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Banned--Or Simply Shunned? : Conversation question • Page 6 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Fantasy
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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Fantasy » Thu Apr 05, 2007 10:27 am


Winter Maiden
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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Winter Maiden » Mon Apr 09, 2007 8:38 pm

I'm glad that many are questioning this automatic assumption of banning and refusing to carry. Borders hasn't banned or refused to carry the book. They have given Wallington's book a BINC, their own identification number. Borders doesn't "carry" books online; books ordered online are sent from distributers such as Ingram. So if Borders has given "Pop!" a BINC, some of their stores at least are carrying it. I know that a bookseller at my local Borders read the WD article and ordered two copies of the book for that store. When she placed the order, did blinking lights and sirens go off as the Borders police stormed in to stop her? Nah.

As some others have pointed out, the company does not carry every book published. Nor does Borders carry every book in the Penguin catalogue, no matter how much a "heavyweight" Penguin is. It also fails to carry many quite excellent books, old and new. Yes, even classics. Also--and as a very relevant example--Borders hardly ever stocks whatever worthy but often off-putting books end up being honored by the Newbery judges, until after they have won. At that point the stores have to wait for shipments from publishers who usually aren't prepared to supply the winners in large quantities, having also (like Borders) not expected a big demand.

It would be tempting to suggest that the Borders Young Adult buyers simply thought that "Pop!" was a crap book, but Borders carries lots of crap books. It is not very tempting to think that the company isn't carrying the book because of its theme, since they do stock Young Adult books about teen sex (including gay sex), teen drug use, parents murdering each other, and dystopian horror stories. Or how about "How It's Done," by Christine Kole McLean, which is about a high-school girl who rebels against her god-fearing parents by having an affair with a college professor? Borders carries it. Not to mention the astoundingly amoral Young Adult series "Gossip Girl" (described on the cover blurb as "Sex and the City" for teens--now THAT'S scary!). In "Gossip Girl" readers are invited to identify with rich high-school kids who drink, do drugs, and have various kinds of sex (and gossip about even more kinds), while their parents are indifferent as long as the kids don't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

Ms. Wallington and her friends may think her book is self-evidently a masterpiece with loads of obvious appeal to teen buyers, but Borders doesn't have to agree. Looking at editorial and customer reviews at Amazon, the response of people who have read the book seems to be a resounding "meh." One reviewer suggested it was "Sex and the City" crossed with an Afterschool Special. Doesn't sound scarily controversial to me. It sounds like every fifth YA book that Borders carries. So if "Pop!" isn't one of them, it is almost certainly for reasons other than the earnestly sexual theme.

I would suggest that Wallington examine Penguin's promotion strategy and her own alibi-prone agent, rather than blame chain bookstores.

On the issue of Borders and banning-- When the O. J. Simpson book came out, and before it was pulled from stores, Borders made a public statement that they would be carrying the book, regardless of content. The statement pointed out that Borders does not choose whether to stock books based on the controversial nature of the content; rather it is up to customers to decide whether they want to support or boycott a book. That doesn't make Borders noble supporters of Freedom of Speech. It just makes them a business.

Kathie Blog
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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Kathie Blog » Wed Apr 11, 2007 7:33 pm

Capitalism or freedom? From a business stance capitalism may be
a plausible explanation for banning however it seems in due
time that form of censuring will cause an adverse effect.
Regardless, freedom of speech in a bookstore seems paramount and
a liberty we should all take special measures to retain.

==================

Kathie Blog
I'm opinionated and at my age, I'd be crazy not to be.


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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Winter Maiden » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:27 pm


Kathie Blog
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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Kathie Blog » Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:10 pm


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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Kathie Blog » Wed Apr 11, 2007 10:27 pm


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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Winter Maiden » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:43 am

I doubt carrying Pop! alone would make a big difference to Borders' bottom line, even if it became the first of a wildly successful series or the author went on Oprah's show. One could reply that carrying a lot of books like it might help the bottom line. But Borders does carry books like it. There is nothing about Pop! that sets it apart from young adult books that Borders does carry. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the book is being singled out for banning or censorship. "Not carrying" doesn't have to equate to "banning."

Industry gossip is that Borders is killing itself with discounts, not losing money because it doesn't carry books that sell.

In response to some earlier posts, I wouldn't take what a bookstore carries in its sex section (or the fact that it carries gay manga with explicit sex scenes) as relevant to what it carries in the kids' section. But the kids' section itself has lots of controversial books. According to the ALA, the most banned book of the year was the kid's picture book And Tango Makes Three, a true story about two male penguins at a zoo who hatched an egg and raised a baby penguin together. The book has been accused of promoting homosexuality to kids. My local Borders carried a few copies of it in their nature section. But once it became controversial and the sales went up (controversy drives sales), they ordered more copies and seemed to promote it, or at least make it more obviously available. It's a cute book.

If Pop! starts attracting genuine controversy, i.e. from people who explicitly oppose the book, perhaps Borders will start carrying it, as well. I don't see how it can attract that sort of controversy, though, because it sounds so tame. Or-- Oooh-- Maybe that's the real plan, to stir up the idea that the book is somehow controversial so that the Mrs. Grundys will try to ban it. That would boost sales, and since many people yell for the censorship of books they haven't even read, Wallington and her agent might even succeed in persuading people that there's something shocking about it.

Yes, Borders carries Forever, and Waldens carried it back in the eighties, when I worked for them. Forever is also pretty tame, though, compared to How It's Done and some of the other stuff currently available on the Young Adult shelves.

It is actually very rare for chains such as Borders not to carry a book because it is too controversial. School libraries have to deal with censorship groups, but such groups have very little effect on what big bookstores carry. They refrain from cheesily-packaged hardcore pornography, but that's about it.

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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby aesop2 » Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:06 am

Controversy sells books. Look at all the free publicity that escaped murderer Simpson got on all the TV and radio talk shows, not to mention the print coverage. The retailers who pulled his book from the shelves, I believe, were making a pure business decision. Would they lose future sales to lost customers exceeding what revenue the book generated? Whichever side of that question they chose is what drove the decision. Of course, they may well have figured incorrectly. That tidal wave of outrage, in retrospect, seems to have been more a ripple than a tsunami.
Meantime, the Juice's search for the real killer continues (somebody send him a mirror.)

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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby KeithMN » Thu Jun 21, 2007 6:10 am

I'll just state upfront that I didn't read any of the three pages of responses -- yet. (Except for Jim's, above.)

There are so many layers to this subject that there is no 100% right or wrong answer. Just off the top of my head, here's what I mean, with only two points (for brevity) under each argument.

Yes, it's OK to ban the book
- It's their bookstore, they can carry what they want. Why should they be forced to carry a book about something they're adamantly against?
- Borders likes to be considered a family-oriented bookstore. This book doesn't fit their image, just as some books writers submit don't fit what every editor is looking for.

No, it's not OK to ban the book
- It would be hypocritical. They carry a lot of other risque, non-family oriented material, including X-Rated magazines behind the counter.
- They don't have the right to say what the public can/should or cannot/should not read.

I'm not going to say which side of the argument I fall on because I'm not wise enough to know the answer. I see the validity of both sides of the argument. Now, I can't wait to read everyone's posts to see which direction this goes. (Even though I'm awfully late to this discussion and people probably don't have a desire to continue it.)

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RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Sheri2867 » Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:00 pm

Very interesting thread...how did I miss this one?

A very large bookstore chain here in Canada does not sell Mien Kamf by Adolf Hitler. The CEO is Jewish. That should answer why they don't carry this title. Is that right or wrong? I'm on both sides here. If you are an owner of a retail store, you can sell or not sell whatever the heck you want. That being said, I think Mein Kamf was an interesting book because it allowed readers to get into the mind of a psychopath. I didn't read it because I agree with what he stood for--absolutely, positively not. I read it because I was curious how a person can be born an innocent baby and end up becoming a horrifying monster.

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