Monday, December 10, 2007

The ethics of book reviewing

For all interested parties: The NBCC's 2007 survey results.

Feel free to weigh in.

More here: Ethics in Book Reviewing Survey: The Results.

1 comment:

  1. Question 33 was "Is it okay for a newspaper book section or magazine to ignore self-published books that are submitted, e.g., iUniverse-type books?" The answers were: 60% Yes (ignore them), 16% No, 11% not sure, 12% - other. (Per the comments, in general the "others" suggested a cursory look for a hidden gem if you have time. )

    I can sympathize with ignoring items based on time alone given the vast numbers of self-published books and the general low quality. There may also be legal considerations (libel) on occaison, or a corporate mandate. Perhaps some of the "No" respondents mean these things. But others may reflect one of the commenters who said that all self-published books do not have professionalism and aren't in keeping with traditional literary values.

    What may go unstated in the "No" answer is that in this case the Book Editor can no longer be looked upon as the ultimate arbitrator of what's worthy of review among all books published. Instead, it is first assumed that the few hundred literary agents and mainstream publishers who decide mainstream publication always know best, and will publish everything worthy of going into print. Interviews with agents and publishers, particularly in the fiction realm, indicate this is not necessarily true - their personal interests and tastes often help dictate what goes into the pipeline. Given that most of these folks are coming from relatively the same place in terms of education, environment, and working conditions, they aren't as likely to embrace as broad a spectrum of published material as might otherwise occur. (The same thing would be true if all potential books were first screened by neurologists or architects or judges.)

    So I view it as rather unfortunate that the NO answer towards reviewing self-published books was so high. The opportunity (however slight) for review by respected media outlets is the principal way to bring any book, self-published or otherwise, to the public's attention.

    I see there's quite a discussion going on this topic at the second link you provided, so I'm off to weigh in with my deep wisdom there.