Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Case of the EMBARGO or Shouldn't Bloggers be Ethical?

Book reviewers have not been restricted to any rules. We ride the Internet and nobody can restrict the Internet, hell yeah, freedom of speech and self-expression. We can do a lot that can only happen on the Internet, but is that an excuse to forgo all ethical behavior? Shouldn't we at least consult to some set of ethical guidelines?

Case in point is the Embargo on the latest Wheel of Time novel. Bloggers, who have been lucky enough to receive an ARC of the novel, have been asked to keep to quiet till November the 2nd, the official release of Towers of Midnight. Now, considering that this is a series with massive cult following, which can be best described as the Trekkies of fantasy, it's obvious why an embargo has been issued. After all, people have patiently waited and no matter what the opinion, it's bound to spoil the experience for the others.

Now, Amanda has covered the crux of the issue in her post called EMBARGO:

My opinion is that embargoes are only given on few books - and bloggers should follow the rulings given. If a person breaks embargo, they should have their privilege stripped. It is a matter of ethics - the same as when people sell ARCs, even when asked not to by the publishers. I am angry that this is likely to go unpunished.

She is courteous to not give names, but the majority of us know that the wise guy behind this stunt is the mighty Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, who is notorious for such stunts. I am not surprised that he just could not hold it in, bend the rules and leak some of his 'thoughts', which is so not a review, even partial at that. But whatever, I mean the man is ambitious to see his blog grow.

HOWEVER, this begs the following questions:

Isn't this an example on why we should have some courtesy and do what has been asked of us? Selling ARCs, breaking such an embargo, selling autographs?

AND

Is what Pat did ever going to get punished?

I'm not going as far as to say that we need official regulations, but seriously, whenever you as a book blogger receive an ARC you are trusted by the publisher. Although it's so very often as a straight business transaction aka we give you the book and you promote it via your review, fact is that there are so many books and an impressively larger amount of reviewers wanting it.

If you get picked by a big publishing house with a book with such high celebrity status such as the Towers of Midnight, then the publisher has trust in you to remain ethical and hold off from reviewing until November the 2nd. If you don't then you betray that trust, which although earns you extra hits and controversy, effectively gives you a bad name, which may or may not reflect on the public opinion regarding the group you represent - I may be going a bit too far here, so I will stop.

Also, it sets a bad role model for new bloggers, who try to emulate what to them seems as the fastest way to get to the top.

Besides, it's not that hard to do. You just keep your mouth shut. Simple as that really. If we can't on our own follow some simple instructions out of respect for the labor that not only the publisher, but Sanderson [in this case], has put in the novel, then I do think that individuals should be sanctioned. It's only fair and you will have to agree that we need a bit of fairness on the web.

So what do you think, am I painting the apocalypse or should Pat just have done the right thing?

8 comments:

Ria said...

I'd say it's a tough call to make, but that's giving some people too much leeway. Honestly, if I got a copy of a book and was told not to say anything about it until I certain date, I have to admit that I'd be bouncing on my hands waiting for the day when I could finally say something. I may, I admit, drop a hint here and there. But my hints would likely be limited to, "You guys are going to love this book," rather than reveal any plot points or theories or the like, and if that much trust was given to me, I'd like to think that I have the capability to remain true to that trust.

It's an agreement. You agree to give me a novel in advance, I agree not to say anything about it. Just because it's not written on paper with copies in a lawyer's office doesn't make it invalid, and so yes, I think that the people who break the silence like that did something wrong, and my hope is that those people damage their reputation with the publishers and authors. It seems a suitable punishment, really. In a desperate bid to gain readers, they end up removing some of the ability that they had to actually get those readers in the first place, because a reader without books is a bookblogger without content.

Harry Markov said...

@ Ria: Very well said. Now, I know it's all business and such so the benefit of the publicity is bound to please the publisher. I've been told that there is not ethics, when it comes to business, but I do believe there are, so Pat being Pat is not simply Pat being Pat, but something against ethics.

Val said...

Whether what Pat did breaks the embargo and whether it should have consequences, is between Pat and the publisher. No business of ours. Pat and the people at Tor are adults, they can work it out for themselves.

Harry Markov said...

I believe that nothing that happens on the Internet stays only between two parties. It always involves more than the obvious people.

But from a tactful point of view, you are correct as well.

Alec said...

I read his not-a-review yesterday. First thing that jumped out was that it was a review. I actually stopped reading because I honestly didn't want any spoilers and was disappointed that the first paragraph already gave stuff away. At the very least, a disclaimer would have been nice.

As Val commented, this is an issue between the publisher and Pat. While it isn't strictly private, since the review is public, it is also none of our business. The most say you have in the matter is whether you link to his not-a-review of Towers or not.

From an ethical point of view... as you aptly pointed out this is the internet. Ethics are a secondary concern for 90% of bloggers.

Harry Markov said...

My opinion [as naive as it sounds] is that ethics should be a part of the equation.

Pat is entitled to do whatever he wants, but since what he does ends up being public, it's open to criticism from other parties. As I said, everything on the web causes a reaction and Pat's early review caused me to criticize him. I'm not pointing a finger at an individual, but using his example to criticize an attitude in the blogosphere that is to me unpleasant.

Ethics are mightily overlooked and it's a shame. Considering that in this instant, it's a very simple thing.

RobB said...

Okay, so I'm about 2/3 into Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight (Canada, USA, Europe). But you should know by now that there is an embargo on reviews, so I won't get to post mine until November 2nd.

...then he goes and does his "2/3 of a review."

Basically, I see it as him saying he knows the rules, but will break them anyway.

Harry Markov said...

Yeah, it's the principle that bothers me.

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