For the month of May, the New York Public Library (NYPL) will be releasing four banned books nationwide using SimplyE, which is a free-reader app.
There is an interesting commonality between all of the titles; they are all award-winning highly praised books, however, due to their subject matter, they are also viewed as controversial, as some parents and educators have expressed concerns about their appropriateness for children.
The books are; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
In coordination with several publishers (Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, and Scholastic), the library is working to make the titles available for free to the public, with no wait times or limits on downloads. Usually, publishers only allow libraries to lend out e-books to one person at a time, much like regular books, which can often lead to long wait times at public libraries. In addition, inquiring readers don’t need to live in the area or have an NYPL library card. Starting May 1st, the novels will be offered through NYPL’s Books for All program, which aims to make titles from the public domain open for access to anyone in the US.
The initiative behind this project is for the NYPL to voice its opposition to recent increases in book challenges and book banning that’s being seen across many school districts. According to a recent NPR article, more than 1,500 books have been challenged for removal from libraries in the last year alone. The American Library Association reported it received 330 reports of book challenges in the fall 2021, and free speech advocacy group, PEN America, reported that since January 2021, 174 education-focused legislative bills that target content in a variety of ways, were introduced in 40 states.
The NYPL’s mission is anchored in the principles of open and free access to information, knowledge and all perspectives. “These recent instances of censorship and book banning are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” said Anthony W. Marx, New York Public Library President, as reported by writer A.Khalid. (April 13th 2022).
In an email to Engadget, Angela Montefinise, vice-president marketing and communications for NYPL, shared that “the SimplyE app had to increase its server capacity three times today to account for the spike in downloads. At this point we’re not planning to release more books as part of this project, but we’ll see how things go.”
An avid book reader, Angela Waterfield is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, and fitness, and loves to be outside. She has contributed writing to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.