Friday, November 12, 2010

News - Amazon (accidentally?) allows sale of pedophilia book

Okay so I am a bit late to the game on this one.  Looks like all of the outrage over the following started on Wednesday.  Apparently a Kindle book was put up on Amazon called "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Conduct" and of course outrage ensued.  I think it is pretty safe to say the vast majority of us are strongly against pedophilia.  Amazon ended up pulling the book, which took a bit of time because of some of the legal issues they were up against.  You can see the final resolution of the issue here:

I just can't help myself...I have a couple things I need to say about this.  First of all the overwhelming initial sentiment and knee-jerk reaction was for people to start yelling about how they are going to boycott Amazon and will pull all of there reviews etc from Amazon's site.  Now I don't know about the rest of you but Amazon has kind of become an intergral part of my life with the Vine program, reviewing, and even running this blog.  Given that Amazon doesn't screen all of the Kindle books that are published I feel like this is a pretty harsh and stupid's not really going to solve anything.  Unfortunately this whole issue burns down to a more basic question...should Amazon be able to decide what is and isn't published on their site?

Granted in this case it was dealing with pedophilia, which is probably one of the only issues that 99.999% of the population agree is a horrible thing and shouldn't be allowed.  But what if this was a more controversial issue?  What if someone wrote a handbook to abortion?  Should Amazon ban sales of that book in states where is abortion is illegal?  Do we really want a large corporate conglomerate telling us what we should and shouldn't read?  I know I for one don't want that.  I agree with the comment Amazon returned with which was:

"Let me assure you that does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions. believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we'll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they're prohibited by law. We also allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views freely about these titles and other products we offer on our website. However, doesn't endorse opinions expressed by individual authors, musical artists, or filmmakers. "

Darn straight, I don't want a company deciding what I am reading!  It is absolutely no one's business what I want to read.  I mean really you could really blow this out of proportion.  Let's say you are reading a fantasy book in which a child is captured and sold to someone for sexual purposes; not at all far-fetched since I know we have all read this plotline in fantasy before (and probably many other genres).  Should Amazon ban those books too because they promote pedophilia?  Couldn't you say that reading about these scenarios help to protect against pedophilia as well since they show how to defend you and those you love from this crime?

That being said I totally agree that Amazon should have removed this book.  I do feel that as the publisher for these Kindle books Amazon should have some power deciding what gets published for the Kindle; I mean every publisher has that power.  People should also think about the good that has come out of direct to Kindle publishing.  I have read some really great authors that have published direct to Kindle...if it wasn't for this new form of publishing I would have never been able to read the stories they have written.

So overall I am conflicted about the whole issue.  I definitely don't want someone restricting what I can buy.  I also don't want to support anyone who is practicing pedophilia.  Ultimately the right thing to do would be for no one to buy that stupid handbook; that way the author doesn't benefit.  But, I think boycotting Amazon is a bit harsh.  Basically consumers want to punish Amazon for being innovative and allowing the every-day-Joe to publish whatever they want to publish.  It just doesn't make sense.

Maybe this is a good thing and it will allow Amazon to put a better screening process in place for books that are published to Kindle.  Maybe it's not and we will start seeing restrictions on more of the material that is published to Kindle; restrictions that make it so the buyer will never see material they want to read.  Of course if this happens, as a reader, I will never know what I am missing.

On a side note, there has been comment that this Handbook was actually posted of part of a scheme to catch pedophiles.  If that is the case it just makes things more complicated.

Let me know your thoughts...this is definitely one of those things that isn't very clear cut.  But, I personally will not be boycotting Amazon.  I don't see the point.  They have been a great company and provided me with many years of great service.  I love the innovation and risk they have been taking with their direct to Kindle publishing.  I hate to see a great company shot down because of one stupid person doing something incredibly distasteful. 

1 comment:

  1. An interesting note and I completely understand. I would like to share with you a private bookstore owner's personal take on the matter. This was featured in today's Shelf Awareness:

    "Pamela Grath, owner of Dog Ears Books, Northport, Mich., wrote regarding the controversy that erupted earlier this week regarding a Kindle book, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure by Phillip Greaves, that Amazon was selling... and then not selling after public outcry.

    'If a governmental authority tells me I can't sell something, threatening me with punishment under the law if I go against the authority, that is censorship. If I as a bookseller choose not to sell something, I am exercising my own judgment and freedom of speech and expressing my own values. It doesn't matter how large the business it is: it always retains the right to say no, even when it is not forbidden to say yes. This is not censorship. It is fundamental to freedom.

    Refusal to discriminate is another way to exercise freedom and a way to announce to the world that your company has no values beyond the marketplace. There will always be people who will admire that and see it as the ultimate expression of freedom, but the freedom of those of us who discriminate on the basis of value, choosing not to sell books with content we find reprehensible, deserves at least as much recognition under freedom's flag.'"

    I thought this was a well-put, rational 'other' side of the debate.