Amazon on the “Clean up the world” track again. Ebook censorship rampant

by Tony Cole Amazon want to clean up the world’s literature – well some of it……………. You may have noticed that Amazon have withdrawn a number of ebooks lately from their online shop.  apparently what they are now objecting to is any book that has a title with the word “rape” in it. This was brought to our attention by the author of two books with admittedly rather crude titles, (How To Rape A Straight Guy and “Rape In Holding Cell 6?).

Whilst both of these books deal with sex between men, they are not in fact particularly pornographic, at least that is what the author Kyle Sutherland claims, (I have not read either of them) He describes them as follows:

Curt, is a very in-your-face sort of guy who thinks he can get even with the world by assaulting men.  But it winds up hurting innocent people and destroying him.  I even have a moment of foreshadowing in it, where Curt as a 6-year-old boy watches a cousin of his torture a dog until it bites him, then the boy’s father kills the dog and goes off to buy another one.  The moral of the whole book being, if you treat a man like a dog his whole life, you shouldn’t be surprised if he bites you.  And the sad reality is, when he finally does bite back, he’s the one who’s punished.

Rape In Holding Cell 6?, both volumes, is about corruption in the judicial system, and its main character, Antony, is investigating the brutal rape and murder of his lover in the county jail.  He finds a legal and political system that thinks it can get away with anything and nearly drives himself insane in his quest for revenge, a quest that threatens to harm the innocent as well as the guilty as he becomes exactly what he hates.

Now whilst these two books might not be to your taste, it would seem to me that Amazon is being unnecessarily prudish in dropping these two books from their lists, simply on the basis of their titles apparently.

It can’t be the content of the books, as they happily sell no end of books with amazingly explicit sexual passages in them, to name but a couple of authors whose work is known for its explicit sex or praise of subjects such as incest or pedophilia, Jackie Collins and Robert Heinlein, or even more extreme, the works of the Count de Sade, which deals at great and boring detail with completely revolting aspects of scatology, with kids being central to the plots.

All of these are readily available as ebooks at Amazon, as are many other remarkably sick books dealing with revolting acts of sadistic violence, but, they do not have the word “Rape” in the title.

One wonders, do they actually read these ebooks before banning them, or is it simply the word “rape” that pushes the button?   We shall see when they suddenly drop the ebook “the rape of Nanjing” from their lists.

I suspect a large part of this sudden attack of prudishness may well be owing to their problems recently with the ebook they had on offer which was a book praising pedophilia, which they promptly dropped when it was drawn to their attention.. and amusingly enough, reinstated briefly shortly afterwards.

But if they have decided that ebooks that deal with “unnatural” sexual relationships need to be excluded, it could lead to some quite entertaining happenings shortly as the army of Bowdlerizers get up to speed in Amazon, one can expect books such as the Bible – the Bible has sex, violence and even portrays incest as a positive, at one point (Lot and his daughters) and probably loads of other ebooks will fall by the wayside.

The mind boggles!

Obviously Amazon have a perfect right to choose to sell or not to sell any ebook in their store, but given their powerful position in the market place, it has obviously serious implications for authors (and readers) if ebooks are dropped in this apparently rather random fashion.

It has been suggested that Amazon introduce a sort of grading system with their ebooks, those that are of a nature that might offend (on whatever basis – sex, graphic violence or whatever) be placed in a section of their store that is only accessible to adults – with some form of realistic and reliable way of proving that the customer is actually an adult.

After all, books such as the ones here are read by loads of people without them coming to any major harm it seems to me, and for a company to decide what we may or may not read according to some list of “approved conditions” seems wrong to me.   Particularly given the unbalanced way in which it is being applied, De Sade OK, Michel, not OK.

reposted from Ebookanoid

8 Comments on Amazon on the “Clean up the world” track again. Ebook censorship rampant

  1. Are the books that have been removed available through other retailers? I searched for “Kyle Sutherland” and could find no titles under that name… from anyone.

    I’d be curious to know how other booksellers are handling titles of this type (are the books readily available, are they rejected outright, or are other retailers getting less attention when they do remove these types of titles).

    • You might be able to find them through Smashwords. I haven’t checked.

      • I originally used Inkmesh to search and I just tried Smashwords and I still don’t see his book.

        The point I’m trying to make (and I know you didn’t write this article), is to explore the other side(s) of the story. Has Mr. Kyle tried to publish elsewhere? If so, what happened, where are the titles? Were they rejected or was Amazon his first try?

  2. “One can expect books such as the Bible – the Bible has sex, violence and even portrays incest as a positive, at one point (Lot and his daughters) and probably loads of other ebooks will fall by the wayside.”

    First, a correction. The story of Lot and his daughters in no way advocates incest. Instead, it is shown as the result of a series of moral and leadership failures by Lot. In addition, the narratives which follow in subsequent books of the Bible show the wars that result between Israel and the descendants of Lot. This is not portrayed positively.

    Second, regarding censorship, I think Amazon is trying to find a balance between what sells, both to niche groups and to most people, while at the same time not offending the majority (presumably) of their audience. Apple has gotten flak for similar apparently arbitrary choices in what to allow in the App Store. Both are trying to be successful businesses and accomplish various goals, not all of which are obvious or even public knowledge.

  3. Its amazon’s store, they can sell what they like. Not that I’m pro-censorship but they’re not breaking any laws. I think.

    • No. No laws being broken.
      In the US freedom of speech laws are about what government can and can’t do to restrain speech, not about groups or corporations.
      Best example is NC-17 movies.
      Few if any movie theaters will consent to exhibit an NC-17 movie even though no law bans them. They just don’t want the hassle that follows those generally controversial movies.

  4. Amazon got a lot of flack recently for their previous “no-look” stocking practices.
    Considering the size of their inventory they’ll never please everybody so the best they can do is what they’re doing; weeding out tasteless and controversial *TITLES*.
    This way at least they can plausibly argue they don’t knowingly sell offensive content.
    The recent “pedophile book” scandal leaves them no choice, really.
    And they don’t seem to be (yet) following WalMart and Apple in banning products based on their content.

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