The FTC has just released new guidelines for bloggers that require reviewers to reveal any compensation they get from the maker of the product being reviewed. This has been interpreted to include review copies themselves. Although talk of $11,000 fines is being batted about, I don’t think the FTC is going to be swooping in on manga bloggers anytime soon. I suspect this is really aimed at those fake weight-loss blogs, shopping blogs, etc.
However, it seems like as good a time as any to make clear the guidelines under which MangaBlog operates. It’s basic journalistic ethics: I write honest reviews, and I avoid conflicts of interest and disclose those that can’t be avoided, no matter how small.
I cheerfully accept review copies, and if a review is based on a complimentary copy, I always note that at the end of the review (except sometimes I forget). I always do an honest review, no matter where a book comes from. I believe that publishers are grownups and can handle a bad review, and if I pull my punches, all my reviews lose credibility.
(Incidentally, since manga retails for $10 to $12, and it takes me 3-4 hours to read and review a book, the hourly wage on this thing is pretty low. Certainly not worth selling out my integrity for.)
The only obligation that a free book creates in my mind is the obligation to write about it. I am more likely to write about a review copy than a book I bought myself because I do feel that I owe the publisher some sort of review.
I read as many review copies as possible, and I mention a few every week at Robot 6 in my weekly contributions to their What Are You Reading? column. In addition to MangaBlog, I write for PWCW and Graphic Novel Reporter, and I often base my articles for those venues on review copies. And since I’m the editor of Good Comics for Kids, I may review a kid- or teen-friendly book and then pass it along to one of the writers there, so some publishers get double duty for their review copies.
If I have any connection at all with a book, I will disclose that in the review. If I feel that I’m too friendly with a creator to write an objective review of their book, I won’t review it, but I might look for a guest reviewer (I have a few of these in the works).
I keep a lot of my review copies, but space is finite, so I donate some of them to the excellent Reader to Reader program and to my local library. I also have been bringing kids’ comics into the office because I deal with a lot of families with kids, especially during the holiday season. Occasionally I put some books up on Paperback Swap, which is also a great place to find that missing volume of an older series. I do sell books on eBay, but not very often, as it’s really not worth the trouble (except for yaoi, which can’t really be donated to my usual venues).