Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Abbott’s Book Ban Legislation Would Have Harmed Texas Small Businesses

Amidst the ongoing uncertainty surrounding a recent Texas law, which mandates book vendors to rate materials sold to schools based on sexual explicitness, Charley Rejsek, CEO of BookPeople in Austin, elucidated why the law could adversely affect small businesses, such as her own independent bookstore.

“The problem with this law is that number one, we can’t read all the books, that’s just literally impossible, because it’s thousands and thousands, and thousands of hours,” Rejsek explained at a panel at South by Southwest.

“Number two, we don’t know every book that we’ve ever sold to a school to be able to read it. We don’t keep track of who buys books for what, because that’s just not what we do as a business.”

House Bill 900, titled “Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources Act” (READER), was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2023.This legislation prohibits schools from purchasing books deemed “sexually explicit” and mandates procurement from vendors following state-issued book rating guidelines.

Rejsek explained how the bill made no sense for book vendors, who are not in the business of “paying people to read.” For example, book stores, like BookPeople or Barnes and Noble, would have to ask anybody buying a book, what they are going to do with that book.

If the answer is: it’s for a library. Then the same book store wouldn’t be able to sell that book until they cleared it from not having sexual content.

“That’s the problem, is that booksellers have never been trained to read anything. And analytically, I have no college degree to do anything like that,” Rejsek said. “What they’re asking is if I can hire a 16 year old to read a book to put in schools. How does this make sense?”

In January, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled HB 900, an unconstitutional breach of the First Amendment protection against compelled speech. The judges took issue with the “vendor-rating system” required by HB 900.

The lawsuit was initially brought by BookPeople, Houston bookseller Blue Willow Bookshop, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Booksellers Association.

The most pressing concern raised during discussions was the glaring oversight: the law was not crafted with small businesses in mind, posing a significant threat to hundreds of independent bookstores across Texas.

This is a contradiction given Gov. Greg Abbott’s longstanding emphasis on small businesses as a cornerstone of his platform, despite his endorsement of the law.

“Small businesses are the very heart of our communities and the backbone of the booming Texas economy,” said Governor Abbott. “There are 3.2 million small businesses in Texas employing nearly half of the Texas workforce.”

Laura Prather, chair of the media practice group at law firm Haynes & Boone and lead attorney representing the plaintiffs told KXAN back in January, that “one of the plaintiffs in the case did an analysis of how much it would cost to rate just the prior books that it had sold to Texas schools…”

“That estimate…was between $4 million and $500 million, which would have put the bookseller out of business.”

Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios, a Mexican-American Politics Reporter and Managing Editor at RA's Gun Violence Watch, unveils the Capitol's inner workings. Focused on Public Education and Gun Policies, she passionately advocates for informed dialogue, delivering concise, impactful insights into the intricate political landscape.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Award-App Footer

Download our award-winning app