The Elephant Roundup (Banned Books Week Edition)

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A monthly newsletter from Feeding the Elephant: A Forum for Scholarly Communications.

It’s Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2, 2021)

  • Banned Book Week

    • “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.... Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

  • American Library Association, Banned and Challenged Books

    • “ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. We compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.”

  • “The American Library Association’s Ranking of the 100 Most Banned Books: The List List #465,” Book Riot, September 3, 2021.

    • A list of lists to mark Banned Books Week.

  • Evan McMorris-Santoro, “Students fight back against a book ban that has a Pennsylvania community divided,”, September 16, 2021.

    • “‘I don't think a moral compass will let you ban books about equality and loving each other,’ Central York High School senior Christina Ellis told CNN. Ellis is among the students protesting a book ban in York, Pennsylvania, and questions whether the officials who decided to remove certain reading materials from the curriculum even read the resources they deem controversial. She was joined by other teens protesting in front of Central York High School this week.”

  • Megan Magensky, “Central York students rallying against banned books, documentaries dealing with race,” CBS 21, September 20, 2021.

    • “In November of 2020 the school board at Central York voted in support of a resource ban. The diversity resource list as the school board called it was banned across the district by a unanimous vote. The majority of the resources discuss Black history and racism -- PBS documentaries, a coloring book of African symbols, ‘The New Jim Crow.’  The list even includes an episode of Sesame Street.”



  • Alexis Logsdon and Danya Leebaw, “Educating from the Margins: Academic Librarians and Academic Freedom,” Journal of Academic Freedom 12 (2021)

    • “In this article, we highlight how academic librarians’ distinct and often precarious role on campus, together with our profession’s focus on the parent concept of intellectual freedom, complicates librarians’ ability to enact academic freedom in their daily work. ...We then offer two scenarios that showcase how the familiar, routine work of librarians is subject to scrutiny and pushback in ways that have been normalized and rationalized by higher education colleagues.”

  • Kelly Jensen, “US Senate Finance Committee Presses Publishers on Library Ebook Contracts,” Book Riot, September 24, 2021.

    • “Beyond the costs, not all digital material is made available for licensing by schools or libraries. ...All of these challenges have led to demand for change. ‘E-books play a critical role in ensuring that libraries can fulfill their mission of providing broad and equitable access to information for all Americans, and it is imperative that libraries can continue their traditional lending functions as technology advances,’ reads the letter Senate Finance Committee members sent to Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. ...Amazon is notably absent from the current campaign by the Senate Finance Committee.”



  • Stephen Mintz, “Why Higher Education Is Failing to Close the Racial Wealth,” Inside Higher Ed, September 13, 202

    • “For many Americans, it’s an article of faith that higher education offers the best way to reduce poverty and diminish inequality between the haves and have-nots. And it’s certainly the case that increased education correlates, on average, with higher incomes. Why, then, has increased access failed to shrink the racial wealth gap? A new book by the Atlantic staff writer Adam Harris, entitled The State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal -- And How to Set Them Right, argues that ‘America’s colleges and universities have a shameful secret.’ The secret: ‘From its inception, our higher education system was not built on equality or accessibility, but on educating -- and prioritizing -- white students.’”

  • Haseeb Irfanullah, “The North is Drawing the South Closer, But, This is Not the Whole Picture of Geographical Inclusion,” The Scholarly Kitchen, September 2, 2021.

    • “The above examples show how the Global North (which is currently leading the scholarly publishing industry) is creating an enabling environment so that the South (which presently is lagging behind in academic publishing) could be a more effective part of the global scholarly system. In almost all cases, the inclusion is achieved by attracting individuals from the South, as authors or editorial board members of the Northern journals, as members of societies’ committees, or as presenters or panelists at global conferences or webinars. But this is not the whole picture of geographical inclusion. I see three other dimensions within it. ...Geographical inclusion in scholarly publishing shouldn’t only mean how the Global North is bringing the Global South closer. It should also mean how the best practices from the North are contextualized in the South to improve its publishing system, how the South is changing the North, and how the Southern countries are helping each other. Without appreciating these aspects, true ‘inclusion’ won’t be realized in scholarly publishing.”

  • The Diversity Style Guide

    • A resource helping media professionals write with accuracy and authority, edited by Rachele Kanigel, a professor and chair of the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University.


Book Business

  • Danny Crichton, “With sales momentum, looks to future in its fight with Amazon,” TechCrunch, September 12, 2021.

    • “For customers, a huge emphasis for Bookshop going forward is eschewing the algorithmic recommendation model popular among top Silicon Valley companies in lieu of a far more human-curated experience. ...Ultimately, Hunter’s strategic concern isn’t directed to competitors or even the question of whether the book is dead (it’s not), but a more specific challenge: that today’s publishing ecosystem ensures that only the top handful of books succeed. Often dubbed ‘the midlist problem,’ Hunter is worried about the increasingly blockbuster nature of books these days. ‘One book will suck up most of the oxygen and most of the conversation or the top 20 books [while] great innovative works from young authors or diverse voices don’t get the attention they deserve,’ he said. Bookshop is hoping that human curation through its lists can help to sustain a more vibrant book ecosystem than recommendation algorithms, which constantly push readers to the biggest winners.”

  • Jim Milliot, “The Book Biz Tries to Avoid Supply Chain Disruptions,” Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2021.

    • “...shortages of truck drivers and trailers, congestion at the ports, and escalating transportation costs … were putting more pressure on the supply chain than at any time... In the ensuing two months, things have gotten worse, as printing capacity continues to shrink and labor shortages have made it difficult for printers, retailers, and wholesalers to fully staff their businesses.”

  • Susan Parente, “The Paper Chase Amid A Crippled Supply Chain,” Sheridan Books Blog

    • Critical labor shortage

    • Paper demand outpaces paper supply

    • “Virtually all grades of paper have experienced ongoing price hikes over the last several months—and based on the trifecta of raw material scarcity, increasing energy costs, and transportation woes, it’s likely those increases will continue.”


Academic Institutions

  • Irina Dumitrescu, “Are you a toxic enabler?” Times Higher Education, September 16, 2021

    • Categories of enablers: The Innocent, The Worshipper, The Idealist, The Wimp, The Ostrich, The Opportunist, The Minion, The Partner in Crime

  • Colleen Flaherty, “The Future of the Academic Conference,” Inside Higher Ed, September 13, 2021.

    • “Like colleges and universities, scholarly associations had been looking forward to something resembling a normal academic year. That meant scheduling in-person annual conferences again, after more than a year of virtual programs. The Delta variant has of course frustrated those plans and led some organizations to transition to virtual meetings once more.”

  • Colleen Flaherty, “The UT Austin Liberty Institute? What’s That?,” Inside Higher Ed, September 24, 2021.

    • “Most professors first learned of the Liberty Institute idea late last month, via a Texas Tribune investigation finding that university leaders had been working with private donors and Texas Republican lieutenant governor Dan Patrick for eight months to launch it. Internal proposals describe the institute as ‘dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets,’ according to the article. The Tribune found that Texas legislators had already approved $6 million in initial funding for the institute in the 2022-23 state budget. The university reportedly committed another $6 million, and a private donor promised $8.5 million to a center back in 2016. No details about the project had been made public, and the university did not provide them, according to the report, which was based largely on documents obtained via open records requests.”

  • Joseph M. Pierce, “How Can We Trust Administrators?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 14, 2021

    • “Clearly, administrators are evaluating risks to the student body, faculty, staff, and the broader community. But they are not straightforward about how those risks inform the decisions they have made — risks that are particularly acute for marginalized and vulnerable community members. We are being asked to trust decisions made for us, not by us. How can we trust administrators if they do not transparently and honestly explain what risks they have deemed acceptable, and what costs they have deemed too great?”


The Matter of the Book

  • Ian Bogost, “Ebooks Are an Abomination. If you hate them, it’s not your fault,” The Atlantic via Medium, September 15, 2021.

    • ​​​​​​​“Reading is a relatively useless term. It describes a broad array of literacy practices, ranging from casually scanning social-media posts to perusing magazine articles such as this one to poring over the most difficult technical manuals or the lithest storytelling. You read instructions on elevators, prompts in banking apps, directions on highway signs. Metaphorically, you read situations, people’s faces, the proverbial room. What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness.”

  • Jennifer Croft, “Why Translators Should Be Named on Book Covers,” The Guardian, September 10, 2021

    • “The underlying assumption on the part of many publishers seems to be that readers don’t trust translators and won’t buy a book if they realise it’s a translation. Yet is it not precisely this type of ruse that breeds distrust, and not translation itself?...We desperately need more transparency at every level of literary production; this is just one example, although I do feel it’s an urgent one. Translators aren’t like ninjas. But we are the ones who control the way a story is told; we’re the people who create and maintain the transplanted book’s style. Generally speaking we are also the most reliable advocates for our books, and we take better care of them than anybody else. Covers simply can’t continue to conceal who we are. It’s bad business, it doesn’t hold us accountable for our choices, and in its wilful obfuscation it is a practice that is disrespectful not only to us, but to readers as well.”


Coming Up

  • Dissertation to First Book, Wednesday, October 27, 2021 at 6:30pm

    • “Ken Wissoker, Senior Executive Editor at Duke University Press and Director of Intellectual Publics at The Graduate Center (CUNY), will discuss the difference between a dissertation and a book, and the process of turning a Ph.D. dissertation into a first book. He will share advice and expertise around the system of academic publishing with a focus on questions of genre and audience.”


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