But many times book censorship still succeeds without a whimper. This kind of censorship is largely disregarded and often tacitly tolerated and self-induced among editors: corporate censorship. On the surface, there’s a logic in corporate censorship that may seem at least arguable. When corporate executives at, say, Netflix cancel your favorite shoot-em-up action show or a boy-meets-boy love story, seemingly without cause, there’s a knee-jerk feeling of dissatisfaction that eventually gives way to complacency. Just as corporate executives giveth us the stories we like, so can corporate executives taketh them away. They can do what they want; it’s their property.
But not so fast.
Is it — or should it be — a universal right for corporations to censor their so-called property in all cases, under all circumstances? One case from the 1970s may command some second thoughts on a corporate safe zone cordoned off by copyright laws and cultural misconceptions, one that calls into question the entire endeavor of corporate censorship.
With No ‘Fire,’ Print Units Fell 5% in Mid-January
Unit sales of print books fell 5% in the week ended Jan. 19, 2019, compared to the similar week in 2018, at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. All the major categories had declines in the week, including adult nonfiction, where units dropped 5.1%. Last year at this time, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury was hitting its sales stride and sold nearly 326,000 copies in the week ended Jan. 20, 2018. The #1 seller in the category in the most recent week was, once again, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which sold more than 82,000 copies and is closing in on four million print copies sold at outlets that report to BookScan. A big bestseller four years ago was Maria Kondo’s The Life-Saving Magic of Tidying Up, and, thanks to Kondo’s new Netflix series, the book was #3 on the most recent adult nonfiction list, with more than 23,000 copies sold. Print units dropped 6.8% in adult fiction in the week ended Jan. 19, 2019, even though the books at top of the bestseller list were selling at about the same rate as those at the top a year ago. In first place in the category in the most recent week was the new book by James Patterson and Candice Fox, Liar Liar, which sold nearly 22,000 copies, while second-place Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens sold close to 20,000 copies. Last year at this time, The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn and City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston were one-two on the fiction list, with both selling just over 20,000 copies. Print units fell 5.2% in juvenile fiction compared to 2018, despite a solid showing by Dav Pilkey’s Brawl of the Wild (Dog Man #6), which sold more than 44,000 copies.