Book bans

A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and George Mason University reveals that book bans have ignited a surprising surge in demand, political impact, and unintended chain of events.

Book Bans

This new research led by Ananya Sen, an assistant professor of information systems and economics at CMU’s Heinz College, delves into the intriguing effects of book bans using a vast dataset of U.S. library book circulations.

“The primary goal of book bans is to restrict access to books, but conversations about the bans often garner attention on a wider scale,” explains Sen, who co-authored the study. “This increased attention can either deter people from reading the book or influence consumers to read it, which would be an unintended consequence.”

Since 2021, a significant push from state officials, elected representatives, parents, community members, and advocacy groups has aimed to remove over 1,600 books that touch on topics such as race, gender identity, and sexuality from public and school libraries.

To unravel the impact of these bans, researchers gathered extensive book circulation data from a major library content and services supplier, which included more than 17,000 titles, including over 1,500 that were banned, as identified by lists from the American Library Association and PEN America for the years 2021 and 2022.

The study uncovered some thought-provoking findings:

Banned Books Experience a Surge in Demand – Circulations of banned books increased by an astonishing 12% on average.

The Ripple Effect – Banning a book in one state resulted in an 11% increase in circulation in states with different political leanings that had not banned the book.

Social Media Influence – Banned books that gained high visibility on social media platforms experienced a notable uptick in readership

Political Implications – When book bans were transformed into political issues, it often led to increases in donations received by Republican House candidates.

As political polarization and discussions surrounding book bans continue to captivate the nation, this study sheds light on the unforeseen consequences of these actions, raising questions about their effectiveness and impact on readers and the political landscape.

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