Read. Write. Edit.
Posted by Michelle on Jun 28, 2012 in bookselling, e-books, publishing, rant, recent | 5 comments
Tell us what you think
This conversation that you’ve archived here is unfortunate. It does not reflect well on librarians or bloggers. It makes everyone look small and juvenile. Professionalism is important but is that what this is?
I respectfully disagree. If there were name-calling or accusations, then yes, all the parties would have looked juvenile. But a lively discussion of a topic of interest—and perhaps importance—within the publishing world is valuable and shows better upon the participants than a lot of online debates.
The fact that it comes up time and again after each major publishing conference indicates that it is an issue, and one that does need to be addressed. I’d say ignoring the problem and complaining without beginning a dialogue is much more childish, and much less productive.
The fact that the issue regarding ARCs comes up after every conference isn’t indicative of a problem with a particular class of individuals in the ecosphere. It is indicative of an industry in flux.
ARCs are unfortunately viewed as currency. The idea that the blogger must provide something in exchange for an ARC gives rise to a quid pro quo sort of exchange that actually inhibits a blogger’s independence and value to her community. Additionally, you imply an obligation where there is none.
Viewing ARCs as currency is mostly the problem; not the classification of people and their value in the publishing ecosphere. The fight over who gets free books is what makes this look juvenile and small and petty.
Interesting conversation and not an issue that can be solved easily I think. Two points (from my book blogger point of view):
You talk about “free” books, but a blogger that actually reads and reviews each book, does a lot of work for that free book. The hourly rate would be very low if you look at the value of the book. It’s a different story for those bloggers that you describe that just pick up all the books they can get and more than they can possibly review.
So, be careful in what context you refer to “free books”.
Secondly, most book bloggers are hobbyists. As soon as we get paid in money for reviewing books (i.e., we become “professionals”), we may not be trusted to give our independent opinion on the book. We can act professionally, but not all of us do, unfortunately. And should we? As hobbyists? It’s a difficult question!
I agree that it is a complex issue, which is why it’s so good to discuss.
You make a good point that bloggers are not paid for their reviews (though many do receive income through advertising and other means, which puts them into the professional sphere), but the thing about that is most bloggers will do just fine without ever receiving an ARC. That doesn’t mean they have to go out and spend a lot of their own money, either, because libraries—which comes to the heart of the debate—are a free and accessible resource for pretty much every blogger out there.
That isn’t to say that bloggers don’t benefit from receiving ARCs, because they obviously do, but it isn’t essential to performing their job, I guess you could say.
I see the issue coming down to that of time and place. ALA is specifically meant for librarians and those who support that mission. BEA is a bit more open, as it is a trade show, but that still indicates professionals within a field.
I’m not sure who makes the decision about which groups are allowed to attend, whether it’s the convention organizer, in the case of BEA, Reed Exhibitions, or if a governing body, like ALA, decides that. But it is clear that whoever runs these shows makes more money when more people attend, and so the demand is much higher than the supply. Who that hurts, and I speak here in context of these organizations and shows, are the attendees for whom the conference was intended. In this case, librarians, who pay hefty fees to attend and who rely upon these materials to help them better perform their job.
It’s not an issue of bloggers not getting ARCs; publishers do and will likely continue to court their attention. What it’s really about is making sure the people who need these materials most to perform their jobs are receiving them. If publishers decided to stop providing ARCs to librarians, that’s their prerogative, but as things are now organized, the librarians are the intended recipients.
Why, even Disney Hyperion has stated on NetGalley that they aren’t currently considering blogger requests. That says to me that librarians and booksellers and media professionals—including professional reviewers—are the priority. That may well change in the near future, but right now, that’s how it is.
That’s why I’d like to see a con take shape to cater to the needs and demands of bloggers. They are a completely different audience than librarians and booksellers, which is, by nature, a good thing. But when one group encroach on a con specifically set aside for another group—especially when there are no guidelines or etiquette established for the new group—it causes conflict and contention. It would benefit everyone, I think, to have something like Book Blogger Con where bloggers can go, expecting to receive education, discussion, and materials tailored specifically to them. In that way, publishers can decide how they would like to apportion their resources for the demands of each group.
Right now it’s a bit chaotic, and so it is good to discuss these things so that order and solutions result.
As for the other points, I would caution about considering a book as payment. By taking out the context of “free ARCs,” it leaves the implication that bloggers are paid through receipt of the books for their reviews. It doesn’t matter how much effort a blogger puts in—which I know can be considerable since I’ve blogged and reviewed books myself—that ARC is still a courtesy.
The implication that professional reviewers are paid for their reviews is incorrect, unless you are referring to a magazine or newspaper or other entity that pays the reviewer for the time they spend providing the reviews. They aren’t paid by the publisher at all, and it’s a definite conflict of interest and ethical issue if they do.
In the emerging world of blogging, professional bloggers are those, like Jane from Dear Author who commented above, who receive income through their blogs from sponsors and advertisers and other sources of revenue related to the blog. It would be an insult to her and other professional bloggers to imply that publishers pay them for their opinions.
I’m also a bit surprised that anyone should be encouraged to not act professionally when attending a professional convention. Of course hobbyists should act professionally—or, if you don’t like that term, ethically and respectfully—when participating in something of a professional nature. But like you said, many don’t, and so those bloggers aren’t going to receive the same credibility or support from publishers.
Blogging is a new field, especially in the book world, and it has many facets that are untested and still being formed. It’s good to have these discussions early on as bloggers are still figuring out how they work within the publishing ecosystem, but if they really want to earn and keep the trust and respect of publishing professionals, they must act accordingly.
On a similar note, members of the other professions—librarians, booksellers and such—must act professionally, too. That doesn’t always happen, which is why there are organizations for their various memberships. There isn’t a governing body or uniting group for bloggers, which means there is also a large lack of organization. So when there is a boom like the current blogging explosion, it creates chaos for not only bloggers, but publishers and librarians and booksellers, until order is established.
And this comment is much too long, so I’ll stop there.
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