“The primary situation is where there’s a link to the sponsoring seller and the blogger,” said Cleland. And if a blogger repeatedly reviewed similar products (say, books or smartphones), then the FTC would raise an eyebrow if the blogger either held onto the product or there was any link to an advertisement.
What was the best way to dispense with products (including books)?
“You can return it,” said Cleland. “You review it and return it. I’m not sure that type of situation would be compensation.”
If, however, you held onto the unit, then Cleland insisted that it could serve as “compensation.” You could after all sell the product on the streets.
But couldn’t the same thing be said of a newspaper critic?
Cleland insisted that when a publisher sends a book to a blogger, there is the expectation of a good review. I informed him that this was not always the case and observed that some bloggers often receive 20 to 50 books a week. In such cases, the publisher hopes for a review, good or bad. Cleland didn’t see it that way.
In the case of books, Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving a book, provided there wasn't a linked advertisement to buy the book and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland's standpoint, count as 'compensation' and require a disclosure.
You can read the interview here: http://www.edrants.com/interview-with-the-ftcs-richard-cleland/
I freelance review for the Oregonian, and they have certainly never asked me to return the books I review. My very reading of them causes them to lose value. They become dog-earred and full of Post-It notes.
[Full disclosure: I reviewed my own personal copy of Jumping Off Swings yesterday. It was not sent to me by the publisher or author.]