README.txt, Chelsea Manning’s partly redacted memoir

4 January 2023
README.txt, by Chelsea Manning, book cover

I’m not sure how often books with parts of their text blacked-out — rendering paragraphs, possibly entire pages, unreadable — are ever published, but README.txt, a memoir by former American solider, turned whistle blower and activist, Chelsea Manning, published by Penguin Books Australia in October 2022, is an example.

In 2010, Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks, and a number of media outlets. She was later incarcerated for her actions, but only served several years of a thirty-five year sentence the court imposed on her.

In her book, Manning wrote about releasing the classified documents, and her pre-trial jail time, among other things, but a number of pages have been redacted by the publisher, at least in Australia:

Manning feared being sent to Guantanamo as a terrorist. Her publishers simply feared lawyers: three sections of the book, which would appear to describe documents she uploaded, are blacked out.

It seems only a small portion of the book cannot be read as a result, but I wonder if blacking out pages in books in this way, has any effect on their long term value. In the same way, for instance, mint made errors can sometimes make a coin featuring some sort production flaw, more valuable.

Blacked out text would make Manning’s memoir unique in a certain way, possibly making it collectible for that reason. Time will tell.

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