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View Poll Results: Should e-book content be rated like movies?
No - It's too close to censorship 44 26.99%
No - I don't like the idea at all 44 26.99%
No - I don't think it is practical, or it would be biased 53 32.52%
Yes - I personally like the idea 16 9.82%
Other - explain in the thread comments 6 3.68%
Voters: 163. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-28-2008, 11:12 AM   #1
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Should e-Books be Rated (like movies and video games)?

(Almost) no one wants censorship. In the US, we take pride in fighting censorship in the name of free speech. But like any freedom or right, there is always a balance required between that freedom and other rights or goals of society. In the case of free speech, there is a nice article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that points out some of the limits. I am not well enough read to be able to judge how balanced this article is, but it is at least well formatted and addresses topics like harm, offense and pornography.

At any rate, we have ratings systems for movies and for video games, which are probably both enforced to some extent in the U.S. I believe that some music has "adults only" type ratings. I don't know if adult magazines are still sold in stores, but they used to not be available to minors. Certain books are not considered appropriate for school libraries, classes and even bookstores.

Movie ratings are actually somewhat helpful in determining a viewers interest at times. Again in the U.S., a "G" rating is a revenue killer unless the movie is directly targeted at children. Anything worse than an "R" will also kill revenues, will not be welcome in most theaters and will be interpreted as porn or warped. I'd be interested to hear how this all works in other parts of the world.

But now Reuters is reporting that in the U.K.
Quote:
The kind of ratings used for films could be applied to Web sites in a bid to better police the Internet and protect children from harmful and offensive material, Britain's minister for culture has said.
What about books and e-books? Would you like to see a rating system? What would be the benefit and how would the ratings be determined? Or is such an effort just a waste of time? How about those of you with children - do you feel differently?
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:20 AM   #2
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I think it might get readership up

Like, "I know I'm not supposed to read this because it is bad, but I will anyway! Ha ha!"
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:27 AM   #3
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Horrifying idea. Regular books have never been rated. Just because some moronic zealot of one stripe or the other might be offended is no reason to start rating everything.

How long before we sell toilet paper in brown paper sacks with "adult" ratings because it is used "down there"? <g>
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:37 AM   #4
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I can't see that it would have any positive benefit at all.

Furthermore, I am very concerned about the creeping nanny-state-ism that pulls the decision making power away from parents buying for their children and individuals buying for themselves and says, in effect, the government knows best by regulating and rating books, films, websites etc.

I would type more, but I'm frothing at the mouth over this, and it's starting to drip onto the keyboard...
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:47 AM   #5
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Oh, FYI I was being facetious :giggle:

I highly doubt it'll ever get to that point. DVDs, music, sure, but books? It smells to much like oppression.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:03 PM   #6
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I've voted the 3rd option, but I'm wondering why people here say it's okay to rate movies and videogames, but not books. Dual criteria?

In my opinion, by the time a kid gets some interest in books, he will be old enough to take care of himself.

Or if he's too young and his interest in books was cultivated by his parents, I guess the parents also gave him some education in that area as well.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:08 PM   #7
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I voted 'Other' because I think books should be rated, but not by a institution paid by publishers or government - if on free terms or forced. This is the task of parents, grandparents, teachers and every member of the society, booksellers as buyers to prevent children or adolescents from reading content not designed for their state of maturity. When I started reading books beyond real childrens stories for beginners I had an enourmous variety. But very early I fell in love with Greek, Roman, and Northern Mythology as with the Lord of the Rings and all about that. So for an 8-10 year old boy the stuff is pretty tough - it is bloody, cruel and not at all designed for a child's mind. But I could cope with it, maybe I accepted it being fantastic. But I'm pretty sure that to some children this stuff would be pure horror.
There are no strict rating systems in Germany, so I never had to ask for what I might read and what not.

All this regulating of culture freezes a living progress of our civilization and society. Maybe the Iliad of Homer would be considered as appropriate from age of 16 or elder, because of its brutality. But isn't that too simple thought. I think some readers would be disgusted by its bloodshed and have nightmares even at the age of 60.

I think it is the first task of the parents to know what a child reads to understand what it asks or fears or admires. It would make it too easy to classify literature. Children are not at the same maturity with the age of 12 or share the same fears. All readers are individual human beings, not machines.

I use now a very harsh German word for what this partly leads to in my opinion: 'Gleichschaltung'. Not in the special historical sense it is sometimes meant, but a in a meaning of narrowing the possibilities of creativity and how creative output of the one may be consumed by the other.

And I think this fits for everything: movies, books, pictures, music - art in general.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:17 PM   #8
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Where do I start.

In a perfect world, some books or magazines would never be written/published.

Books on how to overthrow the government, build nuclear bombs, handbooks for pedophiles, anarchists, etc.

Magazines that show torture, graphic rape, things like that.

We're not living in a perfect world. We live in a world where some groups think Harry Potter is the devil himself, but polygamy is okay.

All this being said, if you give the government the right to screen what you read, you are giving them the right to screen what you think.

And on a personal note, if I ever found out someone was allowing access to my grandchild any of the above mentioned, they would have to deal with me, not the government.

Just one final thing. There is a parent at my school, a very nice, loving caring parent, who has read the entire series of Twilight. She read it to see if it was suitable for her 7th grader. She decided it wasn't , and told the child that she could read it when she was in college, perhaps then she would understand it better. I just smiled and nodded. She may as well have wrapped it in ribbons and given it to her. These kids read what they want in school, at friends houses, just like they watch tv programs that are forbidden at home.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:21 PM   #9
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I am against any kind of rating of the type: "adults only", "for children above 6 years old", "parental guidance", etc.

But I could appreciate some hints about the content of movies, books, games... whether there is a large dose of violence, sex, stupid jokes, philosophical thoughts, or whatever. Be descriptive, not prescriptive.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:47 PM   #10
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So far, the book industry seems to have loosely rated books for younger kids already, according to subject material and so forth. Anything more than that, IMHO, would be overkill, and honestly impossible to ever complete. There are way, way, way too many books in existence for any kind of rating agency to go through. And there is the fact that the books won't all be in the same language, something that can't be gotten around with subtitles or just eyeballing the content.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:51 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Over View Post
I've voted the 3rd option, but I'm wondering why people here say it's okay to rate movies and videogames, but not books.
I do not like the idea of rating movies or videogames either especially when the rating is used to block access to things.
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nergal View Post
I voted 'Other' because I think books should be rated, but not by a institution paid by publishers or government - if on free terms or forced. This is the task of parents, grandparents, teachers and every member of the society, booksellers as buyers to prevent children or adolescents from reading content not designed for their state of maturity.

[. . .]

Children are not at the same maturity with the age of 12 or share the same fears. All readers are individual human beings, not machines.

I use now a very harsh German word for what this partly leads to in my opinion: 'Gleichschaltung'. Not in the special historical sense it is sometimes meant, but a in a meaning of narrowing the possibilities of creativity and how creative output of the one may be consumed by the other.

And I think this fits for everything: movies, books, pictures, music - art in general.
Nergal, I find I agree very much with your view. However, I'm still sceptical that ebooks, as an Internet medium, could be even "socially" regulated with any effectiveness: should the would-be users of this rating system be interested in what their national society deems appropriate, or is the scale of the Internet as a whole, or of their most immediate local communities (virtual and geographical) more important? It's often noted that North Americans are very tolerant of extreme violence, but very sensitive to nudity and sexuality, while for their European counterparts (these broad strokes are giving me hives) the reverse is generally true. Alternatively, one may live in a tremendously conservative local community by the standards of the rest of one's country, and additionally may move in Internet circles which would be culturally liberal, relative to both one's local and national community. When one speaks of ratings to support the good of society, which scale is most profitable to consider, let alone most justifiable to enforce?

Without abandoning the system of ratings altogether, it occurs to me that Internet technology allows this sliding of scale in a much more efficient way than might otherwise be realised (by strictly political agencies and bureaucracies, for example), so maybe a more useful system could try to use distinct criteria (like presence of death, scales of violence, scales of (locally pertinent) illicit drug use, presence of fantastical or pseudoscientific elements, etc.) rather than a single, maturity-based quasi-metric which generalises unto uselessness.
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:13 PM   #13
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It's not actually entirely true that books have never been rated - I have a copy of Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho sitting on my shelf with an R18+ sticker on the front of it. From what I recall, when it's in bookstores, it's shrinkwrapped - just like a pornographic magazine! This is, of course, in Australia, so I can't speak to other countries, however, I also have a 1956 edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover which has, on the title page, the instruction "This book must not be introduced into the British Empire or U.S.A."

Also, in America, the rating system for films is not handled by the publishers or the government, but by the MPAA, which is an independent body. Furthermore, their classification system is actually voluntary - you don't have to get your film rated by them if you don't want to. However, they are such a powerful lobby that no theatre chain will distribute a film without an MPAA rating - effectively making it mandatory. Whilst the idea of a third-party "impartial" censor seems good in theory, it has the flipside that they are not beholden to anybody; they are not held accountable for their decisions, nor is their any oversight of their activities; in fact, they are incredibly secretive about the entire process - these are not qualities you want in a body that can effectively stop a film from being distributed, or, failing that, attach a rating that stops people from seeing it. The MPAA shows how, in practice, 3rd-party censors don't work. The documentary This film has not yet been rated gives an excellent look at this, if you're interested.

Personally, I feel that all forms of censorship are a bad idea - a person who needs someone else to tell them what they can and cannot see, read, or hear, is exactly the sort of vulnerable mind that needs to be protected from censorship. Why should somebody else be allowed to tell you what you can and cannot see? Why can't you make that decision for yourself, and what qualifies these other people to decide for you? And as for the whole "protecting the children" argument; if a parent can't take 5 minutes to read the blurb, or watch the trailer, or read a review of something their child wants to read or watch, and evaluate for themselves whether they feel it is appropriate, then that child has far more serious problems to worry about.

Then, of course, there is the fact that historically, most censorship has been reversed in the course of time - take a look at the Wikipedia List of Banned Books, and tell me if you'd really be happy with someone telling you you can't read Huckleberry Finn, or Ulysses - and that's just in the U.S.A. - how about Alice in Wonderland? And if that's doesn't do it for you, how about this: when it was first introduced, the Waltz was banned in many places. The censorship of the past is almost universally laughable - do we really want to open ourselves up to the ridicule of the future?
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Nergal View Post
...

I use now a very harsh German word for what this partly leads to in my opinion: 'Gleichschaltung'. Not in the special historical sense it is sometimes meant, but a in a meaning of narrowing the possibilities of creativity and how creative output of the one may be consumed by the other.

And I think this fits for everything: movies, books, pictures, music - art in general.
I also agree with you completely on this point - censorship definitely restricts the creativity of artists, and not just by blocking works outright, but, worse still, by scaring artists away from even trying to address controversial issues (which are, usually, the most important ones of all).
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Old 12-28-2008, 01:53 PM   #15
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No, no, no!!! It is a very bad idea. Books are the lifeblood of society offering a free flow of ideas. Having said that we already know the economics of publishing is already providing self censorship. As in movies, books will be written to get the PG rating. Ideas and thoughts will become watered down. Even someone as great as Aldous Huxley would be in trouble. It is unacceptable.
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