I was reminded by Nitro’s Lit Mag as accessory post that I’ve been meaning to write about the n+1 vs. lit-blog dust up. The good thing about being late to the party is that there are nice summary posts on other blogs to point to. So here we go.
The Millions blog has a very nice (and even-keeled) summary of a brief essay that the lit mag n+1 ran, unattributed, in its latest issue. The n+1 essay explains why lit blogs are highly suspect. The gist is that lit-bloggers (and I count us in that group) are whores for advance copies, are only writing for the recognition/legitimacy of the publishing houses, and are essentially an unpaid army of publicists writing what is expected of them. Or something.
Wet Asphalt takes up the issue with a little more umbrage, pointing out the hypocrisy of n+1′s position.
The Elegant Variation reproduces Exhibit A – n+1 may think that bloggers are free publicists for the publishing house, because that was the expectation that they had when they provided free issues to bloggers.
The timing of this couldn’t be worse. After writing night and day for over two years, we’ve just to begun to receive a trickling of complimentary books. (To date this blog has received a grand total of five (5) free books from publishers.) We have been “recognized” by one publisher who used a blurb from a review that I wrote about a self-purchased book. We’ve clearly sold out for all this bling and respect – only to now be called on the carpet by n+1. I’m so ashamed.
Actually, no I’m not. It is nice to be recognized, but I suspect that we’d be doing this without the molehill of schwag that we’ve received to date. Don’t get us wrong, we love free stuff. And nothing is cooler than an advance copy. In fact, we’d be just fine if we never had to pay for a book again. That would be swell. (Please keep sending us stuff!)
Among the free copies that we’ve received, there has been no indication that the sender has an expectation of a positive review or even of a commitment to mention the book. Certainly nothing as blatant as Elegant Variation’s note from n+1. Maye a publisher would stop sending us stuff if we hated everything they sent us. But that would be a good thing, right?
Here’s some math – we’ve posted reviews of 199 books to date. One of those posts was based upon a free copy of the book. 0.5%.
So where does that leave us? Should we point out generally that some of the books that we write about may have been given to us by the publisher? Should we point out that a specific book was free? I’ve never seen either scenario anywhere. Ever. Does Michiko Kakutani buy her own books? (We’re certainly not Machiko, and we don’t mean to compare what we do here to what she does.) Help us chart our ethical path forward in our comments.
I still think that n+1 should have been the name of a statistics blog/journal.