Maintain the Domain! A PSA for Authors/Publishers
A couple months ago I decided to give the old TikTok a try. Why not? I’d resisted for a decent amount of time, as I do with all social media sites. About the time that BookTok became a thing I broke down, since it looked like the app wasn’t going anywhere. What I found was a nice complement to my Instagram watching. So that was fun.
Generally my videos are fairly low-key extensions of this blog or consist of general thoughts about librarianship. Then, about two weeks ago, I learned about an unfortunate case. A case so unfortunate that I made a video about it, seen here:
Now if you’re anything like me you’re just gonna skip over this video. Whenever I want to get some news and CNN (it’s always CNN for some reason) tries to force me to watch a video rather than read a piece, it ticks me off thoroughly. Not wanted to replicate their sins, I’ll explain to you what this is all about.
Two weeks ago, as I said, a listserv of fellow Collection Development Librarians (i.e. librarians that are in charge of their libraries’ purchasing decisions) received a warning about a completely innocuous book. Monster Needs His Sleep by Paul Czajak is precisely what the title would imply. As the publisher Mighty Media describes it, “In this playful, rhyming story, Monster shows young readers that, with a little help from a friend, the dark isn’t that scary after all.” So wherein lies the problem? It lies in the QR code.
You see, after the first, maybe even the second printing, the publisher, Mighty Media Press, decided that this book deserved its own website. It was so dedicated to this idea that it even created links to that site in subsequent issues of the book. So if you find what I believe is the third edition of this book, you’ll see this:
And this (website in the lower right-hand corner):
The problem? Well, the website that appears all over this book wasn’t renewed, you see. The author and illustrator who created the book had no say in that decision. And when the publisher failed to renew the site can you guess what happened? That’s right. A porno site bought the URL. Now every parent that innocently sees that QR code and goes to look at it with their kid is in danger of going to a wholly inappropriate place online instead.
This is, I think it’s safe to say, every children’s book author’s nightmare. When I posted my TikTok on this topic, I heard from a number of creators who’d been through something similar. For example, children’s author Fiona Robinson had this very thing happen to her own website. It could happen to anyone. You forget to pay to renew and then suddenly something ghastly takes over your domain. She was able to get hers back, but imagine if she hadn’t. Imagine if you’re a children’s book creator and your website, which is advertised on all your books for kids, is no longer child-safe at all.
In conclusion, if you take anything away from today’s discussion, it is to PLEASE make sure that you always renew your own website. Admittedly, this leads to some pretty dark discussions. What happens to the site after your death? Do you need to make sure that it’s maintained in perpetuity? I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I can tell you truly is that for full peace of mind, if your website is going to appear in something as permanent as a book, make sure it doesn’t include something horrible at the other end of that URL.
Full credit to creator Jess Redman for the phrase, “Maintain the domain”.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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