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Disclosure and Why I Blog

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I’ve been seeing a quiet a few of my fellow book bloggers making book disclosure post, stating where they get their books from. Apparently there is a perception that, if you have a blog, you do so in order to receive free books.

Really? Huh.

The majority of the books I own were bought by me, brand-new, from one of the major book chains or Amazon.com. I have over 30+ books on pre-order at Amazon. I have a small wish-list (10 or less books, most of the time) at Paperbackswap.com. I sometimes shop at a local UBS, or an on-line one. It’s been awhile, but I’ve gotten books from eBay. I occasionally get a book as a gift from family or friends.

Blogging is a hobby. I have no desire to receive ARCs, host blog tours, or conduct author interviews. I’m thrilled when an author stops by and thanks me, but I’m not blogging in the hopes that they will offer me the chance read their next book before it hits the stands. I’ve ignored most requests that have come my way and I’ve politely refused others.

So why do I blog, if I turn down free books? The connection to fellow readers, of course. They are the reason I have a continuously huge pre-order at Amazon. I do stop by other book blogs and see what they have to say, even if I can’t think of anything new to add to their discussions. Being a more active participant may generate more traffic, but I’m content with my relatively quiet piece of the blogsphere, and grateful to those who do stop by and comment.

On a somewhat related note, Suey from It’s All About Books answered the questions that author Shannon Hale had posted on her blog in regards to why book bloggers — and those who rate books on Amazon.com, Good Reads.com, etc — feel the need to rate books and explain why we liked or did not like a book.

The questions are copied from Ms. Hale’s site.

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?

Yes. Prior to 2006, long before this blog existed, I never kept a formal reading journal of any type. I just went from one book to the next, without any reflection beyond whether or not to keep it. I had a few Georgette Heyer and Star Wars entries saved on my computer (early attempts at keeping a journal), but nothing consistent. Once I got serious about it (offline still at this point), I started to pay more attention to details and it made me more aware of the story. I think this was a positive change because I spend more time thinking about the book, even if I don’t articulate every thought in my write up.

2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?

On one hand, I’d have to say yes to this. Now that I pay more attention to the story details, the moment things start to not work for me, or if the book isn’t holding my attention, I start to downgrade it in my mind. If it doesn’t “improve”, the book is on the verge of being a Did Not Finish (DNF). If I finish the book, I then have to decide just how low I felt the reading experience was for me. Since starting the blog, I’ve become less tolerant of books that aren’t holding my attention, so there aren’t as many one-, two-stars, or DNF reviews. I rather spend more time reading then writing up something on a book that I didn’t finish.

3. Does knowing you’ll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?

No. I pick up books I think I’m going to like. To know what happens after I start reading, see the answer above.

4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?

My offline reading journal, Bookography, only allowed for two types of books: Living Library and Castaways. I thought this was too “black and white”. It didn’t allow for different levels enjoyment (keepers, keepers if there’s room, books enjoyed but not likely to keep). When I went on line, I wanted to make that distinction. In this way, writing has changed how I felt about some books. Earlier this year, I mentioned that I would have rated certain books differently, in hindsight — both higher and lower, depending on the book in question.

5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?

My motivation is stated above, where I was disclosing where I get my books from: it’s connection with other readers. To compare how we feel about similar books. From what I see, lurking about in the blogsphere, readers tend to gravitate to others with similar tastes, and get recommendations from each other. A “Jane Q. Public” reader review about book ABC holds more weight amongst them than a celebrity endorsement or a professional critique.

6. If you review a book but don’t rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer? I’m very curious about all this and hope you feel free to speak freely (and kindly and respectfully, of course) even if you disagree with me.

I’m actually contemplating changing my system: no stars. The caption under the star ratings currently say things like, “Loved it” and “Enjoyable Read”, and that’s what I’m going to go with. Eventually. As for the role:

A reader review of a book may be one reader’s personal opinion, but people in general are still curious to know what others liked/disliked and why, so they can make an informed decision (based on their own preferences) on whether or not to read the book themselves: were there plot elements that are hot buttons for the reader? Adultery? Animal abuse/death?. Without these resources, readers would be frustrated because they spent time and money on something that didn’t appeal to them. Back blurbs make books sound interesting, or should, if the publisher is doing their job correctly, and excerpts are just a small glimpse into the story. It’s what’s between the cover that counts. It won’t matter how well written the book is, or touching, or thought provoking, or profoundly moving. There are things a reader doesn’t want to spend her free time reading about, and will be upset if a highly recommended book contained such an element. A reader review that stated “if you don’t like XYZ, you might want to avoid this book” could have prepared her ahead of time, or made her avoid the book entirely.

And for clarification — I don’t mean outright spoiling. If reveling certain plot elements will spoil the book and the reviewer refrains from mentioning them, that’s certainly understandable. Spoiling the end without a warning is more likely to upset most readers.

I don’t think my write-ups are that insightful, but in general, this is how I view most individual book blogs. If my two cents about a book helps a fellow reader, then I’m glad I could be of service.

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Re-post due to data loss. Comments reconstructed from RSS feed
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31 Aug – Beth F – Thanks for sharing your answers to Hale’s questions. I don’t think many of us blog just for the free books!
31 Aug – Me – You’re welcome! Oh, I agree. I don’t think so either, but I’ve seen it mentioned on other blogs, from time to time. I wish I’d bookmarked the last time I saw it mentioned. I would say the majority of book bloggers initially started blogs to share the love of books — I don’t think I’ve come across one yet that gave me the impression otherwise.

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1 Sep – Jennifer TFFQ – This is the 2nd post on someone’s blog this week, defending their love of reading and blogging. I must of missed the blog or part that insinuated otherwise. Thank God. It would probably make me mad. I started blogging because of a reading challenge group I am a part of on Shelfari. We decided to blog our reviews in a group one and in order to join Blogger you have to basically make a blog in the first place. We all learned and are still learning blogging tricks and tips together. I only blog for my love of reading. I also blog about books that can be old books but I just discovered them. Thank you for sharing the interview and your own comments. Feel Free to come on over to see my page. http://jennifertffq.blogspot.com/

1 Sep – Me – Part of it was tied to the Federal Trade Commission and the possibility of new regulations that would require bloggers to disclose commercial relationships. It would require book bloggers to disclose whether they were receiving any compensation for the reviews. The Boston Bibliophile wrote two posts here and here regarding blogging and commercialism.

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