Reading Matters’ Kim Bofo serves up this preposterous post, about as absurd a stew as John Freeman’s tsk-tsking of bloggers back in June. Bofo’s apparent beef brisket is that litblogs should report whether or not a book under discussion has been received for free from a publisher. First off, Bofo assumes that, in every case where a litblogger receives an ARC or a finished copy, there is an automatic quid pro quo between publisher and litblogger. This is a preposterous contextomy, seeing as how any sane person is aware that it is impossible for any journalist, whether print or online, who receives fifteen to twenty books a week to review each and every one of them. The litblogger is under no duty to review anything, just as the publicist is under no duty to send free books.

Bofo further inveighs against “the industry’s deliberate manipulation of bloggers to promote books that might otherwise not receive the same level of attention from the mainstream media, and the apparent willingness of many book bloggers to be used in such a manner.”

I haven’t seen a conspiracy this nutty since Oliver Stone. This assumes that all litbloggers are incapable of free will and that they are all incapable of separating the wheat from the chaff. This assumes that they will lavish praise on anything they write about, like the dreaded Harriet Klausners or Nick Hornbys of the universe. It is a position that recalls the smug generalizations within Ortega y Gassett’s elitist tract, The Revolt of the Masses, where only a few select soldiers (which would presumably include that stalwart steed Bofo) are capable of ethics and the moronic masses cannot distinguish between shameful shilling and proper criticism. Well, I happen to think more highly of litbloggers and those who read litblogs than Ms. Bofo.

I didn’t receive the Simon & Schuster email that Bofo did, perhaps because the folks at Simon & Schuster know very well that I would have been adamantly against it. (And who pray tell were the blogs who, according to Bofo, “seemed to be banging on about this book?” In presenting her case, Bofo fails to cite a single example of a litblog transforming overnight into a marketing tool for Simon & Schuster. Further, is it not possible that some of the blogs who raved about Setterfield did so of their own independent accord? Perhaps they did not receive the email. Or must we impute, by Sofo’s paralogia, that all litbloggers are mere tools?)

Bofo, like Freeman, is a journalist as well as a blogger. (Or at least she is a “trained journalist.” A Google search doesn’t reveal a single print byline.) Journalistic ethics are a essential thing for anyone, blogger or book reviewer, to practice. And I should note, with strenuous emphasis, that it is egregious for anyone to accept money (or the promise of such) from a publisher to review a book. But in Bofo and Freeman’s cases, their collective anal retentiveness crosses over into the absurd, no different from the nutjobs who hole up in bunkers waiting for the apocalypse.

[UPDATE: More thoughts on the subject from Matthew Tiffany, Ron Hogan and Michael Orthofer. There’s also some fireworks in the MetaxuCafe thread. And Darby Dixon reveals the sordid truth.]


  1. Call-Me-A-Cheap-Whore Week continues. Same problem here as with the Gessen interview: lame, misdirected ire and (as a natural handmaiden) lack-of-specificity in the “examples.”

    As Sinead sez: Fight the real enemy.

  2. I don’t get it. I haven’t paid for a book in years. I’m a buyer at a bookstore. Should I be mentioning that every time I talk about a book? I only review what I want when I want and I assume those that read me know that. No need to get panties in a twist. Or jockeys. Whatever.

  3. Oh, another “full disclosure” blog post that actually has nothing to do with the idea whatsoever? Well, I’ll disclose this: I probably read more books per year than most people and I STILL won’t be able to talk about them all, let alone read them. Whoop de freaking doo.

  4. I know her real name but I’m not going to say what it is. It is not Kim Bofo. She works on a magazine, as far as I can tell. So she’s probably a magazine editor.

    She is Australian. Australians have a ‘thing’ about names. We tend to shorten them and make them end in a vowel. Hence Kim becomes Kimbo.

  5. I absolutely love you, Ed. “I didn’t receive the Simon & Schuster email that Bofo did, perhaps because the folks at Simon & Schuster know very well that I would have been adamantly against it.” It’s highly doubtful S&S went through their mailing list and removed your e-mail address because of your objection to hokey promotions.

    If you’ve honestly been wondering about which blogs have been gushing over the S&S book in question, take a look at this google search.

  6. Ed, I make you spot on. Not so long ago, I was reviewing a lot of music. At first, I only wrote about cd’s I had bought and liked, but since the website I was working for got more success we started getting a lot of promotional copies. I never did mention wether what I reviewed was free or not, because I just can’t see the point. What is quite obvious however, is that the average ratings given to the albums fell considerably after I started getting all those free cd’s, because I was getting a lot more crap than when I was spending my own cash – and I think that any serious, honest reviewer, blogger, would amdit the same happened to him.

  7. I agreed with most of your comments on that blog but I think calling someone a “slattern” is beneath you.

    Maybe I’m just too old to get it.

  8. Richard: To be clear, I understand slattern to be “a vulgar promiscuous woman to flout propriety,” according to my dictionary. The intention was to suggest that she was ideologically (as opposed to sexually) promiscuous, flouting propriety here on the vulgar assumption that litbloggers are tools.

  9. Couldn’t agree more with the original poster. Where is it written that bloggers have no ethics but other journalists do? No logic at all.

    Authors and publishers have been giving away ARCs to media for decades, I haven’t heard any outrage about it.

    Sure, the S&S promotion is silly, it’s advertising. I don’t blame them for trying to get free advertising from bloggers who use it.

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