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.
*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.