Book Banning Goes Digital: Libraries Suspending E-book Services and the First Amendment

Book banning predates the United States and has survived and thrived in a splintered twenty-first century political climate. As the fight for the minds of the public continues, state and local governments have ramped up their efforts to ban books in public and school libraries. Public libraries, as limited public forums, must ensure their restrictions on access to information are reasonable and viewpoint neutral. School libraries receive some reprieve under a slightly more deferential but unclear test established by the Supreme Court. However, e-book services present a unique set of challenges. Also known as digital libraries, e-book services provide digital access to thousands of books, magazines, and other titles. Frequently, libraries will contract with e-book services, allowing library patrons access to titles beyond what libraries have in physical copy.

However, a number of conservative states are attempting to restrict e-book services via legislation or blanket suspensions. This webinar aims to make sense of e-book services and book banning against the backdrop of the First Amendment. E-book services should be considered extensions of public libraries and public school libraries. It draws analogies from other, more established areas of law to propose e-book services are a part of the library under a nexus theory or another theory of government reliance. Banning or suspending a full e-book service is comparable to banning or suspending access to a whole section of the library to target one book—a violation of the First Amendment because it is politically motivated viewpoint discrimination. Ultimately, this webinar attempts to clarify the intersection between this new technology and longstanding Supreme Court precedent dictating state officials’ right to ban books and patrons’ right to read them.


Register today and then click to share this conference on Facebook and Twitter!

About Catherine Ferri

Catherine Ferri is 2024 graduate of the University of Colorado Law School. Since graduating with her BA in English and Spanish Literature from Colgate University in 2020, she has had the opportunity to work for some of the leading First Amendment and digital rights organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and worked as a student-attorney in Colorado Law's Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law and Policy Clinic. Her work on e-book bans was published in the Stanford Technology Law Review in 2024.