December 16, 2010
What's Up With Amazon?
I don't get it. Ars Technica reports that one incest-themed fiction book was removed from the Kindle bookstore and from the archives of people who purchased it. Other reports indicated that at least three titles were removed from the store and re-download blocked for people who purchased them. Amazon issued a statement later that said the titles were restored to those who purchased them, and the fact they were removed was a "technical issue." It appears that these three books are no longer for sale.
I can raise all kinds of issues about censorship or how buying books electronically under the control of others is no better than renting them. Many of the comments to stories about this incident make that point. But I don't need to. Amazon is a company that can make its own business decisions. No one should tell it what it what kind of material it can and cannot stock. Amazon is not a public library.
What I don't get is what is so special about these books compared to others it sells. A simple search for the term "incest" on Amazon brings up 3,753 results, many of them for sale on the Kindle as well. A good number of results are erotic fiction designed to appeal to, what are the words, a prurient or morbid interest in incestuous relationships. Some of the covers displayed with the results are reminiscent of the covers of paperbacks that were relegated to certain racks in the back of 1950s drug stores. Lurid isn't quite the word. Something more, I think, but I'm not sure what it would be. Maybe pornographic, at least from a combination of some of the titles and graphics displayed.
Nonetheless, my question remains, what is so special about these three books to qualify for deletion from the catalog in light of the lawsuits over the arbitrary removal of the Orwell book 1984 some time back? That ended in a settlement where Amazon said it would not delete books from the Kindle except when the credit card for purchase fails, judicial orders, malware, or permission of the purchaser? I suppose restoration of old purchases puts the company in compliance with its settlement. If the deletion from sale is based on objection to the content, well, Amazon, you sure have a long, long, way to go if you plan to be consistent with your current actions. I wonder what other topics Amazon arbitrarily doesn't like? [MG]