Unlike films, books and magazines aren’t required to be classified before they are supplied to the public. However, every year a number of books and magazines are classified.
Some books and magazines are submitted for classification by distributors wanting to make sure they are can legally sell the material. Others are submitted as a result of action by NZ Customs, Police or the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs, or because of a court case. A handful are submitted by members of the public.
Books and magazines are classified using the same criteria we use to classify films, games and other publications.
If a book or magazine is classified as restricted (e.g. R13 or R16) it’s illegal to supply to someone underage, and stores or libraries must also comply with any display conditions (e.g. that it must be displayed in a sealed/opaque bag, or be displayed in a ‘restricted area’, or given out only on request).
If a book or magazine is classified as objectionable (banned), it’s illegal for anyone to supply, import, or possess a copy.
Some books and magazines must display official classification labels
Since 2005, a book or magazine that’s been classified as age restricted must display an official classification label. These are the same labels used for films and games.
Unclassified books or magazines can still be restricted
The law says that if someone knows a book or magazine is likely to be age-restricted then they cannot supply it to someone underage. So things like ‘adult’ magazines are legally age restricted even though they haven’t been officially classified. Instead of getting magazines classified, distributors usually label the magazines R18 and sell them in sealed packaging.