Not so independent book blogger awards

Update (30 Mar 2012, evening): Well that didn’t take long. Within a couple of hours of posting this Goodreads has changed the terms and conditions for this contest. Part of the new terms reads:

Sponsors may use Posts for any purpose in connection with the promotion of the Contest, including but not limited to displaying the Posts, or any portions thereof, of the Finalists (as defined herein) …

Several other clauses have language similar to the part emphasized above (emphasis mine, not theirs). I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if the new language allows the use of submitted materials for other purposes through other clauses. Nevertheless, even if they could use the material without compensation, the changes signal that they don’t really intend to. Which goes a long way in my opinion.

They are still excluding derogatory material, and a whole bunch of other things, which means I don’t think this is really an award for good book blogging. Some of the best blogging about books I’ve seen is quite negative, for instance.

Just now I’ve read an article at Stacked Books that brought up another reason I hadn’t even thought of why the format isn’t something I like. I hated the constant promotion that got Starship Sofa a Hugo a couple years ago. The podcast is a pretty good podcast, but there was a strong campaign online that the owner didn’t discourage, and I saw a lot of Tweetering and whatnot pushing to get them a Hugo, and it got old really fast.

Also, the change in terms brings up something I wonder about that isn’t often addressed online. Someplace can change the terms to whatever they want and not tell people? I don’t think any of the entrants to the contest are going to complain about these new terms, but it would have been ugly had they changed them to something more onerous and tried to apply it to previous entries. That could have gotten ugly. Luckily, their management seems to be decent, so it’s not an issue here.

A few years ago I started a bit of a stir when I criticized the awards given by Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The year after that, B.B.A.W. cleaned up it’s awards process. No longer were payola bloggers eligible and they made some changes so that people running B.B.A.W. wouldn’t receive awards.

And now, I am in the position of crying foul on another supposed set of awards for book bloggers. Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers are sponsoring the so-called Independent Book Blogger Awards, though the official terms call it a contest rather than an award. And it’s those terms and conditions that have a huge problem that I’m sure few of the entrants noticed:

By entering this Contest, Entrant agrees that the Entry Materials, including all Posts, become the property of Sponsors and will not be returned to Entrant.


Entrant grants Sponsors the non-exclusive right to edit, reproduce, distribute, publish, license, and create derivative works of the Posts in whole or in part, in all forms and media now or hereafter known, including material in digital and electronic media, and translations and adaptations, in any language throughout the world and in Sponsors’ sole discretion. Entrant agrees not to bring, support, or authorize any lawsuit or claim against Sponsors, their affiliates, or any other person, on the grounds that any of Sponsors’ use of the Posts, or any derivative works, infringe or violate any of Entrant’s rights therein.

Entrants are effectively signing away publishing rights to Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers for any of the posts submitted to be judged, without compensation. If they want to publish a best of book blogging book, or use the posts to publicize their products, they get to do so. And you, the entrant, don’t get paid for that.

That’s the biggest issue. I’m also a little peevish about a few other things. These aren’t independent awards. Goodreads and the A.P.A. are hardly independent. Posts that are entered can’t include profanity. This post can’t be entered into their fucking contest. These posts also can’t be derogatory about the contest sponsors or any affiliated entity or person, say a publisher or author or Goodreads. Guess that this rules out this post right there. There’s that independence thing. Guess you are dependent if you enter after all. Posts entered cannot have not won any previous awards. I kinda want to take one of those crappy meme-ish awards that were all the rage on book blogs a few years ago and give it to every entered post, so that they will all be ineligible.

And lastly, the awards have a catch-all clause that allow them to disqualify entrants for whatever. Sponsors further reserve the right, in their sole and unfettered discretion, to reject and disqualify any entry for any or no reason. Please note, this is not the judges deciding in their subjective opinion that something is good or bad. It is Goodreads and the A.P.A. deciding who even gets to be viewed by the judges, all of whom are unknown at this point.

Goodreads and the A.P.A. are not really the organizations I would be looking to decide what is good reviewing, when I’m writing about their products. Much as I think B.B.A.W. is irrelevant, they are in a far better position to be conducting awards for book bloggers than someone who has a financial interest in seeing us promote their crap.

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