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Censorship

You’ve Missed the Plot: Book Price Increases Contribute to Ongoing Censorship

Kelly Jensen

Editor

Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Earlier this week, I dug into the ways in which YA paperback books have increased in price. It’s not a surprise that many saw an increase of a dollar or two. There’s inflation, and paper costs are skyrocketing, among myriad other issues. One publisher, whose union has been on strike for a wage increase and firmer commitment to diversity, has elected to raise their paperback books by almost 25%, ringing in at $15.99 a pop (up from $11.99).

Comments on that post reiterated the fact that the discussion of how widespread and dangerous book bans are is being not only ignored, but outright dismissed.

Hundreds of comments on that post said that if a kid can’t afford to buy the book, go to the library and get it. Libraries are amazing! They offer these things to people in their community.

Y’all: LIBRARIES ARE UNDER ATTACK BY GROUPS TRYING TO ENSURE THESE BOOKS DO NOT GET INTO THE HANDS OF READERS. This is not only school libraries. It is not only public libraries. There are states literally working to outlaw entire categories of books from reaching the teens for whom they are already financially inaccessible.

Not only that, but librarians and educators are being put under the threat of losing their jobs, their livelihoods, their health insurance, and their actual lives by legislators across the country who are eager to criminalize them for having “inappropriate” books in their collections. These legislators are listening to right-wing Christian nationalists calling certified educators and librarians groomers for simply having the books that reflect their communities in the collection.

How do you expect a young person to get the books they can’t afford at $16 if the books are criminalized by the state? How do you expect a young person to feel safe borrowing books that they need mommy or daddy’s permission to borrow, when mommy and daddy are showing up to school board meetings calling people like them sick, wrong, and less than human?

Book bans are driving kids away from libraries.

It might feel nice to wax poetic about how the library makes things possible for those without the means to engage in capitalism, but what are you actually doing to ensure those books are available? Have you gone to a library or school board meeting and talked during public comment? Have you written your legislators to demand that First Amendment rights extend to everyone in the country and not just those who have the loudest voices and the most money? Have you had your name smeared with the word “groomer” attached for standing up for young people whose lives are being impacted by book bans?

If you haven’t, you need to wake the hell up.

This isn’t about the book price increase. It’s about how that book price increase further marginalizes already hurting communities of people and it amplifies how those with privilege absolutely do not get it and do not want to get it. This increase in price allows more book banning to happen. It revokes access. It destroys actual people’s lives.

Here’s a handy chart. Think about this before you make your next little comment about how great libraries are without putting your feet on the group and showing up to do real work on behalf of that library.

Image of a five step flowchart of how books are getting banned and teens cannot access them. The book OUT OF THE BLUE is the example, priced at $15.99. The text reads "Imagine you're a queer teen in Texas in 2023 and you want to read this book." The five notes state that 1. you can't afford to buy the book, 2. it would be banned at your school library, 3. it would be banned from your public library, 4. your librarian could be prosecuted for having the book, and 5. giving up because the barriers are too high."

Right now, this is what the world looks like for more people than you know. This is, of course, but a single example of an issue that is not going away. That requires you to take off your kind words and actions, roll up your sleeves, and do something.

If this does not concern you or you’ve been able to move through the mass waves of book bans and legislation impacting queer people and people of color, congratulations on your privilege.

Now show up and do better.

This is a pink image with a green circle. It has white text that reads "if your next thought is "well, it is Texas (or arkansas or utah or louisiana or florida or north cakota or indiana or iowa, etc.)," then you don't aactually care about the people impacted by book bans nor the fact this is not about the books at all.

Oh, and …

Publishers making these decisions aren’t immune, either. Harper Collins has been especially quiet about the books and humans being targeted by their books, unless it allows them to profit from “big sales.”