S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Books, before 1985

I had a horse phase when I was young - books, Breyer horses, summer camp, riding lessons, but definitely books. I collected the Marguerite Henry novels, some new, some - out of print - in ex-library editions. My sister joined in the phase and our parents treated us to family holidays over several summers to the island of Chincoteague and to a primo Palio, a practice horse race in Siena before the real Palio. The Palio trip was inspired by one of those ex-library copies, of an out-of-print Henry novel, Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio. Alibris tells me that it was published in 1960 and reprinted in 1967. I don't know which copy I had.

We outgrew the horse phase and eventually I went off to university. My parents gave away my horse books to a young woman, horse-crazy then and horse-crazy still today. It's the only time they've done that, that I know of, given away my books. It was for a good cause, although I felt and sometimes feel nostalgic about them. All those books. All my books. And it was fine, since I haven't felt it urgent to reread them since, although I think about them now and again.

I've been thinking about those books this week.

See, last month, a law came into effect in the US, a good-intentioned law, intended to keep lead toys out of the mouths of children. It applies retroactively, however, and unless a seller pays for the tests - cumulatively expensive - to ensure that an object obviously intended for children is lead-free (if produced in a time when this was a danger), then that seller may not longer sell or give away those products in the US. The law was written for toys, but applies to children's books too - and lead ink was used to print books up until 1985. This means that it's probably no longer legal to sell or give away any children's book in the US printed before 1985 (unless testing is done).

Thrift stores. Second-hand book dealers. Already, faced with unusable stock, a number of them have been stock-dumping, throwing away their supplies to avoid the risk of having a substantial financial penalty slapped on them. The American Library Association is apparently claiming themselves exempt right now, but even if they're allowed to get away with it, they'll still have problems in disposing of books which would previously have been sold off. The relevant enforcement agency has already said it will delay enforcement until February of next year, but stores are already, following official recommendations, getting rid of those books.

This isn't just a danger to the world's residual stock of Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio (which was, after all, printed in the US and primarily sold there so far as I know). It's a danger is all US stocks of pre-1985 children's books from anywhere at all.

One consolation is that there will certainly be some stock of most of these books which will have ended up in other countries. But it isn't legal for US holders of such books to sell or give those books away, domestically or internationally, if at all obviously intended for children. (Collectors are okay, but hard to prove.)

Articles here and here. Alert from sammywol.

In other scare-mongering news, the Roquefort tax tripling in the US has been postponed for a month.
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