We don’t and still aren’t delving into the world of politics. When it comes to censoring and trying to regulate content and publishing, however, the academic publishing world is in the fray, whether it wishes it or not. The Scholarly Kitchen brought this important topic to our attention in their article, “The Publishing Community Should More Actively Oppose Book Bans.”

The book banning movement is no longer simply demanding that books be removed from school shelves or passing laws restricting student-accessible topics. Now, it is going after publishers using censorious legislation blocking public schools from accessing specific books and topics, with imprisonment and fines as penalties upon conviction in some cases. Today’s efforts to ban books in schools are already unparalleled in recent history, and over the past year, new laws have supercharged the movement. Legislation directly targeting publishers represents a new and novel attack on free speech in schools.

It is worth stressing that the campaign to reinvigorate cultural wars using book banning is an explicit and coordinated nation-wide strategy. Publishers and book distributors are well aware of these would-be censors’ targets. As PEN America’s research has shown, the majority of books being banned across the country in the past 18 months have been by or about people of color or LGBTQ+ individuals. These books have only recently found a place on library shelves. The laws the book banners would pass risk creating financial incentives for publishers to self-censor, cutting traditionally marginalized groups off from free speech itself.

The publishing industry has historically played a leading role in the fights against book bans and censorship. The Association of American Publishers has as one of their three key policy areas “Protecting Freedom of Expression and the Free Exchange of Ideas”. So what is the publishing world set to do to in response? What is its role?

Melody K. Smith

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