Banned Books Week

September 22 marks the start of Banned Books Week.  I was surprised when I mentioned it to an acquaintance, and she had never heard about books being banned.

It happens every year.  There’s always someone out there very happy to tell everyone else what they can and can’t read.

This is a list of what was banned last year (from the above site):

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey .Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz. Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Offensive language is the one that gets me.  It’s hard to find movie that doesn’t have all of these elements.  Yet, they don’t seem to get the same attention.  It’s like having all of these things in a movie is accepted, but in a book it isn’t.

I was glad to have parents who let me read what I want (though my mother did steal my books because she wanted to read them, too).  It opens the doors to a lot of different worlds and experiences.  Don’t close them off.

The Evolution and Decline of Advertising

The other night I was watching Covert Affairs, a spy show (with women!) on USA Network.  This year, the network or producers decided to eliminate the opening credits to squeeze a few more commercials.  In the past, opening credits could make a show.  Think Hawaii 5.0.  How about Star Trek?  China Beach? (Which is out on video this year at last, intact music-wise).

One of the problems is that ads are becoming increasingly ineffective.  It used to be that advertising targeted younger people because if the vendors got brand loyalty at that age, they’d have a customer for life.  Now the bombardment of ads seems to be killing off sales, and social media has definitely turned marketers directionless.  I watch writers all the time who send out a tweet that says “Buy my book.”  They send it out multiple times because that’s the old marketing guidance — repetition, just like a commercial.  Not only does it not work, they run the risk of getting hammered or reported as a spammer.

Now we have advertising masquerading as news articles:

Now the new rage is “native advertising,” which is to say advertising wearing the uniform of journalism, mimicking the storytelling aesthetic of the host site.

One of the dangers of that is that it may destroy the news magazines.  They’re already suffering problems from readers being able to trust them, and having something that looks like news writing may destroy that trust.  Once trust is destroyed, it’s darn near impossible to get back.

And the advertising will continue to spread.  I think in the future publishers may start plopping advertising in books.  Like you’re reading along in your ereader, and it forces you to look at this ad and acknowledge before you can move along.  Just like on websites that dim the pages and make you click ‘cancel’ on the ad before you can go on (National Geographic, do you hear me?). Of course, if the advertising does come into books, the publishers still won’t reduce the costs for the consumer.

We can’t even tune into TV shows any more without obtrusive advertising dancing across the screen. What’s going to be the impact if this happens in books?  What would your reaction be if you saw advertising dancing across the page of your book?