First things first, I refuse to use the word "Censor", its a loaded word that basically is an automatic death sentence for any sort of intelligent conversation. It will not be uttered in this conversation again.
I had read a forum thread about this concept, of Rating books, based on content, and as was predictable, the forum in question was 100% against the idea.. but the thread originator also used the C-Word.. so it was a forgone conclusion.
On the other hand, I'm not so quick to dismiss the idea of book publishers self rating their books. And I'll use as an example, that if you go into a Barnes & Noble, in the Fantasy & Science Fiction section.. you will find the works of Laurel K. Hamilton next to Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, Micheal Moorcock and Richard Morgan, Shelved to the side of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, And Joe Abercrombie and R.Scott Bakker creeping decidedly close to Piers Anthony and Terry brooks.
None of these books, some of them with extremely adult themes, comes with any sort of warning at all what you will find contained in them. And before anyone accuse me of it, I'm certainly not calling for the Author to tone down their writing. But I do feel that the Publisher, being the one in the best positional to know.. might put some sort of Age Range on the books. Most stores of course don't have an "Adult's Only" section.. so moving stuff like Bakker and Morgan and Hamilton to a different section isn't really an option.. You could of course move the more kid and teen friendly books to the Young Adult section.. but then that would likely cut off a lot of the Adult purchases of them.
I know in the past that Barnes & Noble has considered instituting some form of "In store" rating system.. but that would require them to actually read every book they stock.. when in reality they would probably issue ratings based on the Publishers blurb.. which would still result in Morgan's gaping sphincters getting shelved next to Aslan the Jesus Allegory Lion.
Not wanting this to turn into a 'But think of the Children' diatribe.. I will be bluntly honest about it.. I just want to know what I'm buying before I spend money on it.. I realize I can always return a book to the store if I'm unhappy with it.. But I'd rather just avoid it in the first place. I think it is this feeling more than anything that has made me so reticent to buy into the hype about new authors. I got burned a few times, and now feel as if the whole section of the store is something of a Minefield, apt to explode a welter of gore on me at any moment. The funny story is, I bought the Steel Remains because it was from Del Rey, purveyers of milquetoast fantasy. But boy oh boy was I surprised, and not in a "Oh what a lovely birthday party I had no idea about" but more in a " what the hell am I reading, get this crap away from me" sort of way..
Even without a rating system this more or less used to be easy to figure out, if it had a cover done by say, Darrell K. Sweet you knew it would more or less be OK to give to a younger person. Where as if it was cover art by Frazetta or Vellajo you knew it was more for older teens. Now though, everyone is in a race to see just how blurry and dark they can make their cover art, it's all sort of blurring together in a very dark (if far more attractive) style of art.
I'm not asking for a whole lot, meerly some sort of indicator of what might be in the book I'm about to buy. TV shows do that, Movies do that, Albums do that. They tell me up front what sort of entertainment it is I'm about to buy. But Books, could basically contain anything, And I really never want to make the mistake I made with The Steel Remains again.