Earlier I posted about the revisions to the FTC guides which will take effect on December 1, 2009. So, what do these mean to AAR? This site is not strictly a blog, but we are a set of volunteers providing reviews of books. As many of you reading already know, we receive most of our books free of charge from publishers and authors, so we quite probably fit within the FTC’s guidelines on dislosure.
For that reason, you will soon notice a disclosure statement posted on AAR letting everyone reading know (in case you weren’t already aware of it) where we get our books and that we participate in the Amazon Affiliates program. In addition, when our reviewers post on other forums such as Facebook or Twitter, they will start disclosing as well.
Does this mean our internal review policies have changed? No. We will simply be complying with new federal regulations by posting even more disclosures of what we have always been doing here with regard to review copies and Amazon participation. Though we receive ARCs and review copies, our review opinions have not and will never be for sale. Given that we place Amazon links on reviews whether they get an A or an F, I’m sure you can already guess that Amazon has no bearing on our grading here.
Even though FTC has stated (among other clarifications) that its view towards bloggers/websites is meant to be educational, that’s not what the new guidelines say. They simply lay out what bloggers must do. And when interpreting a law or regulation, the actual written language of it carries more weight than what an FTC employee says in an interview. So while I’m glad to hear no website/blogger crackdown is planned and heartened to hear that FTC does not intend to seek charges against bloggers, we still don’t want to take risks. We’re just going to comply. For you, this means that you will still see the same reviews, polls and other content that we’ve committed ourselves to providing. We’ll just be adding the even more disclosures in the required form.
I’ve been asked via our contact form whether I’d like to see the FTC fine-tune its regs? Um, hell yes. The requirement for constant disclosure in every single post or tweet binds writers up to the point that it can have a chilling effect on free speech and the free exchange of ideas. Though the FTC lumps us all into the same category, we’re not trying to shill diet remedies or fast-dry paint here. Book reviewers do something a little different and share in a flow of ideas that, by their nature will be more subjective. You may have seen reviewers writing about how enchanting they find the world created by Eloisa James, but when was the last time you saw one talking about how Eloisa James’ latest book will make you lose 10 pounds? We’re not dealing in scientific testing here; we’re discussing ideas.
For that reason, I would LOVE to see the FTC fine-tune their regulations to take into account the many different kinds of blogs and websites they’re regulating. However, given that it took a few years for the FTC to get to this point, I think we can expect that further revisions won’t happen overnight. So, until things change, we’ll be following the law here and making sure to have lots of little text boxes up telling you things you likely already knew about where our review books come from and about our participation with Amazon. Amazon doesn’t give us much, but every little bit helps keep the site online!