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Authors Guild Opposes Compliance with Texas Law Requiring Book Ratings

The Authors Guild has been made aware that Follett School Solutions, the nation’s largest distributor of books to schools, is asking publishers to help rate their own books so they’re in line with a new Texas law that we find to be unconstitutional and recently joined a lawsuit against. We issued this statement in response:

The Authors Guild is alarmed by Follett’s recent letter to publishers. In it, Follett asks publishers to label their books as either “No Questionable Content” or “Possible SR or SE Content”—the latter would require a third-party rating. While we understand that Follett is preparing to comply with the so-called “READER Act”—set to go into effect on September 1st—the law is clearly unconstitutional. The Authors Guild has joined several publishers as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to stop the law from taking effect. The litigation was filed with a motion for a preliminary injunction that would enjoin the law and a hearing is scheduled for August 18th.

We urge publishers not to comply with Follett’s request as it will force them to self-censor and censor their authors by removing many books from the school market in the state of Texas (which will undoubtedly impact distribution in other states). It will also compel speech by forcing publishers to create lists of “clean” books and to make tacit admissions that those listed as Possible SR or SE Content are “dirty” and therefore questionable. Complying with this request will also undermine the pending litigation—even if the law is struck down, publishers will already have effectively complied by de facto rating their publications.

Rather than try to prepare for the law to take effect, Follett should oppose it and refuse to comply based on its blatant unconstitutionality and its attack on the free speech of authors, publishers, book sellers, libraries. The law also threatens a student’s right to read, and a parent’s right to educate their children. The law’s astonish overbreadth and unworkable vagueness would, if implemented, result in outright bans on many classics and key educational texts, including biology books and timeless works of literature.