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My Promise to You: I Respect Your Intelligence

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Ed got the drop on me. I’m busted. He wilted under the harsh spotlights, billy clubs, and genitally-placed electrodes of John Freeman’s Amazon link expose and he ratted us all out. Now, the grifters of the Lit Blog Cartel are all on the run, hiding in the shadows and safe houses of the book world. Trust me, the stool pigeon who will forever be known as Ed The Rat, will be handled in good time. Someday in the near future, a fisherman trawling along the coast of San Francisco will hook onto a heavy object. Divers will make the grisly discovery of The Rat himself, sleeping with the fishes, with a full set of Proust’s Rememberance of Things Past strapped to his legs.

We had a sweet thing going. But then Mr. Freeman posted a missive about the potential conflict of interest with recommending a book while also linking to it using Amazon’s Affiliate program. “It’s one thing to accept advertising money: that’s what has kept papers afloat for years. It’s quite another to make a commission off the very object you are purporting to criticize,” Freeman writes. His well-argued post launched a healthy and spirited discussion in the comments section which is also well worth reading.

While I respect Freeman and his colleagues’ desire to make such a lofty pledge for their website Critical Mass, I’m not going to do it. And it should be noted, for the record, Mr. Freeman didn’t issue a challenge to other blogs, he didn’t push us to make similar declarations, and he was only politely stating what he thought was necessary for his site. So my reaction to the whole pledge thing is simply an uninvited opinion. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on the subject.

First, I often include Amazon links to books I mention because I believe it’s a useful reference tool for you. You can follow the link, read more reviews, view the cover art, get pricing information, discover the publisher, and often peruse a few introductory pages. At 5:30 in the morning, while I’m sloshing Mt. Dew everywhere in my struggle to wake up, I can’t type up all that data each time I refer to a book. So including the Amazon link is an easy way to provide more information.

Second, I just got off the phone with Eliot Spitzer as well as the prosecuting attorneys in the Enron case. The conversation tested my powers of negotiation, but I managed to convince them that the dollar amounts involved are pretty microscopic. Trust me, lit bloggers ain’t out buying $6,000 shower curtains. In fact, Slushpile.net has been in operation for more than a year and I’ve made less than $5 from the progam. Maybe some day, I’ll be able to buy two Big Mac value meals from the Amazon filthy lucre. But for now, it remains, as one commenter put it, a pleasant tip. To me, it’s not so much about the potential income, miniscule as it might be, as it is the convenience of book buying. Although I would rather you go visit your local bookseller, I’d rather you buy a book online than not buy it at all.

Third, Freeman’s website uses Blogger, a “completely free service.” That’s a fine choice for their website, but I wanted something different for my blog and my readers. I chose to utilize WordPress, an open-source (and therefore free) tool. However, the hosting fees for Slushpile.net most assuredly come out of my own pocket and consume funds that could otherwise be spent on strippers, vintage Kiss collectibles, Members Only jackets and autographed photos of The Statler Brothers.

Finally, I don’t think any sort of grand pledge is needed because I am blessed with intelligent, sophisticated, savy readers. While the sound and fury of a lofty declaration makes a powerful impression, I just don’t think it’s needed. You, the reader, know when you’re being conned and when you’re not.

I trust that you know when I take a break from kissing certain literary feet long enough to talk about one of my favorite authors.

I trust that you know when I have an axe to grind with some writer who used his Pulitzer to steal a beautiful girl from me when I was in grad school.

I trust that you know a purchase through an Amazon link pumps a few financial fractions into the Slushpile.net coffers.

“How can you actually claim to blog blindly if the chances are, a positive or salesworthy blog might generate some extra income?” Freeman writes. Maybe he absorbs books through osmosis and types while blindfolded, but I don’t. Did you ever think I was blogging blindly? I trust you are intelligent enough to know that I have opinions and agendas. Are you here to read the robotic words of an android, spit out based on algorithms and random formulas? I trust that you aren’t ignorant rubes who can be easily suckered by any callous scam amazing offer to throw away invest your hard earned money in books.

In fact, I don’t have to trust this. I know it because you compliment me when you think I’m right and you curse me when you think I’m full of it.

So while I respect The NBCC Blogging Committee’s decision to pledge against profiting from book discussions, I just don’t think it’s necessary for Slushpile.net. It’s a personal choice for each blogger. Some folks don’t want to use Amazon links (many prefer not to use the links because they honorably want your book dollars going to an independent store), some folks do use them. I gots mad love for both groups. Most of the time, it’s not even a big enough deal to make it a topic of discussion.

But now that the Amazon Affiliate gig is up for me and the Lit Blog Cartel, maybe we can get a list of the Critical Mass readers. If such a pledge is necessary for them, then I got some Nigerian 419 scam emails that might help make up our lost income.

Meanwhile, Ed, you might want to avoid discussing new job opportunities with guys named Sollozzo and Tattaglia for a while until this whole thing blows over.