Friday, September 27, 2013

Danger! Books Can Change You.

Books can change your operating system.
Are you sure you wish to proceed?
moar littrary kittehs
In honor of Banned Book Week a serious LOLcat, a presentation of an invaluable set of books about banned books accompanied by a rant likening book pricing structure to a form of suppression.

Banned Books Four Volume Set Published by Facts on File
Ken Wachsberger (general editor)

Literature Suppressed on Political Grounds by Nicholas J. Karolides
Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds by Margaret Bald
Literature Suppressed on Sexual Grounds by Dawn B. Sova
Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds by Dawn B. Sova

These are an invaluable resource for anyone needing to research the history of book banning over the centuries.  Each book begins with an overview of its category followed by brief histories of a hundred or more books that have been suppressed somewhere at sometime--many repeatedly.

Every public and school library from middle school to college should have two sets--one for the Reference Shelves and one for checkout.  Every news organization needs at least one set for those times when attempts are being made to exclude books from curriculum or libraries. So those covering the story can have their awareness grounded in the historical context of the current hullabaloo and the facts at hand.

But unfortunately that is unlikely to happen as at $60 per book that's $240 per set.  Even the one volume version is priced at $240.  They are all hardback and use library quality binding and paper so that is almost understandable but it prices them out of range for many public school and public library districts.

There are no paperback or ebook editions that one could expect to be priced affordably for the average home reference library at any of the online booksellers and tho Infobase Publishing parent of the Facts on File imprint does show ebooks in their catalog the price is hidden until you sign in and based on their statement that they cater to educational institutions and libraries I doubt I'm even eligible to have an account with them even if I could imagine being able to pay their prices.  

In my humble opinion this amounts to a form of suppression essentially excluding those below the upper middle class and the school and library districts in their neighborhoods since they are funded by local property taxes.

I know.  That rant doesn't jive with my first statement.  Well, I made that before I found the publisher's page with the price quotes.  I stand by it.  For the essence of their value is in the impact they can have on the local and national consciousness on the issue of book banning and thus on the debates surrounding every local attempt to take a book off a public shelf or out of a curriculum.  But if over 60% of the people never encounter them that value is diminished, even nullified.

Yes.  I understand that a lot of care went into creating these books--gathering the facts and compiling them and writing the overviews for each category and the histories for each book and designing the books.  But dictionaries, almanacs, atlases, and quotation books have all managed to provide affordable editions.  It mystifies me why so many publishers can't see that more sales at lower prices would likely increase profit.

This post spun off its original axis after the first paragraph.  I fully intended this to be a several paragraph rave about these information packed reference books. I still feel as enthused as ever by the books themselves but the news about the price structure shook me up.  I believe I was harboring a bit of hope for having a set for my own reference library and that has been dashed by what I learned today.  Which soured my mood and morphed the rave into a rant.

I came close to deleting everything after the first paragraph and returning to the original intent.  But when rereading it and encountering the line comparing this price-jacking to suppression itself I realized the relevance of the rant to the Banned Book Week theme and decided to make it part of the discussion.

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