Review Copies: What to Do With Them After You’ve Written the Review

One of the perks of writing articles for various publications is that you can wind up with review products. If you write about cooking, you can wind up with pots and pans. If you write about technology, you can wind up with software. And if you write about anything, well… through review copies, I’ve learned that there really is a book on every topic.

All of that is great, but you can wind up with enough review products in your home to drive you crazy after a while. Even worse, you may be technically expected to report any review copies that you receive on your taxes, due to the fact that you received value for your freelancing business. Unless there’s a very good reason not to, I make a point of getting rid of review copies — preferably in a way that does not change my financial situation so that I don’t even have to consider the tax situation. All of this, by the way, does not include books and other items that I bought to review on my own.

  1. Donate ’em: If it’s something that will be useful for someone else, I donate it. Libraries, for instance, are often pleased to see brand new books that they can either add to their collections or resell. Other items can go to appropriate charities. I’ve also been known to give books directly to educators who can use them — the receipts don’t matter in this situation beyond proving that you no longer have the item in question. You can’t actually write these types of donations off on your taxes.
  2. Give ’em away: Every so often, I’ll have a giveaway here on this blog. I try to only give away books here that are actually something that one of you would want. If you saw my stack of ‘books to get rid of’, you’d probably appreciate that fact a little more, but if it’s not relevant I don’t worry about it. I’ve also just handed books off to people who were in my house and said that they wanted to read a particular book. As long as it’s gone, I’m happy.
  3. Trade ’em: I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of this approach simply because I feel like, technically, it might bother the IRS. I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to my taxes and I’d like to avoid any potential problems. But there are a lot of online tools that allow you to hand off books to people who really want them. I particularly like Bookmooch because it allows me to send out books and then donate the books I would get in return to charity.
  4. Send ’em back: In some cases, you can simply return the review copy to the seller who provide you with it. With big items such as microwaves — yes, I’ve reviewed a microwave — the public relations firm is much more willing to take such steps. For smaller items, such as books, though, the postage to send it back seems like too much for most of them.
  5. Delete ’em: With ebooks and other digital review copies, I make a point of getting rid of items that I don’t need anymore. Even if it’s just cluttering up my hard drive, it’s still clutter that I don’t need. I may as well get rid of it and make sure that I’ll have that much more room still on my hard drive to fill up with my own writing. I’ve actually started requesting electronic copies when possible because it makes getting rid of them when I’m done so much easier. Sure, I could just toss print copies in the trash, but I’d feel pretty guilty about it.

There are a few ethical concerns that go along with review copies, especially these days, and I’ve found that getting rid of books and other products after you’re done with them is the easiest way to resolve the issue. In a time where, every so often, we hear about a blogger asking for (and even getting) a new laptop in exchange for a review and equally unethical situations including reviews, I feel that it is important to make sure that my readers here and elsewhere have no reason to question my integrity. What about you? What do you do with your review copies?