectly before, including a lengthy quotation from an e-mail I received from one author very unhappy with what I said about his book. As that prior post would indicate, I don’t believe reviewers are “obligated” to authors, regardless of how they got the book. The only obligations reviewers have are to their own sense of integrity and to the people who may read the review.

I can imagine a situation where I dislike a book so much that rather than post a review I would tell the author or PR person that I’ve decided not to review it. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, at least on books that have been provided to me for review.

As for disclaimers, I don’t think I need to give one to “save” myself if an author is unhappy. The review is simply my opinion and nothing more. Whether others agree or not doesn’t really matter; they are entitled to their own opinion. And just as I have the right to express my opinion, authors certainly have an equal right to express their opinions about what I write — even if some authors think reviewers are “unjustifiably enthusiastic.”

As indicated, I do feel an obligation to those who may read this blog. I think they need to know that some of the material I review comes gratis and that I might get a spiff from Amazon if they buy something after clicking on an Amazon link here. The latter has amounted to a whopping $8.09 this year. The amount is irrelevant. The fact I may get something is relevant. That’s why this site addresses both those topics, and others, in my Reader Pledge.

A critic is a bundle of biases held loosely together by a sense of taste.

Whitney Balliet, Dinosaurs in the Morning

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