9/23/13

On Censorship

As I posted earlier, I'm planning to write some more discussion-type posts in the future.  I had previously posted about having the blogging blahs, and I think the stress of trying to read and review in order to have content for the blog was really getting to me.  I keep reading all of these GREAT discussion posts (like Cass' Thursday Thoughts and all of the great discussion posts that Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner posts) and I HAVE all these bookish thoughts, just never the guts to post them.  So here goes.

Last week, there was an explosion of discussion on Twitter about Goodreads new review policy.  I'm rarely ever on Twitter for any length of time (usually just popping on to read a few recent tweets here and there), but my little boy was done for a LONG nap yesterday and I was (kind of) attempting to do some homework a.k.a. getting distracted on the Internet.

As part of one of the courses that I'm currently taking, we were actually discussing censorship last week.  I'm studying to be a library technician, so the discussion centered around whether the library should censor what's accessible on the in-library computers, or if it should be left to the patrons' discretion to surf the web appropriately.  If censoring does take place, what kinds of things should be censored, and why -- etc.  The discussion that ensued was quite lively and interesting.  So I was immediately intrigued when all of these tweets started popping up about Goodreads and censorship.

I've read through the Goodreads news announcement about their new policy on reviews (if you've missed seeing that, it's here), as well as the comments that ensued (at least for the first couple of hours after the post went live, apparently Goodreads has subsequently responded to a lot of comments).  I giggled over a couple of bloggers' response (The Bawdy Book Blog's post is quite explicit in language, but funny nonetheless, and The Bookpushers' break-up letter style post is tongue-in-cheek cute).  I decided to export my Goodreads' book collection and open up a BookLikes account just to see what I thought, and it's taking 140 hours to import my entire library. While BookLikes has some features that I like (1/2 stars!!!!) and feels a little bit more like Facebook (i.e. you can repost funny stuff to your "blog" page, but your books show up on a "timeline"), the site is also really, really sluggish (this might be due in part to the mass exodus from Goodreads and their servers are possibly just a little overwhelmed).  I'm going to try out BookLikes for a while, see what I think, but still staying on Goodreads for the time being (especially because I can update from my phone!)

But the purpose of this post wasn't to talk about which book site is best, it's to talk about censorship.  While I'm still on the fence about leaving Goodreads altogether (because we go waaaaay back, I've been reviewing on their for WAY longer than I've been blogging), I still feel the need to share my thoughts on their latest policy.  I've heard rumblings about these "author trolls" who feel the need to comment and bully on any 1 star reviews, but I've kind of stayed away from a lot of the drama, mainly because I just don't want to dwell on the negativity in the bookish world.  There's a lot of positivity in this community as well, and I prefer to focus on that.  And I feel that this is why I can kind of see both sides of the argument.

On the one side, Goodreads new policy does seem like censorship, but I can also understand their intentions.  I'm sure that what they meant to do was to take down reviews that are only belittling the author, or only commenting on an author's negative behaviour, without focusing on the books at all.  One commenter pointed out that a review that simply says something like "Author X should die" should absolutely be removed, and I completely agree.  And I think that's what Goodreads was TRYING to accomplish, but I just don't think that they did a very good job of it, which is probably why the community is so outraged right now.

Personally, I have a review up that does comment on negative author behaviour, but this hasn't been flagged by Goodreads, or removed, just yet.  When I was reading Emily Giffin's Where We Belong, I couldn't really get into the story (and I felt like the quality of her books had been sliding downhill anyways, after Love the One You're With).  Then I heard about the scandal that had broken out, and decided to DNF the book, but explained in my review that this had mainly to do with the plot, which I wasn't enjoying, but also to do with the drama.  In my opinion, my review is fair -- I explained why the book wasn't working for me.  But under Goodreads' policy, this review should (technically) be flagged for removal, since I discuss things that are not related to the book itself.  So far it's still up, but perhaps that's because it's the only one of my reviews that comments on author behaviour, and I'm sure that there are quite a few reviewers that have more content than I do.

I know that Goodreads is also deleting shelves that pertain to bad author behaviour, and I'm still on the fence about how I feel on that one.  On the one hand, we should be free to label our shelves as well feel (and I've seen some pretty colourful shelf labels on Goodreads thus far), but at the same time, I don't really see the purpose to creating shelves purely for books that I am opposed to reading.  If I really don't want to read a book, I don't take the time to add it to a shelf.  I just don't read it.  If I've given up on a book, I have a shelf for those books, as well as those that I've just set aside, but plan to come back to.  If I do give up on a book, I usually give a short explanation as to what wasn't working for me, but that's about it.  I have enough trouble keeping up on the books that I do want to read, without dedicating extra time to creating lists of books that I don't ever plan to read.  But that's just me -- I feel that some readers feel that it's important to have some shelves that stand out a statement to those books that they won't touch (and perhaps want to warn other readers about) because of the fact that the authors have behaved badly.

Although I started this post feeling like I had a lot of the answers, what I'm left with is just a string of questions.  How do you feel about Goodreads' new policy to delete reviews if the content is about author behaviour, rather than the books themselves?  Is it enough to merit closing down your Goodreads account and moving to another site?  How to you feel about "bad author" posts or shelves to begin with?  It's interesting that this is all unfolding during Banned Books Week -- it's a good time to talk about censorship in all forms.

1 comments:

  1. I haven't really formulated any thoughts about this yet but I've been following other bloggers who are looking at it more closely. I'm intrigued by BookLikes and hope to find out more. I've been pretty happy with Goodreads, never having any bad experiences but I'm not the most active user.

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