Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register

Here's To Banned Books Week!



Booksellers around the country participated in Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds created displays of banned and challenged titles, and many organized events.

Bookmans in Arizona, which sponsors its own Anti-Censorship Month in September, created events for both adults and kids, including a James and the Giant Peach Party, a Hogwarts House Party and a Free an Idea Author Fair. At its Flagstaff store, Bookmans provided a setting and props for customers to take "mugshots" of themselves with their favorite banned books.

In Chicago, City Lit Books invited local students to read from Alan Moore's Watchmen and other censored books. In San Francisco, Books Inc.'s book clubs and story time events read banned and challenged works. Books Inc. released a video as the capstone of its celebration.

Two booksellers from Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, helped get things started last week on KPFA, a radio station in Berkeley, California, by discussing their fight against the censorship of emily m. danforth's The Miseducation of Cameron Post. The book, which is the story of a young lesbian, was dropped from a summer reading list in the school district that includes Rehoboth Beach.

Susan McAnelly, the manager of the bookstore, and Madison Bacon, an employee who just graduated from the local high school, were interviewed on the Project Censored radio show, which is rebroadcast on the Pacifica radio network. Explaining why Browseabout agreed to distribute 250 donated copies of the book to students, McAnelly said, "We took the stance that as an independent bookstore our job is to put books in people's hands. We're very passionate especially about putting books in kids' hands-in teenagers' hands." The program is available online, and the 12-minute segment featuring the McAnelly and Bacon begins at 34:56.

Independent bookstores are enthusiastic supporters of Banned Books Week, but as small businesses many do not have the resources to participate. To make it as easy as possible, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship, has joined the Ingram Content Group in distributing a free promotional kit that contains everything a bookstore needs to create a display, including a full-sized poster, "Caution" tape, bookmarks, stickers, and a flyer with detailed information about last year's book challenges. One hundred and sixty bookstores ordered the kit.


Booksellers Challenge Arizona Nude Photos LawNude

ABFFE joined Media Coalition and a broad coalition of bookstores, newspapers, photographers, publishers and librarians in a lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday challenging a new Arizona law that criminalizes speech protected by the First Amendment.

The law makes the display, publication or sale of nude or sexual images without the subject's explicit consent a felony punishable by nearly four years in prison. The law was passed with the stated intent of combating "revenge porn," a term popularly understood to describe a person knowingly and maliciously posting on the Internet an identifiable, private image with the intent and effect of harming an ex-lover. But the law is so broad and vague that it could send people to prison for sharing material that is fully protected by the First Amendment.

As written, Arizona's "nude photo law" could be applied to any person who distributes or displays an image of nudity--including pictures that are newsworthy, artistic, educational or historic--without the depicted person's consent, even images for which consent was impossible to obtain or is difficult to prove.

"This law puts us at risk for prosecution," said Gayle Shanks, owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, one of the plaintiffs. "There are books on my shelves right now that might be illegal to sell under this law. How am I supposed to know whether the subjects of these photos gave their permission?" Changing Hands has stores in Tempe and Phoenix.

Four other booksellers are plaintiffs: Antigone Books and Mostly Books in Tucson; Bookmans, which has stores in Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa and Flagstaff, and Copper News Book Store in Ajo. They are joined by Voice Media Group, which publishes the Phoenix New Times, the Association of American Publishers, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association and ABFFE.

Because this is the first challenge to a "revenge porn" law, there has been extensive media coverage. Tricia Clapp, owner of Mostly Books, was interviewed by a Tucson TV station. Watch the video.

Read more about the case.  




SupremE COURT UPHOLDS PRE-enforcement precedent

In a victory for free-speech loving booksellers, publishers and librarians, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week that a person under fear of prosecution can challenge the constitutionality of a law even if it has not yet been enforced. This is precisely the outcome that ABFFE had hoped for when it signed onto Media Coalition’s brief for Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Bringing a more partisan balance to a case brought by Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, we made sure that the free speech issues at the heart of the case were not ignored. Fortunately, the Court agreed and upheld the "pre-enforcement" precedent set by booksellers in the landmark Virginia v. American Booksellers Association.

Read the Supreme Court’s opinion.

Protest at Tattered Cover Continues

Demonstrators are continuing to picket the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver in an effort to force it to abandon its long-standing policy of non-partisanship on political issues. Several groups that advocate on behalf of the homeless began demonstrating at Tattered Cover in December because the store belongs to the Denver Downtown Partnership, which supports an ordinance that bans "urban camping" on city streets. The protesters, sometimes accompanied by bullhorns and drums, are urging customers to boycott Tattered Cover.           

In a statement that is being handed to demonstrators and customers, Tattered Cover says that its policy of non-partisanship is one of the ways it promotes free expression for its customers. "We do not inhibit them by pushing our own individual agendas or any official store position; nor do we allow a vocal minority from outside to coerce us into deciding for those who visit our store what they 'should' be reading, thinking or promoting," the statement says.          

Tattered Cover has a long history of advocacy on behalf of free speech--in the state legislature, Congress, and the courts-both state and federal. Owner Joyce Meskis says this is the only exception the store will make in its policy of non-partisanship.   

ABFFE's president wins Hefner First Amendment Award!

ABFFE's president Chris Finan has been named the winner of the 2014 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in the category of law for his book National Security and Free Speech: The Debate Since 9/11 (International Debate Education Association), reported BusinessWire. The award, established in 1979, honors individuals who have made significant contributions toward protecting and enhancing First Amendment rights in this country.

Read ABFFE's Interview with Petra Couvée and Peter Finn, authors of The Zhivago Affair:The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over A Forbidden Book





While most of us are letting our hair down and perhaps reading books such as Neonomicon on the beach, book banners are looking for opportunities to catch us unawares in our bathing suits. They have been especially careful to make sure that kids do not have too much fun, banning several both from curriculum and summer reading lists. According to ABFFE's Kids' Right to Read (KRRP) there have so far been five cases of books banned this summer: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Paper Towns by John Green, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth and UnWholly by Neal Shusterman.

Little Brother was the first book to provoke the summer censors. It was part of a summer reading program at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida and was withdrawn from it because the principal decided that some parents might object to the book's positive depiction of hacker culture. "The right way to address controversial subjects is through discourse. Students and schools around the world have had fruitful discussions that started with Little Brother" responded Cory Doctorow, the book's author. ABFFE's Kids' Right to Read Project sent a letter to school principal Dr. Michael Roberts pointing out that removing a book without proper review violates students' free speech rights. 


UnWholly was removed at the whims of a parent in Murray, Kentucky who complained that the book's content was inappropriately dark and at the whims of a principal who consequently removed the book. KRRP responded by urging the Murray Independent Schools to adopt-and consistently implement-a formal review policy, to facilitate communication between the school and students' parents, as well as prevent the hasty removal of books from the students' hands.


Looking for Alaska by John Green is the most recent book challenge this summer. A parent of a child in a 10th AP English class in Waukesha, Wisconsin objected to the sexual content of the book and called for a district-wide ban. KRRP has just sent a strongly worded letter urging the district not to remove the book. "In practice, the attempt to alter school curricula in response to individual objections means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent." 


It is always heartening when books that are initially on the chopping block are put back on reading lists thanks to KRRP's efforts. Such was the case with Paper Towns. The book was initially removed from the 8th grade summer reading list in Pasco County, Florida after a complaint from a parent who was upset that she had not been alerted to its content. The Miseducation of Cameron Post was another book banned this  summer that we were hoping would be reinstated after the school board responded to our letter by holding a board meeting on July 24. Instead of reinstating it, the board decided to do away with the entire summer reading list altogether since they could not reach an agreement.