The Ethics of Book Blurbs
Last week I was perusing the book tables at the ETS conference when I came across a book that featured a blurb from a friend of mine. The blurb made the book sound like a great purchase so when I saw my friend later in the day I asked him to elaborate on the book.
“It’s not that great,” he replied, the tepidity in his voice inesacapable.
Surprised, I replied, “But in the blurb you said it was an outstanding and challenging contribution to the field!”
“Ah yes,” he said, with a smile ”but note what I didn’t say.” And from there he went on to explain how he had carefully wordsmithed his blurb so that it would sound like a ringing endorsement to the average reader while retaining a subtle undercurrent of tepidity which would presumably be readily apparent to the highly skilled blurb exegete.
Yes folks, the ethics of blurbing a book can get messy sometimes. And for the most part it remains the elephant in the room (or, if you prefer, the elephant on the back cover). But there are exceptions where people are willing to confront those ethical issues more directly. I remember hearing of one student at Regent College who, caring nothing for social decorum, went up to J.I. Packer and asked “Do you really read all the books you blurb?” Shocked at this brazen question, Dr. Packer refused to answer. Assuming that he did read all the books he blurbed, I suppose the next question would be this: did he really like them?