Light the Torches – Amazon is Censoring eBooks Again

Just when you think you’ve beaten prudish censors into submission, they pop up somewhere else. Digital Manga Publishing, importers and translators of Japanese comics, has had their entire Kindle publisher’s account disabled. Their crime? Running afoul of an unnamed Amazon drone.

Update: This has been resolved. Their account has been reactivated.

As March 15, 2012, Digital Manga Inc.’s account has been suspended from the Kindle platform. While we’re working to try and amend the situation, we will not be able to publish titles to the Kindle for the foreseeable future.

Our account was suspended under troubling circumstances – we have had titles cited for “content violation”, and while we screen every title to ensure they adhere to Kindle’s standards, their guidelines are notoriously vague, and prohibit “Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.”

For those just tuning in, Amazon has long used vague content rules to pull ebooks which they don’t like. The rule in question truly is vague, and it has never been applied fairly. For example,it should come as no surprise that Amazon has pulled DMP titles before, for the exact same reason that DMP lost their account today, while at the same time leaving up titles with similar and equally risque content. But it does make today’s new particularly disappointing; DMP had been trying to toe the line.

Unfortunately, DMP had the deck stacked against them. You see, they published yaoi manga, which is a particular type of Japanese comics that focuses on gay romance. Someone in Amazon clearly disapproves of it.

Do you know what? I’ve realized that my initial sentence calling this act of censorship prudish behavior is not true.

The word I should have used was homophobic.

You see, Amazon is still selling many different books that fall into the category of pornography, including Shades of Gray, the infamous ebook that is even now at the top of bestseller’s lists. No offense to the people who read it, but that book is far more graphic than most yaio manga. In fact, aside from the minor detail of the stories being a romance between 2 men, number of the stories are rather tame. So why were they banned?

Aside from the homophobia of someone inside Amazon, I cannot think of a reason. I hope Amazon will enlighten us. I have contacted them and await their response.

DMP’s complete complaint follows:

To all our fans:

As March 15, 2012, Digital Manga Inc.’s account has been suspended from the Kindle platform. While we’re working to try and amend the situation, we will not be able to publish titles to the Kindle for the foreseeable future.

Our account was suspended under troubling circumstances – we have had titles cited for “content violation”, and while we screen every title to ensure they adhere to Kindle’s standards, their guidelines are notoriously vague, and prohibit “Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.”

There is no definition of “pornography” versus “erotica” officially available from amazon. In the past, we considered our titles the latter, and strive to comply with Amazon’s guidelines. However, with such vague guidelines and a veritable library of erotica in written and drawn form already available on the Kindle, it is difficult to discern exactly what rules Amazon wanted us to comply with. We also find it disheartening that our titles depicting male homosexual romance have been banned while erotica depicting other forms of intercourse flourishes. What makes relationships between men more objectionable than erotic tristes between men and women? This is a question we imagine you’re all asking yourselves right now, and a question that we need Amazon to answer for us.

While we work to restore our account, we encourage yaoi fans to explore alternate platforms for reading manga. Our titles are available on emanga.com, Nook (including free apps for your PC, iPad, or Android tablet), and on the DMP App for Apple products and Android Tablets. This event has also led us to pursue the possibility of making digital manga available through other platforms. We look forward to continuing to bring you all the best in manga content, yaoi or otherwise, and appreciate your continuing support.

If you would like to make your voice heard in regards to this issue, we encourage you to contact Amazon at [email protected]. Vote with your voices and your wallets, and help us ensure that Amazon doesn’t censor the content you want to consume. We know our fans are intelligent adults, and we feel that it’s wrong for a big company like Amazon to dictate what is proper for adults to read.

17 thoughts on “Light the Torches – Amazon is Censoring eBooks Again

  1. I don’t want to take up too much room for a comment here. I think it best to leave lots of room for the Amazon fannies to rise up and tell us how no one will have to worry should Amazon become an ebook monopoly or so dominant in ebooks as to amount to one. I am still practicing the mantra: Amazon is my friend and will do me no harm (or so I hope)!

    This is the problem with both closed and highly successful eco systems. One is at the mercy of the eco system owner. And just as Amazon won’t disclose numbers, it won’t disclose how it defines TOS language. Let me kiss Amazon’s feet once again for being my friend and protector from all those evil things to which I would otherwise be exposed in the absence of Amazon’s benevolent dictatorship.

    One last thing: I do agree that Amazon has no obligation to sell any particular product but it sure would be nice if Amazon leveled the playing field at least a little by defining its rules and enforcing them equally.

    1. >>>and tell us how no one will have to worry should Amazon become an ebook monopoly or so dominant in ebooks as to amount to one.

      If you ever think I’d make that argument, think again.

      Although I’ve argued that Amazon is no longer the dominating force in eBooks, that doesn’t mean it — or Apple, or Google, or Kobo, or B&N — can’t still damage a company or writer’s livelihood. I am against walled gardens, especially for books.

      Good luck getting any sort of sensible — or otherwise — statement from Amazon, Nate.

      As for DMP, do they also publish elsewhere or are all their eggs in that damned Kindle basket?

  2. FWIW – I just searched this publisher on Amazon and found over 300 kindle editions – so maybe it has been changed back

  3. Sigh. Amazon isn’t “censoring” anything, only government can censor. Amazon, as a private entity, has the right to sell or not sell anything it wants to.

    DMP also has the right to sell their books anywhere they want to (in agreement with the retailer), including their own ebookstore. In order to retain Kindle users and customers, they will need to sell DRM-free copies of their books, which, like most publishers, I’m sure they don’t want to do.

    1. Back in the days before Amazon began censoring, Jeff Bezos referred to a policy on their part wherein they would pick and choose which books they would allow on their Kindle store based on content as “censorship.” If that was the right word then, it’s the right word now.

      (And just incidentally, it’s the right word according to most dictionaries; but let’s not confuse the issue with facts.)

  4. Amazon is not “censoring” anything. As a private company they have the right to sell, or not sell, whatever they wish. Don’t like it? Go somewhere else.

    Applying a homophobic label to Amazon’s business decision is childish and ridiculous. The new normal in our culture today seems to be the irresponsible slinging of labels when anyone disagrees with anything. Grow up.

  5. So they cite “content violation” and the publisher immediately assumes it’s because of the gay romance, and you in turn immediately assume it’s because of some homophobic screener at Amazon. Did I miss something? Did Amazon say that they pulled it because of the gay romance? No, I didn’t think so.

  6. It took a public outcry–news stories and such–to get a book about how to be a good pedophile removed from Amazon, but books focusing on homosexual intimacy get slapped with undefined content violations with no apparent supporting whispers from the public? How is that fair? Yes, Amazon can sell what they want, but once you sign an agreement, terms should be applied unilaterally. Any other application is simply bad business.

    Considering this wasn’t the first time Amazon pulled the violation card on DMI without expressly stating what about the content tripped the violation wire, the public is only left with assumptions. The most baffling thing to me is: why wait? And why only the digital content? Don’t they survey the publisher’s offerings before they sign an agreement? DMI’s content didn’t change, so why re-instate them? This is why I won’t wholeheartedly agree with it *just* being a case of homophobia. I think there are some other things at play as well.

    If they can jerk DMI around, be it due to homophobia or not, what’s to stop them from doing it to other genres/content providers? What’s to stop them from removing content related to certain religions or certain birth control practices, or content that eschews the gallantry of war and history and exposes the truth of it, warts, blisters, festering sores and all?

    How long is it going to be before they try this again?

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