About reviews

I post book reviews here once in a while, and reviews of gaming materials. My book reviews more regularly appear on Goodreads.com, which is a pretty neat web site if you haven’t heard of it. This link goes to my reviews there. Earlier this year I learned about Goodread’s “First reads” program which is basically a system where authors and publishers offer free books to be given away to users, in hopes of getting reviews and/or ratings, and to appear in people’s ‘to-read’ or ‘currently reading’ feeds —  i.e. publicity. The only downside is that I feel a bit obligated to read the books right away and post a review, so I’m probably going to stop entering the giveaways, or cut back, as it has put other things I want to read on the back burner.  I usually manage to finish one or two books a week, though with the holidays I have less time for reading.

Anyway the interesting thing about this, and the impetus for this post, is that Goodreads is pretty conscientious about pointing out that reviewers need to indicate whether they are getting any kind of remuneration, including free review copies, wherever they post their reviews. I think it is common sense to do so, but I see a lot of reviews on blogs and some people might need this reminder. The FTC guidelines on this, if you’re curious, are here. (Presumably, a review of something that is free for anyone & everyone who asks, like free pdfs on someone’s site, would not need a disclaimer — I’m not a lawyer, though, so don’t take that as legal advice.)

So, have you ever posted a review for something you were given for free, with or without the expectation of a review? Do you think it influences your review? I have read that people are more likely to give positive reviews to things they had to pay for (because consciously or not, who wants to admit they made a bad choice when they bought it?*), but on the other hand, a free copy of a thing is a kind of remuneration, and you might feel like you “owe” the giver something. The funny thing is that the reviews in “regular media outlets” are almost always made from free review copies (or reviews of events made with free admission, etc.) and no-one needs to be told the reviewer didn’t have to pay for the item or the ticket to the event — presumably because everyone knows that that’s how it works.

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*BTW one of the best RPG review sites, Ten Foot Pole, does not accept free review copies, as far as I can tell, but gives very thorough and useful reviews, calling a turd a turd and finding good stuff buried in dross.

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Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 6:25 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. I think that if you can pick your own choices of the free books, your review could be more positive because you will choose books that fit your taste more. If the publisher or your manager sends you books randomly, it can be more of a chore to read them.
    If I felt that my review would be detrimental to the publisher and I feel sympathetic for them (especially with self published authors), I usually just don’t publish the review, or just a very short one that doesn’t go into the details, and I try to find the target audience for it, who might enjoy it.
    If the book I got is not my own choice, I usually consider the free book as the fee for my time to read and review it.
    Some publishers consider a free gift as an automatic positive review, so a neutral or bad one might make you look bad in their eyes as if you’ve betrayed their trust. Sometimes it happens even though I always tell them first I’ll publish my sincere opinions.
    I’d also have a question to fellow reviewers – what do you do with your copies after reviewing them? (Especially if you didn’t like the book.) Do you collect them as trophies, or do you give them away to less fortunate friends?

    • I generally give mine away to friends (or to my local library for their book sale). But I guess if I got a really excellent book for review I might add it to my modest collection of books.


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