The title is the question.
Almost every other form of media is rated except books. So, much like those mediums I am not speaking about a censorship rating system where a book with a certain rating could never be sold to a person of a certain age. The MPAA, ERSB and other such regulatory boards merely give suggestive ratings that carry no penalty outside of what the individual retailers decide to impose**.
I look at a rating system as more of a guide line to help make decisions. Rating systems are, in my opinion, by definition flawed. They are not perfect but can be a great help for folks on the go.
So, lets open up discussion but try to keep it civil. This topic has gotten very hot among my friends when we breach it.
**The one exception I can think to this is material that is of pornographic material.
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The idea of rating books could kill books that have a higher-rating. For example, movies rated NC-17 are essentially dead because they can't be widely released. Also, no one wants to see them because they think they'll be extremely violent or sex-filled.
The same thing would happen with books. If a really great book got a rating equivalent to NC-17, Borders and Barnes and Noble probably wouldn't carry it simply because it wouldn't sell. Publishing companies would be afraid to accept the more racy books because of the book stores restrictions. More authors wouldn't be able to sell their books.
This is just my prediction and might be completely off but I wouldn't trust any rating system on books.
What would you think about a general categorical rating system that actually meant something. Like an age bracket rating system. So ratings like the video game industry which have a top rating of M for Mature and don't see the need to go any further (of which I agree).
And to those that mentioned the step or reading level books (like Grade1, Grade 2, ect.) they are classified based on difficulty of the words not content of the book. In theory you could put the work "Fuck" or "Kill" in a book labeled 1st grade because its a one syllable word.
A book that's labeled first grade would never, ever have the word 'fuck' in it. Publishing companies would be flayed alive by parent groups. A book rating system would be seriously detrimental to books sales and the emergence of new books.
I'm sorry, but if you posted this discussion looking for support, you came to the wrong website.
I do think that if a book is marketed towards children and contains some stuff in it that's scary, there should be a label on the back that says "may contain scary material" just for the kids' sake. You don't want them to expect to read a story about happy little bunnies but it ends up being a book about how there's an evil (or to put it in childrens book terms, "mean") bunny that lives inside their pillow or something, for example. But no rating should be on it.
Once the books start being aimed at older kids, it's best that they learn to decide what they do and don't want to read, and once more controversial subject matter comes up, they'll probably be old enough to form an opinion on it. I don't think books that are controversial because they strongly support a view or mindset should be marketed towards little kids. That makes it too easy for people to form opinions for them. Of course it should totally be allowed, but I think it's a really low thing to do. Young-adult? Great. Middle school-ish? Go for it. But little kids shouldn't be told "Hey, read this book, it's great!" and it indoctrinates them with something.
On another note, I think that not letting minors get M-rated games or see R-rated movies is a load of crud. If you're going to the store or the movies by yourself or without an adult, you're probably mature enough to handle seeing an R-rated movie or buying an M-rated game.
if you are old enough to understand what you are reading you are old enough to read it.
thats my opinion :D