You are browsing through a bookstore or your local library. You see a book stands out to you. You read the description and the plot intrigues you enough to buy or borrow the book, highly anticipating your next great read. You get home and you start reading, pretty good so far. Until you get to a sensitive subject matter or violent action that complete turns you off from the book, where you end up giving it a bad review or stop reading it altogether. And then you think, “I wish I got a warning about the content in the book so I know beforehand not to read it.” And that is what I want to talk about in this week’s Weekly Tea Discussion: Reader Content Warnings.
Television shows have it, the parental guidelines that pop up before your television program begins. Movies have it, preventing anyone under the age of 18 from seeing a R-rated movie. Even music and video games have their own rating system. A few months back, I started to read This Is Where I Leave You by Johnathan Tropper, due to the movie based on the book being released. After a couple of pages of very explicit and unnecessarily heavily detailed sex scene, I was completely turned off from reading any further and stopped reading the book altogether. Maybe if I received warning beforehand I would have avoided the book in the first place. Reader content warnings on book covers may have been helpful. So what is preventing books from having their own rating system?
My opinion: censorship. Some may see that having some sort of reader content warning on book covers is a form of censorship. Readers and writers alike consider the First Amendment as gospel. So having say like stickers on book covers, giving readers’ warning about the content maybe borderline censorship. Authors put a lot of hard work in creating a great book, an experience a lot of people do not get a chance to do. So I don’t think authors would want their readers to avoid their books without giving it a chance because of one or two scenes contain a subject matter that doesn’t appeal to them. And honestly, I don’t think book publishers would be open to having reader content warnings, especially if it might impede book sales.
Honestly, I am on the fence with this one. There are certain subject matters I prefer to have a warning beforehand. But speaking as a writer, I would want readers to at least give it a chance before judging it just because of a subject matter in one particular scene.
Would guys find reader cover warnings useful? Are there certain subject matters you prefer not to read about?