The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) recently released the results of its 2007 Ethics of Book Reviewing survey, a follow-up to a similar survey conducted twenty years ago. Three hundred and sixty-four reviewers, most of whom are NBCC members, weighed in on thirty-three topics such as who should be reviewing books and what books should be considered for review, addressing issues of favoritism, honesty, and relationships between reviewers and publishers.
According to the survey, 76.5 percent of reviewers think that it is never ethical to review a book without reading it entirely. While 40.1 percent responded that a reviewer should not read other reviews of a book before writing her own, 17.9 percent disagreed. The majority of reviewers, 60.5 percent, said it was acceptable for publications to ignore self-published books submitted for review.
In response to the question, "Is it ethical for a reviewer to decline to review a book he has already accepted for review, on the ground that he didn't like the book and doesn't want to say negative things in print?" 34.4 percent of reviewers answered "yes," while the same number answered "no." In 1987, 75.4 percent of reviewers thought it unethical to back out of reviewing a book for that reason.
"We hope NBCC members, literary journalists, and troublemakers of all sorts will mine the results in creative, thought-provoking ways," wrote Carlin Romano, a literary critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the survey administrator, on the NBCC’s blog Critical Mass. "We hope it will stir lots of debate, and no fistfights."
For full results of the survey, visit Critical Mass.