Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Play in the Land Governed by the FTC

For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy my own books.

Wait. Oh, no. My friend Debbie recently sent me a book. If I review that book, which was fabulous by the way, then I would have to say that Debbie knew it was fabulous first and that she was the book fairy who deposited it into my hands. (Why does she always have to know things first?)

So, I amend my prior statement. For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy most of my own books. Really people, I’m a receipt keeper, I can prove it.

Wait. I better think more carefully. An author, a wonderful one who is also a professional book critic, once sent me books after I sent him a thank you note for his amazing presentation at a writers’ conference. And when I was recently back home for the reunion, my mom bought me a book... or two. (And if she could convince me to get over my FRS and read her favorite books written by W.E.B. Griffin, Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, and Lee Child or read by Dick Hill or George Guidall, they would be arriving any moment. My FRS is a source of great discord to my poor mother.)

So, I further amend my prior statement. For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy lots of my own books.

And sometimes, when the universe smiles upon me, I receive almost-magical bookstore coupons, and, like a slobbering Pavlovian dog, I rush with great (though within the legal limits) speed to the nearest bookstore that matches the logo on the coupon and buy more books.

The new FTC ruling (that I found in an article linked on Janet Reid’s blog) requiring bloggers to disclose whether reviewed products were paid for or received as gifts from companies got me thinking about all the things they are missing out on in their attempt at sovereignty over the internet.

Should I also disclose, as I have occasionally done so, where the suggestion to read a book came from? And what if that possibly nefarious source didn’t really love the book as much as they said and only wanted to part me from my money? How would I know? And perhaps all of us who love books are dedicated to the survival of bookstores and pitch books like crack dealers to maintain our own source to the goods that we twitch without. Possible? Sure. So, I guess, I must also admit that I love books. Really. And specifically the ones that can be held in my hands. I don’t want any of those e-readers (though I have nothing against them for others). My addiction requires me to turn pages and even to look at pretty covers. Yes, I admit it. See how brave I am. (And don't you feel safer knowing that I'm not fooling about liking books? We certainly wouldn't want people to accidentally or through coersion read more books.)

Now, what about when I recommend a book that is written by one of my heroes? Should I also declare that so you will know that maybe because I already love this author, I am therefore more disposed to love their future writings as well? I admit it. I love authors. They are creative, bright, and, best of all, willing to share the worlds in their heads with others. That’s awfully personal, I think. Seeing as how I’m not too cagey about sharing the fact that I love certain (and lots) of authors, this is probably already clear to you.

On a slightly serious note, I somewhat understand how the FTC might think that they are protecting all of us mindless masses who might tragically end up buying a new brand of beverage umbrellas from someone with a deceitful acquisition policy toward beverage umbrellas, but it all feels a little over the top when other problems like spam and business fraud are running rampant. And maybe there are people who will give a good review to something that is given to them, but if they do that without regard to the quality of the product, people will stop listening to them and abandon their blogs.

Also, I love many books and maybe you will read one and not like it as much as I did. You will then be able to decide if you want to try another one of the books I recommend. I will be honest about how I feel about books, but I must also say that if I don’t like a book, I will just not discuss it at all. My intention with this blog is to share what I love most about literature and life, not to drag books I didn't connect with through the muck. Other people love those books and needed those worlds, and, frankly, who am I to pass that kind of judgment? There is enough tearing down in our world. Let’s choose to be light here and look for beauty in our sometimes treacherous world.

And always beware the beverage umbrella pushers, for they cannot be trusted (according to the FTC) without a full disclosure of their procurement policies.

Quote for the Day from Henry V by William Shakespeare

“If little faults proceeding on distemper shall not be winked at, how shall we stretch our eye when capital crimes, chewed, swallowed, and digested, appear before us?”


DebraLSchubert said...

Okay, this is my favorite of your posts so far! The whole FTC thing is beyond ridiculous. Guess what? I'm tweeting this!! (PS: I expect a kickback from the book I sent you. Just sayin'.)

Kasie West said...

What? This is the first place I have read such a silly notion. I guess I must now go read this article you referred to. But for the record, I buy my books as well. :) I'm like you, I usually don't review a book on my blog that I wouldn't recommend. If I didn't like it, I keep my mouth shut about it. After all, I'm sure in the future some people won't like some of my books as well, and I'd love it if they kept that to themselves. :)

Stephanie said...

So noted!
I found you via Debra's blog post. I have a dear friendship like yours and Debra's. Isn't it wonderful?
Also, we share an affinity for real, paper books. Me, I write in the margins, dog ear them and love to sniff the pages of a new book.
Never did I think I would have a blog either. This world of publishing is somethin'.
Great to "meet" you, Julie! Best wishes on your work.

Frankie said...

I dunno, Jules... I depend on you to know what not to read, and also what movies for the wife to not watch. You are a valuble resource for this. I think maybe some occasional disclaimers and warnings are appropriate.

For instance:

"What Dreams May Come" wrecked me for a whole week.

I had an agreement to read "The Silmarillion" with a friend and only found out after I was almost done that she wasn't reading it at all. Had I known how DRY that was, I'd have avoided it. I still have a physical scar from that book: I fell over while reading it, leaving a tiny scar down my left cheek where the skin was removed by a nail. Ah, sweet, clear hindsight.

A little heads up isn't a bad thing.

Personal Note: Favorite Henry V quote- "You have witchcraft in your lips."

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! The whole FTC thing is a little mind-boggling isn't it? I love your take on it - I smiled the whole way through your post :)

Julie said...

Hey Debbie,

So, a kickback? Isn't the fact that I've changed my life because of that book enough for you? I mean, really. Well, okay, if heaps of love flow toward me when/if I review that book (there are a lot on the pile to review this year), then I will definitely send the lion's (at least kitty's) share toward you. How's that?

Julie said...


Thanks for stopping by the blog. And yes, I agree, if a lovely silence descends upon future book detractors, that would be wonderful. The truth is, I've been reading quite a bit this year and have loved most, disliked one (just because it went really dark after being marketed as 'hysterical') and another because I just didn't connect. In neither was the writing terrible. They just weren't for me.

I look forward to being able to read one of your books (which I will happily buy at a bookstore) and reviewing it here.

Julie said...


Thanks for finding the blog and sharing your comments. Your memoir looks amazing. I also dog ear pages and write in the margins, more since I've been thinking about the books I read differently knowing that I'm going to review them.

And yes, great friendships are amazing. I've been so blessed in that part of my life.


Thanks for letting me make you smile. And yes, the FTC thing, while well meaning (most likely) is just a little out there. I look at all the things that need funding in our country (like the Secret Service or the 911 system, for example) and wonder why we are worrying about something that if not completely benign, is certainly not inflicting physical pain or great torment on the lives of blog readers.

Julie said...


You really aren't going to let me go about the Silmarillion thing, are you? Even though I've saved your wife from countless films that would have upset her. (I even added one more to that list the other day... good film, but ugh, the violence was gruesome.) And "What Dreams May Come" wrecked me, too. But it was a really great advertisement that suicide is a really sucky option.

I have so many favorites from Henry V, but the one that comes to my mind right now... is "I will weep for thee; For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like another fall of man."