A few weeks ago, I posted a question about content warnings on Twitter. I see talk about them more and more in the bookish community while others don’t mention them at all. So I decided to do a poll if content warnings in the description of a book
I got amazing responses. Almost 1500 people voted in the poll, at least ten times more than I expected. Some of them also shared their opinions beyond a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘don’t care’. Here is the tweet with the results:
How do you feel about content warnings in book descriptions? (please RT for bigger sample)
— Tessa Hastjarjanto ✒️ in drafting mode ✒️ (@Endalia) November 28, 2020
Why content warnings?
The question should be: Why not? Movies, tv programs, and games have ratings with content warnings. But not books, why is that? I’ll be honest, I don’t know. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change that.
Content warnings are important. It helps the reader decide if they can read the book now or maybe when they’re in a different mood. They don’t matter for everyone, as the comments have proven. I was one of them until not too long ago. I could read anything and be able to handle any emotions evoked by the story or writing. That’s not the case anymore. I don’t exactly know what changed, or why. Maybe it’s just learning my preferences, but not reading about books with on-page rape makes me much happier.
Content warnings in books
It’s really nice to see over 60% of the people wanting to see content warnings in books because I was hoping that would win. Now, as you see in my tweet I asked if they should be in the description. People might have missed that part, but many commented with good examples they’ve found in books.
Some people consider content warnings spoilers, so putting them where you can’t avoid them might not be the best idea. People would like to see them on the copyright page or the back of the book. I’ve seen both versions and I like them both. It’s clear that putting them in the description of the book isn’t the best idea, although I have noticed that using certain words in a description are a non-spoilery way of letting the reader know about what they can expect. Words like ‘dark’ or ‘steamy’ are a clear indicator of what you can expect or the type of language used. Could this be a good way to include content warnings in the description and let people know what to expect before they buy the book?
Other people are afraid putting content warnings in books will result in censoring books. This isn’t something you can prevent in curated spaces like (school) libraries or a kids’ reading shelf. My library books had a card with general information of the book, including themes of the book. Those were the first things I experienced as trigger warnings. I don’t think most librarians would make a problem of the warnings, maybe even encouraging them. It’ll be easier for them to recommend the right book to a reader.
Where would you like to see content warnings in a book?