Friday, April 21, 2006

I Need Permission?

Interesting post over at Read Roger, the blog of Roger Sutton of the Horn Book. Apparently, a publisher is arguing that a reviewer needs permission to review a book. Here's the pertinent language from the post:
So today we were threatened with legal action by a disgruntled publisher who wanted us to stop reviewing their books. They wrote that if we did review any more of their titles, they would "seek legal remedies on the grounds that your publication is publishing misinformation" about their books. Meaning we don't like them very much. On the phone, I was told by the publisher that we (or any review media) need permission from them (or any publisher) in order to review their titles.

I'm lucky that I do get some review copies, from publishers, authors, and agencies. My policy is to post about the books that I like. If I don't like a book, I won't post about it. (Tho before anyone reads anything into that statement, I also sometimes don't post because of time. Like right now I have about 10 reviews to post.) And that's pretty much understood as a given by those who provide the copies. And I also post about books I buy or books I borrow from the library.

So under the theory given above -- I'd have to get permission first?

I don't think so.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I do say when I don't like a book; on comments to other blogs or online book discussions and the like. (Those of you on adbooks know that I can be quite blunt about not liking a book!) I just prefer not to do it here (too little time, too many books. And TV shows. And movies.)

I think I'm probably most intrigued by the argument that the Horn Book is "publishing misinformation." How can opinion -- which is what a review is -- be misinformation? I'm trying to imagine it. I know I've read reviews where it's been clear that the reviewer didn't "get" something (humor or fantasy or whatever.) And I often find that the reviewers have their own agenda in reviewing books (for the New York Times Book Reviews, I often learn more about the reviewer than I do the book.) But to call that misinformation seems a little strong.

Hat tip to Fuse #8 for the story.


Chris Barton said...

Well, thank goodness that publisher didn't choose a line of business that relies on freedom of expression...

Michele said...

This has to be one of the daftest things I've ever heard ! How very peculiar of the publisher in question. If they don't want readers to publish book reviews, how do they expect anyone to know about their books ? Bizarre...

I'm with you Liz - I almost only ever review books I like. I think the only exception so far has been Terry Deary's The Fire Thief. I deliberately didn't review Christopher Wrigley's rather odd book The Return of the Hero - though I did discuss his very odd Harry Potter theory on my Blog - simply because it was too weird for me to come up with a positive angle (apart from "It's very short." !)