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This digital app makes banned books freely available to everyone

With bans on important literary genres on the rise across America, an app called The Banned Book Club is a digital library that makes banned books available for everyone, regardless of where they are located.

Across America, libraries are being forced to pull highly acclaimed books from their shelves.

State-wide bans on certain types of literature are being implemented by local governments at the request of organisations that believe children (or anyone, for that matter) should not be exposed to the themes explored in their pages.

Books targeted by bans primarily focus on the experiences of people of colour and the history of racism in America. They also frequently involve LGBTQ+ characters and explore other important social issues such as mental health struggles, sexual assault, human trafficking, and addiction.

Over the last year, the number of books banned in the US has risen by one-third. The non-profit organisation PEN America reports that of the 3,362 book bans in school classrooms and libraries, 40 percent of cases have taken place in Florida.

In efforts to uphold freedom of speech – and the right to read the words of those exercising it – the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) launched The Banned Book Club, preserving these works in a digital library that is freely accessible to anyone.

The Banned Book Club is an e-reader app that uses GPS-enabled geotargeting to determine which books are not available in a given area to make them available to users for free.

To access the library, users must first download an app called The Palace Project.

Once inside this app, all they have to do is search for ‘The Banned Book Club’, go to settings, and select libraries. The Banned Book Club will show up as an option.

Users will then need to share their location when prompted, but this only has to be done once in order for the app to recognise which books are not available in their area.

From then on, it’s as easy as ‘creating a library card’ by making an account login and verifying the account using a link sent via email.

Speaking of the project, John S. Bracken, executive director of the DPLA declared, ‘Today book bans are one of the greatest threats to our freedom. We have created the Banned Book Club to leverage the dual powers of libraries and digital technology to ensure that every American can access the books they want to read.’

The project even has the support of Barack Obama, who tweeted a link to its website to almost 132 million followers.

It’s unclear whether the number of book bans will continue to  rise in America in the coming years.

But if the increasing strength of organised censorship groups is anything to judge by, it’s very likely that this could be the case – making projects like the Banned Book Club even more important.

‘The aim [of organised censorship groups] is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of colour,’ said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

She added, ‘The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.’

A full list of which books are banned in each US state can be viewed here.