So it’s Banned Books Week for the American Library Association, and people are taking to the streets to ban or burn their favorite books. What? That’s not happening in your neighborhood? Well, don’t just sit there. Go to the library and complain about something. Freedom of choice in reading starts with you.
So have you read a “banned book” lately? Funny how you got hold of one. Black market book fair, I guess?
Speaking of choice, O.J. Simpson’s book, So What If I Did It?, has been published, and Barnes and Noble apparently announced that they would not distribute it. The public arose to say they wanted it, and the bookseller recanted. As Charles Kaine writes, “Barnes and Noble, on a daily basis, declines to carry dozens, if not hundreds, of titles, and yet we do not get a daily press release from them announcing what they won’t be carrying. Why did they choose to make this one book so special?” Why? They were trying to win some publicity points, of course. Maybe they did.
Still, Kaine argues against their initial decision. “When large corporations start making choices for us,” he says, “deciding for us what we can and can’t read based on what they perceive to be the popular opinion, we, the American public, are in serious danger of losing our right to choose.” But isn’t that the nature of the publishing process, people at large and small corporations deciding whether a manuscript should be published? If we had all the choice we could stomach, every writer would be published, and that would not be a victory for the American or world reader. (Enter The Blog to glut the reader’s stomach.)
Books are published from a community, are they not? The publishing community, composed of editors, writers, managers, designers, publicists, printers, and booksellers, take a manuscript from idea to print. Some of them hold the reigns on every potential book, holding it at standstill or spurring it forward to publication. There are good stories that are not being published and bad ones that are. Do we want more bad stories to choose from or responsible editors to hold them back?
The real battle over choice is in the news business. In that arena, editors filter stories through a condescending elitists grid. Where’s the choice there? And public education–where’s the choice there?! Okay, I’ll stop.