We’ve said it over and over again, if libraries did not exist today, there is no way publishers would allow them to come into existence. We know this, in part, because of their attempts to stop libraries from lending ebooks, and to price ebooks at ridiculous markups to discourage libraries, and their outright claims that libraries are unfair competition. And we won’t even touch on their lawsuit over digital libraries.
Anyway, in other book news, you may have heard recently about how a Tennessee school board banned Art Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus, from being taught in an eighth-grade English class.
aus is now back atop various best seller lists, as the controversy has driven sales. Spiegelman is giving fun interviews again where he says things like “well, who’s the snowflake now?” And we see op-eds about how the best way get kids not to read books… is to assign it in English class.
But, also, we have publishers getting into the banning business themselves… by trying to capitalize on the sudden new interest in Maus.
Penguin Random House doesn’t want this new interest in Maus to lead to… people taking it out of the library rather than buying a copy. They’re now abusing copyright law to demand the book be removed from the Internet Archive’s lending library, and they flat out admit that they’re doing so for their own bottom line:
A few days ago, Penguin Random House, the publisher of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, demanded that the Internet Archive remove the book from our lending library. Why? Because, in their words, “consumer interest in ‘Maus’ has soared” as the result of a Tennessee school board’s decision to ban teaching the book. By its own admission, to maximize profits, a Goliath of the publishing industry is forbidding our non-profit library from lending a banned book to our patrons: a real live digital book-burning.
This is just blatant greed laid bare. As the article notes, whatever problems US copyright law has, it has enshrined the concept of libraries, and the right to lend out books as a key element of the public interest. And the publishers — such as giants like Penguin Random House — would do anything possible to stamp that right out.