Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

On the Books: British judge defends inmates' right to read

Posted on

Prisoner Reading
Andy Cross/Getty Images

– A British judge has declared unlawful the partial ban on books in prisons issued last year by the nation’s justice secretary. In November 2013, Secretary Chris Grayling introduced new guidelines for an “incentives and earned privileges” system where inmates gradually earn the freedom and money to buy items as they move up from “basic status.” Those items included books, and the rules prevented people from sending them into prisons.

Enter 56-year-old Barbara Gordon-Jones, who has a doctorate in English literature and is currently serving time for arson. Prisons minister Jeremy Wright has said characterizing the rules as a complete ban amounts to “complete nonsense” because “all prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library.” But that didn’t cut it for Gordon-Jones, who said the literary options provided by the prison system were insufficient.

Justice Andrew Collins sided with Gordon-Jones. “A book may not only be one which a prisoner may want to read but may be very useful or indeed necessary as part of a rehabilitation process,” he said. The ruling pleased prominent authors like Salman Rushdie and Philip Pullman, who have fought the rules since their creation. “I’m very glad that the courts have seen through it, and stated that reading is a right and not a privilege,” Pullman said. [The Guardian]

– Amazon doesn’t only antagonize customers stateside. On Thursday, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee will release a blockbuster history book, The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years—and for three weeks it’ll be exclusively available though Amazon. That’s frustrating many Indians excited about Mukherjee’s book, which recounts his role in the 1970s administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “It is the biggest book of the year,” said one Indian brick-and-mortar bookseller. “People come to us to browse, and say, ‘Oh it’s a damn good book, I’ll buy it online.’ We can’t give the 40% discounts that online retailers give. And a bookstore is a bookstore. What does it matter if its online or offline?” [The Times of India]

– Back in the U.S., print book sales for this Thanksgiving week improved from the same period last year. Unit sales rose five percent over Thanksgiving week 2013, according to Nielsen BookScan. The top-selling book was The Long Haul, the latest installment of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The popular children’s book sold 221,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]