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Monday, December 13, 2010

Amazon Banning Books

I blogged during book banning week about how much I hate it. I also stated on that blog that there was a big distributor that had some book titles up that I found personally disgusting, too, and that I dreaded the day I'd have to defend those books.

A while ago someone forwarded some information to me in which it was stated that several authors were having their books removed by Amazon due to having an incest theme. I followed the link I was given and discovered that some of those books may also have some issues with the age of consent as well.

It seems that Amazon also wiped these books clean from Kindles as well. And for that--Amazon should refund every dime. That's a given right there.

Now for the tricky part. Do I do what this forwarded email asks everyone to do---contact the head of Amazon and the board of directors in protest or simply let Amazon have at it. I mean, hell, I'd never read one of those books. Does the author have the right to write them? You bet. Does the author have the right to offer them for sale? You bet.

Does the author have the right to dictate to Amazon that it must sell their book? No. Amazon has the right to refuse service. And those authors and their readers have the right to never purchase another book from Amazon.

So, on the one hand I support those authors and their right to create the books they choose. I also support the readers decision to read whatever material they like. But at the same time, I can't support forcing a company to sell anything they don't want to sell. Does that support book banning? No, it doesn't. Just as you stop into one store and find adult magazines for sale, you might stop into another store and notice none there.

We're dealing with a business here, not a public library or school.

You always hear "It's a free country." Well, yeah, to an extent. You're free and your actions are unrestricted as long as you don't infringe upon anyone else's rights.

Amazon should have stricter content guidelines. And Amazon should ban all books with illegal content if that is what this is all about and not just pick and choose. I'm still not really clear on the why of it as the authors in question say they've been given no specific reason at this time--other than the fact that Amazon reserves the right to decide. And that IS their right.

So what do we do, people? Storm the gates of Amazon and tell them we're never going to buy another book from them if they don't sell these books? And if we do, are we saying that there could never be a case of a book going too far? Is the saying "Any book worth banning is a book worth reading" really true? What's your opinion on all this?

9 comments:

C. Zampa said...

There seems to be so much gray area in this issue, and I haven't heard any subtantial information from either side to make a judgment.

I don't condone incest in books unless it is a part of a history of a character---and NEVER if it is used as an edge for sensuality.

In fact, probably 99% of reputable publishers---even erotica and GLBT--do not accepct submissions for incest themed books.

BUT--BUT--my irritation with Amazon is that the sleeping giant WAS accepting anything and everything to make a buck, until it was stirred awake by some controversy and it sniffed out incest books and began to ban them.

My question is this: if they are so against this genre, WHY did they agree to EVER distribute them in the first place?

To me, that is hyprocisy. They only decided to ban once they felt a threat that might affect sales.
Just as---ON THE SAME TOKEN---they agreed to sell them before for SALES.

Now THAT I do not appreciate about them.

Tess MacKall said...

I agree with everything you've said, CZ. I wondered about accepting the book too.

But I think that is the nature of the upload beast. Publishers simply upload their books. There is NO vetting process. It takes forever now, it seems, to get books up on Amazon--either through the publisher or due to stalls from Amazon. So having each book vetted for content would make the process even longer.

What Amazon really needs to do is have a definitive policy on what it will and will not accept. Heck, like you said, 99% of publishers disallow certain content, so why can't Amazon simply list that content rather than going through this entire banning process. Then when a publisher uploads it and Amazon discovers it--no one has a right to cry foul if indeed there has been a foul.

Natalie Dae said...

What CZ said LOL.

:o)

Samantha Gentry said...

I have sincere problems with censorship. Overall, and as a concept, I am against it. I resent having someone else's personal views (religious, moral, whatever) dictate what I'm allowed to read, what movies I can see, what television shows I can watch. And where does censorship stop? We all agree that something is terrible and should be banned. But maybe the next "unacceptable" thing is only a problem for half of us but the noisy half gets it banned? At whose "opinion" do we draw the line between what is acceptable and what isn't? I agree with you. Amazon should set down their guidelines saying what they will not accept. If a publisher and/or author (or whomsoever) tries to sell their books through Amazon and they are rejected, then there shouldn't be any surprises. But that author or publisher is not restricted from selling them direct or through another outlet. They have their right to write and sell what they choose and I have the right to not buy or read it. I don't have someone else's personal beliefs making that decision for me.

Tess MacKall said...

LOL Made perfect sense, didn't it, Nat?

R. Paul said...

It's a powerful subject, Tess, and one that hits close to home.

Bottom line on the act of banning by Amazon? I have to agree with C.Z. -- as long as Amazon could make money with the books they are now banning, I think the evidence shows that they were willing to do so. They appear to have developed a moral stance after the fact, when prompted to do so by controversy. They do indeed have a right to sell whatever they wish, but does pulling those books constitute an act of integrity? It's hard for me to believe it does.

As you say, there are books out there that make me cringe with their content. There are written works that affront human dignity, glorify monstrous behavior, and trivialize issues that are immensely important. To echo you, do people have the right to write such books? Absolutely. Do people have the right to buy them? Yes they do. Should children be protected from material that is inappropriate and damaging for them? Yes they should.

In our genre, we write about many things that certainly would have been banned fifty years ago (or even more recently). But I believe we do so out of a desire to empower and enlighten (and yes, entertain), and we do it with conscience. I edited (and contributed to)a book called "Dark Poets Against Abuse", in which I invited survivors of abuse, including incest, to express themselves without fear of any censorship. Many of the works that I published are deeply troubling, but what came of that was a powerful catharsis for victims, and light shone on acts that thrive (and can only survive, I believe)in silence and in darkness. I didn't offer that book to Amazon, but if I had, would it now be banned? Probably.

So where do we as creators and consumers draw lines to remain strong in our commitment to free expression? No easy answers...but as long as we continue to write and buy with our our awareness as caring and responsible men and women front and center, then we can't go too far wrong.

Natalie Dae said...

It did indeed.

:o)

Tess MacKall said...

First, I apologize for not getting to these comments quicker. I've been sick and my mind is NOT working right now.

Samantha, agreed. Censorship is a bad thing for sure. All of this would be a non-issue if Amazon was just more specific with what it will accept and what it won't accept. If publishers can list things on their submission site then so can Amazon. What's the big problem with doing that?

Personally, I have issues with consensual incest. I still think it's wrong and illegal. So even if those books do have consensual incest in them, I can't support them.

But I do think it was bad form for Amazon to accept them and now toss them away. However, in the long run, the authors in question might just make a mint thanks to Amazon too. After all, they are getting lots of attention, aren't they?

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Paul...

I think there is a major difference between creating a work in which incest and underage sex take place to tell a story and in creating one in which those two scenarios are used to sexually titillate.

I haven't read that book of yours that you helped with, but I seriously doubt that the incest scenes included were designed to arouse.

That's where we must draw the line. There is, of course, the issue of consenting adults, too.

But at no time is underage sex a matter of consent. Legally. And how can we even deem subject matter such as Daddy/daughter or Mother/son or Brother/sister as consensual when we KNOW that something is not right there for these relationships to take place. Both parties might agree to have sex, but are they in a state of mind in which their consent is TRUE and responsible consent?

Not judging others, and certainly support the right of authors to write what they feel they need to. But I also think there are a host of writers out there who are just doing whatever it takes to cash in too. And that means selling subject matter that is not only illegal but feeding some very sick minds as well.