The New York Public Library makes four banned books nationwide free on its e-reader app

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The New York Public Library has made four banned books available nationwide on SimplyE, its free-reader app. Titles include Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi and Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. The library worked with the publishers and authors to make the titles available to the public for free, with no wait times or download limits. Normally, publishers allow libraries to lend e-books to only one person at a time, often leading to long wait times at public libraries.

While the titles will only be available for a month (the titles will disappear in late May), interested readers don’t need to have a NYPL library card or live in the area. The books will be released through NYPL’s “Books For All” program, which makes hundreds of public domain titles available to everyone across the country.

The NYPL has expressed opposition to a recent spike in book bans in school districts across the country, driven largely by conservative activist groups. According to a report released this week by PEN America, more than 1,000 books have been banned or temporarily removed from school districts in the past nine months.

“These recent cases of censorship and book bans are extremely disturbing and are a total attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” said Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library.

The 1999 children’s novel Speak, about a ninth-grade girl who refuses to speak since she was raped at a party, is on ALA’s list of the 100 most challenged books between 2000 and 2009. Parents often express opposition to its graphic, sexual content. . King and the Dragonflies, about a high school boy struggling with the loss of his brother and his sexual identity, is the winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Children’s Literature, was flagged for removal in Keller, Texas. Stamped was challenged last year by parents in Round Rock, Texas, in part because of a tweet from the author criticizing then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett.

Angela Montefinise, vice president of communications and marketing, told Engadget in an email that the SimplyE app needed to increase its server capacity three times today to account for the spike in downloads. Currently, there are no future plans to release any more banned titles on the app.

“At this point, we don’t plan to release any more books as part of this project, but we’ll see how it goes,” Montefinise wrote in an email.

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