Further to the what-age-is-my-audience question, there’s also this whole thing. The issue of age banding, in which publishers want to put markers on books designating which age groups they’re suitable for, has had a bit of press, and is quite an interesting issue. 

First question: Who gets to make that decision? The publishers? Yes, they classify books into categories like Children’s, YA, Adult, whatever, but can they really say that the only readership for this book will be people aged 10-12? With all the thousands of kids books out there, this will become a completely arbitrary decision-making process? And what about kids who can read so-called ‘older’ books? What about adults who like reading books for 15 year olds? Do publishers really want to shame this demographic by adding a big "15 and under" sticker to their book covers? Will they have to hide their book in a magazine cover, just so they can read it on the bus in the morning on the way to work?

Second question: Will age banding actually make any difference? Publishers and librarians, or whoever the book police is going to consist of, aren’t going to be able to stop kids picking up random books around the house. Presumably, determined adult readers will also find a way to paste a respectable cover onto their Sweet Valley High or Digimon book. Why limit the market like this? Why try to police people? Are books really that dangerous??

I can see it now. Borders is going to start carding people at the counter. Youths will loiter outside, waiting for a likely-looking adult to walk in. They’ll sidle up, all "Hey, mister, can you buy me a book? Just a copy of American Psycho. I need it for uni and I’m not eighteen for another week." The adult will heave a long-suffering sigh, but they’ll remember when books were legal for all ages, and you didn’t have to be sixteen to find out what happened at the very end of Harry Potter.

You know, back in the good old days.

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One Response to “This Book is Rated PG. Parental Guidance is Recommended for Readers Under 13.”

  1. Speakeasy » Blog Archive » More on Age Banding…,

    […] According to the Guardian, JK Rowling has signed the petition against Age Banding (we talked about it a few days ago). She joins children’s authors like Anne Fine, Michael Rosen, Terry Pratchett and Phillip Pullman. […]

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