Thursday, 12 June 2008

Age banding/branding - update

The campaign against age-banding/branding now contains more than 1,700 signatures.

Since my last round-up, I've landed upon some more views in the blogosphere:

Adele Geras on the Guardian blog

It's a Crime (or a Mystery)

Fictions

ManiacMum

The Naughty Step

A chair, a fireplace & a tea cozy (for a view from the US)

Phil Bradley

and some second thoughts on the matter from Books, Mud and Compost

plus [later addition] here's Alan Garner's comment on Fidra blog's excellent post on the subject:

"The Thought Police seem to have been wrong-footed by the surge of rage over this proposed attack at the root of literature. My agent and I each objected to age banding, and my publisher, HarperCollins, has agreed not to apply age banding to any of my work. Philip Pullman reports the same instant climb-down. The speed with which the publishers have backed off may be simple courtesy (yet why were authors not consulted in the first place?), or there may be something in Kay Tie’s blog in the Telegraph last week, which pointed out that authors now have moral rights in law. Did the Publishers’ Association take legal advice before attempting a fait accompli? It could be, though this is only conjecture, that the Association is now running scared. Anyway, let’s hope so. The best way forward is for as many authors and illustrators as possible to object to their publishers; and to do it now. Once the pebbles start to tumble out of the dyke, the structure must fail."

and [even later addition - I can't keep up!] yet more on Fidra about what's really behind age-banding - ie more Tescofication of our lives . . .

4 comments:

maxine said...

I am a bit scared about commenting on any of this because I have seen so much awful bulling on blogs where someone has a different view. But oh well, here goes. When I was young, books had ages on them (particularly puffin books which often were my favourites). They stated "recommended" ages and it was usually quite small print. I just don't see the problem -- it didn't stop me from reading anything and it was just "normal", I don't suppose anyone took much notice if they didn't want to use the information. It was just there if you weren't sure (eg a grandparent buying a book for a birthday present, and not being too sure of the level).

Of course I know that people mature at different rates, reading-wise and in other ways, but to me, this just seems like a storm in a teacup and there are so many other things that one could get upset about. Sorry. Just my opinion and you are very welcome to yours. I am usually in the minority, if I have learned anything in my years of life, I've learned that!

Juliet said...

No bullying allowed round here, Maxine - your views are very welcome!

I think this is getting so heated because it's about so much more than it seems on the face of it. It's about publishers' treatment of their authors, it's about supermarkets' demands on their suppliers (in this case book publishers); and it's also about whether we should turn our back on all the good work that's been done, since Puffin and Dragon books first emerged (and I'm another who grew up with those and of course they 'did me no harm' either), in understanding dyslexia and other reading problems, and also of course we now live in a society in which English is not the first language of a huge number of children, so the range of 'reading ages' is wider than ever before.

In other words, age-branding *seems* like a single issue but in fact it crystalises a wide range of other issues both in the book trade and in education. Hence the range of debate and the different focuses of many of the arguments being put forwarded, both for and against. The storm is not necessarily disproportionate if one if one looks at the whole tea-set, rather than the one cup!

(Oops, probably stretching the metaphor beyond the bounds of usefulness there, sorry - it's that word 'tea cup' which set me off!)

maxine said...

Mine's a Darjeeling, without a teabag, thanks.

I don't know all the ins and outs, but I have read an argument in more than one place that the "top" authors will "win", ie not have the age banding, whereas the "mid list" ones won't, as they'll just have to accept publisher's terms.

While at Crimefest, Meg Gardiner pointed to a strange sticker on a book shaped like a wheel, that provided details of all possible "offensive" content. She posted a pic of it on her blog (Lying for a Living).
To me, this kind of practice is far more damaging than an estimated age range. Can you imagine:
PARENTAL ADVISORY:
Romeo and Juliet
Underage sex
Violence
Mild swearing
Toxic drugs
Inadequate parenting
Misguided religion

Juliet said...

Milk or lemon?

From the statements I've read by the big names, the 'top' authors understand only too well that not everyone has their clout and are speaking out very much on behalf of their mid-list stable-mates. See eg Darren Shan:

'Success brings privileges . . . Those of us who are particularly valuable to our publishers will be given a choice in this matter . . . But what about those lower down on the totem pole, those who haven’t sold millions of books, who are maybe just starting out, or who have been labouring away for many years without ever breaking the top of the best sellers lists?'

Thanks for the link to Meg's site and the sticker - bizarre and a bit disturbing! And also good to see some more pics from CrimeFest, including 'formidable' you!!