After taking yesterday off from Armchair BEA, I’m back and ready to go! Also, excited to talk about non-fiction, because I’ve recently started reading a lot more.
But first, ethics. I suppose to me, the basic ethics of blogging seem fairly straightforward. Tell me your biases. Tell me if you’re related to an author, or best friends. If you’re part of a promotional tour or package, tell me that too. Don’t use someone else’s words without attribution. Be honest. Don’t steal. Be kind (which is not the same thing as being “nice”). I suspect this is partly a personality thing: while I’m comfortable with ambiguity, there’s a certain baseline of rules that are just non-negotiable.
Now, as far as copyright and book covers and disclosure of ARCs go–that’s a thorny mess. I’ve read that using book covers is fair use and therefore fine. I personally like to add where I got the book, whether it’s personal library, public library, Inter-library loan, or a free copy. This is just because I think it helps add a sense of how easy it is to get the book.
But partly I think that everyone is still scrambling to catch up with this new world of book blogging–yes, STILL. For instance, one of the more fascinating things I saw coming out of Actual BEA yesterday was a tweet from Kelly Jensen (@catagator): “BEST THING I’VE LEARNED TODAY: no need to do an FTC disclaimer on critical reviews! Only ENDORSEMENTS.” I’m not clear yet on what this means, but it seems to indicate that negative (“critical” which is NOT the same thing, but that’s a different post) reviews don’t need an FTC disclaimer, whereas positive ones (“endorsements”) do. This might make sense from the FTC point of view; it really bothers me. Regardless, the point is that one statement by one person at a big conference could potentially have wide ripples throughout the blogging community.
It’s also true that probably a lot of blogs technically are not following all of the official rules correctly. What seems perfectly normal and harmless could potentially be problematic. And I’ve read a couple of posts that advocate being super careful, which is probably good advice. I’m not one to stick a lot of gifs*, or even photos, in my posts, which makes it a bit easier.
I’m not sure exactly what my conclusion is, if any. Try not to do some thing wrong/hurtful/illegal, and if you do, own your mistake and apologize. No excuses, no “I have no idea how this happened!”. I know it’s hard, and so tempting to try to erase your own bad judgment. But don’t do it. Apologize sincerely. Blogging often brings out our ego, either in an I’m-so-awesome way, or a I’m-so-terrible way. Push that to the side and write as the best person you can be, and I think you’ll be okay.
* HARD G, PEOPLE.