Joel Spolsky rails against bloggers who accept gifts. Spolsky is a CEO, while bloggers are…just bloggers..sometimes penniless bloggers. Robert Scoble has thoughts.
While I generally agree with Spolsky’s sentiments, wouldn’t a person who takes a salary and a person who blogs for a living (i.e., for pennies) have a different perspective? Practically speaking, it’s unrealistic for hardware companies to send freebies to every interested blogger, but if they want to buy my attention, be my guest.
That said, I go out of my way to review things by smaller artists/software makers/writers. And I prefer things that have Creative Commons licenses on them. I generally refuse freebies because I can’t predict which things I will be motivated enough to review. Several years ago, when I was reviewing things for slashdot, I used my position to extract freebies from Oreilly, Wiley, Wrox. And I think I wrote some good/fair reviews, even though I ended up not reviewing a lot of books–simply for time reasons. Reviewing takes time, and I sometimes take a lot longer to write these things. In fact, I got to the point where I hated requesting books–because I felt very guilty for never reviewing things–including several books I actually wanted to review. If you can dash off a review quickly, then asking for copies is a good idea, but after a while, you may starting to regret it.
I generally disapprove of selling off review copies off half.com, but over time I’ve realized that they have a trivial effect on market price. (How many review copies could they send out–500?). On the other hand, I am generally bothered when speakers at a conference like SXSW give away 100 copies of their book at a session. That simply means that the person is signed on with a publisher with a substantial marketing budget; why reward that? On the positive side, if there are that many review copies floating around, chances are, the number of copies in circulation will be large, causing the book to fall.
(See also my essay, Literary Disclaimers 101).