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To read or not to read, that is the question

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“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Dear Bloomsbury, I am writing this because I must.

A bookworm, or a person who loves reading goes through different phases through In their reading journeys. When we start out, it is a direct conversation between us and the writers, a sort of hello! through the pages of the book; the sheer wonder of this extraordinary means of communication, that spans centuries. Gradually, we learn that writing a book and getting it out there for the whole world to read it, is something that would not be possible without Publication Houses, much like yourself.

I have been a Potterhead all my life, and I was introduced to your publication house, when I saw your logo printed at the bottom of one of my most beloved books, at the age of thirteen. Then I read up on you and I found out that you accepted Harry Potter after it had been rejected by 12 different publishing houses. My respect and admiration for you grew, unprecedented. Harry Potter saved my life, and I thank you for bringing it to me. I went on reading the books published under your banner, without two thoughts about their worth; and I loved them. Now, I feel disappointed. Cheated. Rejected. Much as the author of Delhi Riots 2020. I do not know what made you back out of publishing their book. I do not know what contract you had with the author. All I know is that you breached it. 

Please don’t get me wrong, you have every right to refuse publication of works that you do not deem satisfactory according to your standards of quality and content. But to do so, after a piece of writing has passed all levels of approvals and is due for publication, just because you are afraid of backlash? To refuse publication of a book, just because you were afraid of being singled out as apparent bigots or supposed fascists? This is not what a publication house should stand for; Publication houses must be like the Newspaper offices of the gone era. Printing an idea, no matter how astoundingly obscure or hated. Printing an idea and allowing the masses to form an opinion after they have read it.

How is it anything but bigotry if you choose to publish one narrative but not the other? How do we know for sure, that the two books do indeed have a different narrative? Why did you allow anyone to silence one voice over the other? What happened to the sanctity of an agreement? What happened to the trust you showed in the story when you chose to publish Harry Potter? Do you know what Harry did when the entire magical community was against him as he begged them to understand that he was telling the truth about Lord Voldemort? He stood his ground. He accepted the backlash and he stood for what he knew was right. Do you even read the books you publish anymore?

I know, the fictional world is nothing like this world. There are innumerable problems with this world, and we cannot magic our problems away. But Books are ideas. Books are sacred. I hope you know by now that refusing publication of the book did not stop publication; the book will be published and will get out and spread to the masses whether you had a hand in printing it or not. And I will admit that losing out on one book will not have any significant impact on your profits as on today. But, be warned that it will have an impact in the way writers approach you in the future with their works, knowing that at any moment, you could turn your backs on their life’s work and leave them stranded with the pieces of broken contracts and broken promises. It will have an impact in the way the masses will perceive you now, as not a reputable publishing house, intending to give a non-biased platform to all to air their views and to speak their thoughts; but as a publishing house that chooses to bury some voices in order to facilitate certain others. 

The only thing that the world has gained by this suppression of freedom of speech, is an audience clamouring to get their hands on this book, to know what it contains, to see the truths that this book speaks of, that so many people wanted buried. And the sad thing is, now you have created an environment that is already biased. Now, even if the book is not accurate, or is trash, it will be read by millions and upheld by millions as the truth that so many people wanted buried. You have set a bad precedent for the publishing industry. It would have been better to publish the book and let the masses decide whether they liked it or not; let the masses decide whether it was worthy of the attention it is gaining now. A true criticism of any work can only be done after it has been read and observed and debated. 

Books are ideas. And in the words of the unequivocal Cobb, from the movie Inception, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”

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