Armchair BEA: The Ethics of Book Blogging & Non-Fiction

Sticker Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads)

The Ethics of Book Blogging

This is a topic I’ve been giving a lot of thought to. I see many aspects having to do with ethics, from plagiarism and your Policy to disclosure of source of books reviewed to disclosure of relationships with the author/publisher if a relevant one is there.

~ Plagiarism ~
I’m starting with this one because it’s a personal issue I have; I wasn’t plagiarized in the blogging world (or I don’t know about it, lol!), but I did run into this particular brand of theft while I was in University. There was a lot of plagiarism going on. Some teachers caught it, some didn’t. Some students got very good grades on stolen content while I, for instance, always did things by the book. It annoyed me to no end, but I didn’t rat them out even though I knew what they’d done. Mainly because in my mind it would be a direct comment on that professor’s area of expertise, since they didn’t catch it… well… So I just gritted my teeth and kept going the hard way to get my 10 while they took shortcuts.
People will tell you doing that is the better way, that it will pay off in the end. And it will. Where they just hit copy/paste and remained pleasantly virginal about the actual information, I researched it, thought about it, internalized it. And it does make a difference, and you’ll be able to tell it in the first about two minutes of talking to each of us, on any topic. That’s all true. It’s also true as far as our grades go, we’re very close and the only ones who know how we each got there is ourselves. It also means that people will think since those grades were gotten so easily, that everyone got them easily, and in short that you – the one who studied and knows what the hell it’s all about – also don’t know squat because the cheaters obviously don’t. Long story short, everybody ends up losing, except the actual thieves. Highly, highly irritating.

So as much as ratting out isn’t appreciated, I’d probably say something about it if I’d be in the same position. To the cheater, maybe to the authority figure in that activity – in my case, the professor. If they take offense or react badly, you just deal with that when and if it happens. Plagiarism is stealing. It’s got to be stopped, just like stealing. There are two ways for that to happen, either the authority figure catches it and squishes it in the bud, or the victims speak out and do their best to stop it.

This stands for bloggers who steal content too. If someone is inspired by something, or if you’re doing something like something else, mention the source. Nobody can stop you from doing derivative thinking, if you catch my drift. But that’s not stealing, it’s just getting inspired. And if you got inspired, mention what inspired you. But do your own thing with that inspiration. Just like in scientific papers, nobody says you shouldn’t use someone else’s awesome ideas. In fact you’re encouraged to, that’s why they were made public – to become useful. But quote your source, tell your reader where you got the idea from and help them see how what you’re doing is different by having that term of comparison.
It stands for reviews, policies, memes and the likes, everything. Sometimes, because we go around in the same circles, we might get similar ideas without having any inspiration on it. But that’s going to be obvious, because different ideas from different people will manifest differently. You know? It might be so different that you won’t even realize the similarity unless it’s pointed out by someone. That’s not theft, that’s just lots of common stuff that might generate similar ideas. That doesn’t equal very alike content though.
As my friend Beck says, “Be real, don’t steal!

~ Policies ~
I think setting up a Policy and following it is essential; about reviews and reviews requests, about rating, about appearances on your blog – the whole shebang. Policies are rules that you’ll apply equally to everyone, I believe they’re a very important aspect of ethics. Also useless since a lot of the time people don’t bother to read the Policy and just email to ask you directly for a quickie, because they’re just too busy to bother reading your Policy that has the clear answer to their question. You, on the other hand, are not too busy to answer them about it (though I tend to say bla bla as specified in my Policy here bla bla). It’s annoying when that happens, don’t you find it annoying?

Someone said I’m on a power trip because of my Policy at some point, and proceeded to say I should just give them the simple answers to questions instead of directing them to my Policy that does say everything they were asking about. I find that rude and offensive, and I’ll tell you why. We’re busy people. All of us. Blogging is a time-consuming activity in itself, but as book bloggers we’re also big time readers – again, takes time – and aside all of that we have, you know, lives. When we put up a Policy somewhere, it’s not because we’re on a power trip. It’s because we’ve compiled a list of all things you might need to know before contacting us about anything, and it saves us both time to not go over that information again in a series of emails. Read the Policy, 9 times out of 10 whatever you’re asking is already answered in it.
We don’t write them because we’re on power trips, we write them because we’re thoughtful and efficient. Join our club, yeah? 🙂

~ Disclosures ~
I’m a fan of those, too. I wrote a couple of those in my TRR, including the FTC thing, any affiliate programs I’m part of, any publishers I’m otherwise connected to.

I’m also an author now and I don’t intend to stop being a book blogger because of it. This will remain my book blog, not my author blog – I opened up another one for that hat. I do both. I don’t believe there’s a conflict there, because this is my book blogger hat and my author one doesn’t affect it ie I don’t treat anyone any differently. I do make use of it when I spotlight my releases, for instance, but they’re given the same treatment as all other book spotlights are on my blog – of which there are many, by the way. And I add a DISCLOSURE there saying I’m the author of this thing spotlighted. Of course they’re few and far between, because, seriously, how many releases could I possibly have per year, right? But I make it clear they’re about me, however many.
I also added disclosure I’m a signed author with X publishers in the Terms, explained why I believe being an author is not an impediment as far as book blogging is concerned in the FAQ’s. If I do reviews of books published by a publisher I’m collaborating with as an author, my readers can decide if I’m doing anyone any favors because of that, and I trust them to make that decision when given the full disclosure. I don’t publish those on my author blog because I don’t talk about books as an author, but as a book blogger.

In my mind, there’s a difference. As a book blogger, I don’t consider anything but my reading experience. Since this is all a subjective blog anyway I’d be ridiculous to claim I’m perfectly objective on anything, but I just focus on my reading experience and speak about it in a way that doesn’t spoil the story. I don’t treat any author or publisher differently. Whoever contacts me about something gets the same treatment and options, and I still read & review the titles that look good to me, regardless of who wrote them or who published them. Maaaaaaybe some of my fellow authors might resent me for it at some point, but then again some authors end up resenting anyone talking about their books, so I think I’m okay on that front.

I’ve thought about not dealing with publishers I’ve signed with at all as a book blogger, to completely ignore authors signed with them just to be sure I keep it 100% separate, but it doesn’t seem fair that some authors should go into a “blind zone” on my blog just because I’ve also at some point signed with a pub they did. Right? So I decided the most fair-play would be not treat them differently, one way or the other: no special favors, no ignoring them either.

I also state where I got the review copy when I review, if it’s a RBR ie review by request it means I got a free copy either by being offered one from the author/publisher or by requesting it myself someplace (like NetGalley). If it’s a ROMR it’s a review of a book I bought or borrowed (less likely) in whatever format. I label these reviews, mention these things. If my readers don’t really care about where the book came from, they can ignore the information. But it’s there for them to see and decide upon for themselves. For some it might matter where I got the review copy from, or if I’m otherwise connected to that author or publisher. Even if the very fact that I talk about a book means to me that I only talk about my reading experience of it and nothing else, so the only thing that matter is the reading experience and that’s that.

But that’s how I see things. The point is, I don’t make those decisions for my readers. I let them make their own decisions and I trust them to do it. I just make sure to make the information available so they have all the facts and decide for themselves.

~ Privileges & Responsibilities ~
As a book blogger, you get a few privileges. They can be advanced reader’s copies, review copies, chances to feature author blog appearances and sponsored book or book-related giveaways. I highly appreciate all the privileges I’ve gotten as a book blogger, and there have been many of them. Most of which, I’ll admit, I love the one that concerns my being able to read books in series I love sometimes months before the official release date (that is always so far away from the latest release, right?)

But with the perks also come responsibilities. You’re given these privileges with the understanding you’ll follow some basic rules, like never leaking the materials given to you, for instance, not ruining the fun of other readers with major spoilers, giving feedback (whatever it may be) within a time frame. I strongly support following those rules or terms, as long as they don’t try to control your content/opinion/freedom of expression&thought. Your first allegiance should be to yourself and your readers – so book lovers. You’re not in it to make money, most likely, and don’t care about the material gains or equivalent. You care about the books. So stay true to what you believe in, and when entering into any agreement or circle be aware of the rules and follow them.

Knowing something gives your extra responsibilities about how you handle that information, what you do with it. Some authors claim book bloggers are responsible for their sales, so they shouldn’t do negative reviews, or snark, or anything that might endanger their bookish activity. I think that’s wrong. Book blogs are not responsible for sales, though they might be kind enough to volunteer in bumping them now and then. The author is responsible for that, the publisher, the publicists.
Book bloggers have absolutely no Hippocratic oath to take; they can do as much harm as they feel like, if that’s what they’re about. The point is they’re under no real obligation to “first do no harm”, even though some might choose to take that path. You should be aware of their policy before contacting them, research their blog. Don’t be surprised a snarky blogger will do your book a snarky review.
Don’t confuse reviews with advertisements, I always make that point.

The reason why book blogs have become so popular is, in my opinion, exactly that: the freedom of the book blogger to speak their mind on books. That’s what keeps their readers interested, the fact that they’re keeping it real. We know we’re privy to more information than the regular reader might be, and we do what we feel is right with that information. We’re responsible for our actions, just like you are for yours. 🙂
And we’re all about the books and our reading experiences, not the monkeys or anything else. At least I know I am, and many of my fellow book bloggers are too.
What about you? What are you about?


Hmm… I don’t read a lot of that, at least not for leisure. And my non-fiction reading has decreased since my masters was done. When I read non-fiction nowadays it’s mostly as research, books on sociology, public relations, communication, philosophy, psychology and related. Aside sociology being my area of study, I’ve always found it and psychology entirely fascinating. I’ve read a lot on them, scientific-academic stuff. I’ve also read some famous critics, not with abandon or anything, but I did. Lots of authors wrote some form of literary criticism, you know? It’s very interesting to read their thoughts, I encourage you to try it out sometime if you loved their fiction.
I’ve read books on writing, some biographies of famous authors or scientists, some intriguing ancient history related novels.
I’m not a fan of health/recipes/lifestyle books, religion books or DIY guides to be honest, so I don’t read any of those.

Are you a non-fiction reader? If so, what non-fiction do you read and love the most?


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