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Fines for Bloggers?

book_moneyI know I’m horribly late with today’s post — which is pretty inexcusable, considering my day started at 6:30 am. Anyway, the big news of the day hit this evening, so I’m almost glad I waited. GalleyCat tipped me off to the new FCC guidelines (pdf) for reviewers, which now includes bloggers. According to a more expansive interview with the representative of the FTC,

What this means is that, under the new guidelines, a blogger’s positive review of a product may qualify as an “endorsement” and that keeping a product after a review may qualify as “compensation.”

In more detail:

In the case of books, Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving a book, provided there wasn’t a linked advertisement to buy the book and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland’s standpoint, count as “compensation” and require a disclosure. […]

Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.

“If a blogger received enough books,” said Cleland, “he could open up a used bookstore.”

You can read more about this via articles at The New York Times and The Washington Post.

I’m curious to know what you think, and honestly, I’m curious what this means for me. Every link to an Amazon page for a book on my site includes my Amazon Associates ID, which means I may get some small kickback if you hear about a book on my site and then go to Amazon to buy it. Do you think this is unethical? Does the FTC? Maybe it doesn’t matter in the case of my clients’ books, which are all clearly noted as such, and I should think my connection with them is obvious. But what about my “Recent Reads” posts, where I comment on a book I’ve read for pleasure?

What do you take from this ruling? I’m eager to hear more from other book bloggers.

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