New Digital Resource Offers Free Access to Banned and Restricted Titles

The Digital Public Library of America has launched The Banned Book Club, offering free access to e-books and audiobooks in areas where the titles have been restricted or banned.

There’s a new resource in the fight to provide access to books being removed from library shelves. The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)—a national nonprofit organization with a mission to maximize access to “shared history, culture, and knowledge”—has partnered with Lyrasis and The Palace Project to start The Banned Book Club.

The new initiative uses book banning data from PEN America combined with GPS tracking to provide free access to e-book and audiobook copies of the specific titles removed or restricted from public libraries in a user’s area. Access is given through the Palace e-reader app.

After watching the continued censorship attempts and removal and restrictions of books in towns and school districts across the country, DPLA executive director John Bracken says the organization decided it could leverage the digital platform to have the opportunity to limit the impact of banning physical books.

“Digital tools can be a force for good,” he says.

DPLA launched the project with their public library partners and may add school library data in the future, according to Bracken.

Users download the Palace app (available for iOS or Android) and select The Banned Book Club. From there, they will be allowed to try to sign up for a virtual library card. If someone is not in an area that has documented book bans or restrictions, they will not be allowed to create a library card and access the catalog. If they are (and the app lists the locations that can use the service), they will be shown available titles that have been challenged, restricted, or removed in their area.

The app won’t just share the available books, however; it will also offer “access background information about the larger context of the importance of freedom of expression, the importance of the freedom to read, and context of these larger conversations,” says Bracken. It’s about “increasing the awareness of this trend to restrict and whitewash a set of voices and experiences.”

The project received a shoutout from former president Barack Obama, who tweeted about its launch: “With so many books being banned across the country, @DPLA has launched The Banned Book Club to give readers access to e-books that have been banned. Learn more at”

Obama wrote an open letter thanking librarians for their commitment to the freedom to read a few days before the project launched.

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