The Future of Banned Books

My local library has a glass display case at the entrance for themed exhibits of books. This month they are having an exhibit of banned books. Whoever does the display has a great sense of design; they have placed a simple white banner over the bottom half of each book on display. The banner obscures the bottom half of the cover and says, “BANNED” in large text. The exhibit panel above the display reads, “Celebrate Literacy Freedom.” Here is a list of historically banned books. I’m amazed at how many literary classics are on this list.

A great example of reverse psychology in marketing: I want to read these books just BECAUSE they are banned. Of course, one of my first thoughts was, “I wonder if the library banned these books?” My second thought was, “How many books are there that are currently banned?”

Seth Godin uses a similar tactic in his book, “Small is the New Big,” when he puts a warning in his preface. This leads me naturally to a thought, “why not make a bookcover that has BANNED stamped over the title?”

Of course, reverse psychology backfires when used as a gimmick. People are extremely sensitive to advertising or attention-getting gimmicks. One that comes to mind is my favorite pet-peeve — excessive yellow highlighted text in an endlessly-scrolling web page.

So, the only way to make a bookcover work that says BANNED is to have controversial content in the book. Otherwise, it’s a cheap gimmick — you get the attention of the user, but he blows your book off as soon as he cracks the cover.

A little research on the web shows me that the ALA sponsored the event, and has merchandise you can buy to support Banned Books Week. Here they are.

I just wish that they employed a great designer for these pieces — they really lose the impact of that simple solution of my local library, a white banner with the huge word, BANNED, obscuring the bottom half of the book.

Copyright 2010 Aliyah Marr


One Reply to “The Future of Banned Books”

  1. If you want to read a banned book, read the last book banned in the USA, namely, Fanny Hill, last banned in 1963.

    No books have been banned in the USA for about a half a century. See “National Hogwash Week.”

    Thomas Sowell says Banned Books Week is “the kind of shameless propaganda that has become commonplace in false charges of ‘censorship’ or ‘book banning’ has apparently now been institutionalized with a week of its own.” He calls it “National Hogwash Week.”

    Former ALA Councilor Jessamyn West said, “It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.” See “Banned Books Week is Next Week.”

    And then there’s Judith Krug herself who created BBW:

    Marking 25 Years of Banned Books Week,” by Judith Krug, Curriculum Review, 46:1, Sep. 2006. “On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.”

    Lastly, remember the ALA does not oppose book burning when doing so would interfere with its political interests. Go see what Judith Krug said about Cuban librarians: “American Library Association Shamed,” by Nat Hentoff.


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