Armchair BEA: Day 4-Ethics & Non-Fiction

May 31, 2013 Uncategorized 14

armchairbea21_nina of nina reads
Today’s topic is ethics and it’s one that is important regardless of what type of blogger you are. I’m finding it difficult to voice my opinion on this and I apologize if my thoughts jump from place to place.

I haven’t dealt with plagiarism yet, but I’ve had a review or two show up at another blog without credit. Usually a quick note, asking for a link back works. I am aware of a blog that currently has one of my reviews up despite me asking them a million times to take it down and they copied word for word my policies and request for review page. I’m at the point where I just try to ignore they exist, but it’s annoying (especially since they have a little over 8k followers & have launched an author promotion service).

I do have a real life story regarding plagiarism. Now this doesn’t involve blogs, but the lesson applies. When I was an undergrad, the professor who was my primary advisor for a research project came into class one day and called a student’s name out. When no one responded he said, “Right…if you’re X or know of him, have him come see me in my office after hours. I want you to plead your case as to why I shouldn’t go to the department head.” Later I found out, X submitted an essay using British spelling when he wasn’t British or even foreign and that’s not the big kicker. Are you ready? The essay X submitted was from a book, Professor R edited and his name is clearly stated on the book as the editor! Yeah X earns dumbass of the year. So the moral of the story is, you will get caught even if you don’t think you will.

In terms of being in FTC compliance, there’s so many questions as to what applies to book bloggers vs those who review products. For the most part, we don’t get paid to review books nor are we drowning in tons of free books. I do state how I obtained the book in the “my copy” section of reviews and you can see it right away. One thing I don’t do is state getting the book for review, etc at places like Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing, but I do note that the blog appears on Lit, etc. I’ve also seen bloggers state “ARC Review” in their blog post titles and I wonder if that helps or not? Your thoughts on “ARC Review: title” vs “Book Review: title” subject post titles? I’m starting to tag my reviews as ARCs and am currently cleaning up tags before the tag cloud is available for everyone to see.

A lot of Armchair BEA participants will have great advice as to what to do or not. Here are just some general observations:

• If you’re reviewing a book for an author friend, you should state so. Otherwise, I wonder if that glowing review is real or just you trying to push his/her ratings (It does happen folks, I know of a blog that gives a particular author 5 star reviews regardless if they liked her stuff to boost her ratings).

• I know everyone has a different idea of what type of reviews they post. If you don’t want to post negative reviews and only focus on 4/5 star reviews, state so somewhere that way readers are aware that you only post a particular type of review based on the rating.

• If you come across a blogger that doesn’t like the book you loved, don’t go on the attack. Everyone has different tastes and reading is subjective.

• Do not share digital ARCs in any format with people who don’t have permission to read it. Even if you’re part of a multi-member blog, that digital ARC is for ONE member unless you have permission from the publisher or author.

• If you accept guest reviews, please state if the person can post it on their blog, etc. Also be aware that you don’t own the review or guest post-copyright stays with the person who wrote it (as per LegalZoom).

• On a final note, don’t hoard ARCs. If you really want to read that book, request it, but just don’t go crazy requesting ARCs that will just sit there unread while another blogger who REALLY wanted it might not get the chance.


I don’t read non-fiction very often because I do read it in real life for research purposes. I always want to fact check sources or something will catch my eye and I want to know more; before I know it, the book will be put aside and never finished. I blame my inner academic and one I can’t shut off (hence the reason I don’t tend to read books set in the Middle Ages).

I do have some favorite non-fiction books. I adored Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife. I’m a big fan of the BBC production and decided to check out the first book. I read that book 2 days straight and cringed, cried, and counted my blessings for modern medicine.

Since I am a Medievalist, I’m going to list some of the books that I think you might enjoy.
• Geoffroi de Charny’s A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry is an interesting look into the life of 13th century French knights. Charny was a knight himself and his code was highly revered. Fun fact: Charny once owned the Shroud of Turin!

• Barbara W. Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, provides good insight to the 14th century with regards to plague, warfare, and uprisings.

• Norman F. Cantor’s In Wake of the Plague, is one I like to throw against the wall. I have a love / hate relationship with Cantor and his book frustrates me, but still it’s a good read if you like things sensationalized and don’t mind “theories.”

• Jay Rubenstein’s Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse, is great if you’re curious about the First Crusade. I’m not including Jay on the list because he’s a former advisor, but because it is a well researched book.

• Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, is a fun read! One of my favorite reads because it’s easy to get lost in the idea of the past being romantic and quite frankly even though I study it, I wouldn’t want to visit the Middle Ages.

• Helen Waddell’s The Desert Fathers, is a fascinating look at devout Christians in the fourth century. You’ll walk way looking at Christianity a little differently.

• Peter Hunter Blair’s The World of Bede is a great book if you’re looking for more information regarding Bede and the Anglo Saxon world.

• Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives is one I often recommend. It’s Terry Jones! Nothing else to add.

14 Responses to “Armchair BEA: Day 4-Ethics & Non-Fiction”

  1. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    Great post Jessica! The story about “X” is so stupid it’s hilarious, we had a similar case at my college. Though it was more of two people had the same essay because they paid for them from the same site. I forgot to put the ‘don’t share digital ARCs’ rule on my post, but it’s an excellent point to be made! I haven’t read a single one of the nonfiction books you mentioned. I like that you have a book that you like to throw, lol.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Armchair BEA Day 4: NonfictionMy Profile

  2. Trish

    It never fails to amaze me how idiotic people can be–even in the few cases I’ve seen with bloggers blatantly stealing content from other bloggers I can’t help but wonder why they ever thought they’d get away with it. I like your other points about ARCs and the general ethics of courtesy bloggers. I chose a few years ago to step away from the ARC scene but I’ve seen so much pettiness and bitterness surrounding them. Makes me wonder!

    Your non-fiction list looks fascinating! Most of the non-fiction that I read comes in the form of memoirs or biographies. If I read history then it generally is more recent and with a type of social slant (right now I’m listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma).
    Trish recently posted…Armchair BEA – Ethics and Non-FictionMy Profile

  3. Christine @ Oh, Chrys!

    Thanks for mentioning the multi-member ARC tip! I mentioned it on my blog now. 😀

    The reason I add ARC in my title has nothing to with FTC actually, though it does indirectly I guess. I put it so my reader can be cognizant that I am reviewing a book that has not been published yet, in case they come back after the book is published and see review points that no longer apply due to changes in the ARC. I do have mention right before the chunk of my review that “I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.” These FTC rules are very fuzzy, so I hope those that attended the BloggerCon this week will share what they learnt.

    I love that you are a medievalist. I’m assuming you have studied some sort of history, though I may be very wrong. I say this because when I was studying Caribbean History, sourcing from credible books was very important. I had to borrow stacks of books from the library so I could find evidence to support my claims. Besides research purposes, I read nonfiction for leisure too. Like autobiographies and memoirs. One of my favorite autobiographies is Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama. And not for political reasons either.

    I really like your blog a lot! Shame I am just finding it!

  4. Andrea @Cozy Up With A Good Read

    I don’t read non-fiction, there has only been one book I read and that was an autobiography, but I love historical fiction, and those books you mention sound really interesting. They are definitely subjects I would love to learn more about. The one that really sticks out is the one about the French knights, I think that would catch my attention, I’ll have to look into it more! Thanks for the recommendations 🙂
    Andrea @Cozy Up With A Good Read recently posted…Armchair BEA: Genre Non-FictionMy Profile

  5. Dana

    What great ideas. I try to watch the images but I probably use some that I shouldn’t…your tips will help avoid that.

    I love non-fiction even though I read more fiction. I love to learn and at my age that’s how I do it.
    Dana recently posted…Armchair BEA Ethics and Non-fictionMy Profile

  6. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    Haha, I loved the story about X. We have a story like that too: someone used the same project as someone else in the class and they even forgot to change the name.. How stupid can you be? :p It’s definitely important to keep in mind that reviews are subjective – even though it can be painful when someone destroys the book you loved so much.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Armchair BEA: Ethics.My Profile

  7. Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

    That plagiarism story is crazy! Blows my mind. I agree that it’s fine if someone chooses to only review books they enjoyed, but they need to disclose that somewhere. Amen about not going on the attack for a disagreeing on preferences. It happens. We’re all different. And total amen about book hoarding. I have issues with that. I personally feel an obligation to the publisher to read and review every book I’m approved for. There are some that have been waiting a while because I’m not longer excited about them or shouldn’t have requested them in the first place. But not many, and I do have intentions of getting to them eventually. Great post.
    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know recently posted…Armchair BEA 2013 – Day 4 Part 1 – EthicsMy Profile

  8. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I was also put off of non-ficton for a while when I started grad school, maybe even reading in general, because of all the paper reading I had to do! Fortunately, as I got better at it, I was able to read faster and the desire to read for fun came back 🙂 It sounds like you might do a lot more reading than I do though, and maybe more books than papers? Which would definitely put a damper on my desire to read extra non-fiction books!
    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted…Armchair BEA – Non-fictionMy Profile

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