It’s Banned Books Week, a popular celebration for rebel readers put on by the American Library Association. For thirty-five years, the ALA has encouraged readers to explore the list of books that have been banned or challenged in schools, libraries, and even retail sales in order to exercise their right to read.
Unfortunately, in this climate of political angsts and “keyboard commandos,” the list of banned and challenged books is growing, not due to their content but due to public outcry over the author. A report from Newsweek highlights two series in particular that have faced public backlash that led to removal from the shelves. Bill Cosby’s Little Bill books, arguably a delightful, entertaining, and educational series, have been removed in some places due to the allegations of sexual assault against the author; that’s obviously reason for individual consumers to not purchase future books if they feel compelled to vote with their wallets, but not a reason for a library to remove books that it has already used its limited budget to purchase.
JK Rowling has also faced criticism of her works and calls for her books to be removed (or even burned) due to her outspoken stance against Donald Trump. Again, consumers may choose to not support her if they are not aligned with her politics, but that should have no bearing on a school or library opting to provide quality, non-US politically motivated content for students to read.
One innovation that has made banned books more accessible is obviously the ebook. While the point of Banned Books Week is for patrons across the US to proudly demonstrate their support for intellectual freedom, that’s a right that not every reader across the globe gets to enjoy. In places where consuming banned content is actually a punishable offense, ebooks are the ideal way to continue to spread new ideas and controversial topics with less risk of ramifications.