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Review integrity, reviewer freedom and pay-for-review marketing

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2jmnlman
Mar 25, 2009, 5:52pm Top

As a frequent reviewer I commend LT for this.

3retropelocin
Edited: Mar 25, 2009, 6:01pm Top

My book review blog is on a site that pays (I think it's, like, $2 for every 1000 unique visitors to ones blog). It will no doubt be a long time before I ever make anything but the affiliate links I was putting on my blogger blog weren't paying either.

I do not solicit or accept books from authors or publishers. LT is the only place I ever accept books for review. Other than that, I buy or pay for everything I review.

Anyway, personally, I think if someone is being compensated by the author or publisher, they certainly should be clear about that.

I don't know how anyone's opinion can't be swayed by the "payola". Maybe they can still be honest but I would really look at those reviews with a fine toothed comb, if at all.

LT should make whatever rules they feel will keep the integrity of this site.

4Helcura
Mar 25, 2009, 5:57pm Top

I like it. It supports the integrity of all of us who write honest reviews. Good job by you Tim.

5staffordcastle
Mar 25, 2009, 6:01pm Top

Good for you. I'm glad you did this; I can't feel comfortable about trusting a review that was bought and paid for; even if the reviewer is honest, they have to be swayed just a little by the fact that they have received payment for the review.

6timspalding
Mar 25, 2009, 6:05pm Top

I'd be glad to make it more clear that selling your own review, indirectly through adsense on your blog or directly by writing for, say, the NYT, is no problem. It's being paid by the author or publisher that's a problem. It creates a conflict of interest.

7lorax
Mar 25, 2009, 6:14pm Top

Thank you.

8Sararush
Mar 25, 2009, 6:22pm Top

Here's my question...in perusing a few of the websites it doesn't even seem as if the reviewer does receive compensation beyond a book. Can anyone clarify that for me?

If so they aren't only exploiting LibraryThing and similar sites, but also their reviewers. I think it's a manipulative practice at the least, and I'm glad LT is taking a stand.

9stephmo
Mar 25, 2009, 10:41pm Top

Well done blog post - I do hope more sites join in and take a stand. Communities don't deserve this kind of pollution.

Better yet, let's hope authors realize these guys are just looking to steal money from them for doing next to nothing. No one needs these kind of shenanigans.

10Alixtii
Mar 25, 2009, 11:23pm Top

>6 timspalding:

I think making it more clear would be a good thing, especially since the addition to the TOS as written isn't so much unclear as saying something else. Adding in "by the author or publisher or their agents" in #3 would do the job, I think.

11Heather19
Mar 25, 2009, 11:24pm Top

WOOT!! Go LT!!

I knew, of course, about these pay-for-review tactics, but until recently I had no idea it had happened at all on LT. LT is such a wonderful site, and the openness and freedom and, for the most part, honesty, is one of the things I like best. Book lovers, honest-to-goodness book lovers. I'm so glad that something has been put in place to stop LT from gaining "data" like reviews and such, that really only reflect what they are being paid to reflect.

(and if that made sense, yay)

12WholeHouseLibrary
Mar 26, 2009, 12:41am Top

What lorax said (#7).

13JulesJones
Mar 26, 2009, 3:50am Top

Thank you -- as both a reader and an author.

14tikitu
Mar 26, 2009, 7:15am Top

Tim@6, Alixtii@10 has the right idea.

For example, the terms as they stand would prohibit professional reviewers (who after all get paid for writing reviews) from reposting their reviews on LT. Not that I think pros will be able to repost here anyway, but it shouldn't be LT that prevents them.

I'd prefer allowing paid reviews but requiring full disclosure, except that it's much much harder to police.

The clauses on ownership and creative control are excellent.

15bduguid
Mar 27, 2009, 8:35am Top

Agree with 6, 10 and 14, please clarify the TOS. Several of my reviews published on LT are "reprints" of reviews I was paid for elsewhere (not in the sense that Tim objects to!) but hold copyright on.

16timspalding
Mar 27, 2009, 10:53am Top

How about:

"Reviewers must not be paid for their reviews, except in free books and similar non-monetary perks."

to

"Reviewers must not be paid by authors or publishers for their reviews, except in free books and similar non-monetary perks.

17lorax
Mar 27, 2009, 11:05am Top

16>

I'd add "directly or indirectly" to that list, and maybe throw agents in there too -- otherwise you'll get cases where the author "buys" reviews from some organization that then contracts them out to the reviewer, so that the reviewer isn't directly paid by the author but the flow of money is still in that direction.

18skittles
Mar 27, 2009, 11:42am Top

#16: what about marketers??

what about "authors, publishers or others who have a monetary interest in the books"?

19springbokkie
Mar 27, 2009, 11:02pm Top

I underscore staffordcastle's remarks - I'm so proud to be a member of a site that not offers a great service, but stands for integrity, honesty and respect for the views & reviews of it's members. How refreshing. Thank you!

20writestuff
Mar 28, 2009, 8:34pm Top

Thanks for taking a stand on this integrity issue.

I get a lot of free books from publishers and authors, but I have a clear policy posted on my blog that all reviews are HONEST ones...if I don't like a book, I say I don't like it. I have never made any money from my reviews (or my blog for that matter!) and always cross post my reviews on my blog to LT.

It is revolting to think that people are posting five star reviews to make money - I have always felt like I can trust reviews on LT and I have many favorite blogs which I go to for recommendations - I would be so bummed to think that something could be posted which was not honest.

21melannen
Edited: Mar 30, 2009, 2:53am Top

Tim @ 6: Yeah, I definitely think that needs to be made more clear. For example, I was asked once by a publisher to submit my (not-entirely-positive) LT review to a possibly-paying publication they were associated with. I didn't take them up on it, for a couple reasons, but I liked the *idea* that that's possible, through LT. The guidelines you posted don't make it clear whether that would be okay, though, even with a "publishers or authors" caveat.

I definitely don't want LT to become a place that paid astroturfers fill with non-sincere reviews, and I love the idea of keeping it free, volunteer, community- and enthusiam- based, but I think you also need to be careful about "poisoning the well", making the whole site unfriendly for people who are, or aspire to be, legitimate professional reviewers.

I like the first three points, I'd actually vote to change the last point to something like "Reviewers must not be paid for posting to Librarything, except in free books and similar non-monetary perks." That wouldn't prevent reviewers from cross-posting, if they wanted their review here, but it would prevent people from simply using LT for moneymaking purposes.

22imayb1
Apr 2, 2009, 3:04pm Top

This issue was picked up by TeleRead today! http://www.teleread.org/2009/04/02/bought-book-reviews-librarything-cracks-down-...

As others have said, I'm glad to see you taking a stand against sleazy review practices. I want to read book reviews from people who honestly loved OR loathed a book, rather than people who were paid to 'talk it up' for hype. It's an important distinction readers appreciate.

23timspalding
Apr 2, 2009, 5:59pm Top

Oh, good. I like Teleread.

I'm going to make it clear you can be paid, just not by the publisher or author, directly or through an intermediary. Fair enough, people?

24retropelocin
Edited: Apr 2, 2009, 6:09pm Top

Sounds pretty clear and direct to me!

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