When will the Federal Trade Commission, the bureaucracy housed in the building to the left, crack down on that—in a truly meaningful way?
Just why isn’t the Amazon site full of big, conspicuous reminders mandated by the FTC?
So you can bet I was more than a little baffled when the FTC announced hefty fines for bloggers who didn’t play by a newly announced set of rules about free products (PDF alert), including review copies of books. Bottom line: You’d better disclose if you review a book and keep a copy, even an e-book that cost the author virtually $0 to email you. Isn’t this a little inconsistent, given the FTC’s laxity on DRM at Amazon.com and elsewhere, despite a recent hearing?
Book costs are small compared to reviewing time
Interestingly, the cost of a typical book tends to be small compared to the time spent reviewing it properly. Maybe the FTC could include an exemption for a review of greater than a certain length, with suitable documentation showing time devoted to it.
I’m all in favor of reasonable disclosure rules, but read Ed Champion’s interview with Richard Cleland of the FTC and see if the agency isn’t going too far. Also see Galley Cat here and here and here and here, as well as Slate. The odd thing is that the rules are aimed at bloggers while sparing the mainstream media, which is interesting, given the number of MSM folks who received free Kindles from Amazon. What’s more, we know how much we can depend on the MSM to review first novels and e-books, right? Don’t you love how the feds are encouraging E?
In fairness to the FTC, the $11K fines are really aimed more at advertisers than bloggers, and first offenders won’t have to pay a nickel. Just the same, I’m appalled by the singling out of bloggers. Perhaps the MSM will be next—and deservedly so, if they don’t speak out against this craziness.
Meanwhile here’s an excerpt from Champion’s post on Cleland:
Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.
“If a blogger received enough books,” said Cleland, “he could open up a used bookstore.”
Disclosure: Yep, I’ll still corrupt reviewers with free review copies in E or P of The Solomon Scandals for them to praise or pan.