How much is a crappy, self-published guide for child molesters worth to Amazon? Not more than the support of parenting bloggers just a few weeks before the holiday season.
Amazon hasn’t issued an updated statement about their decision to sell or not sell this book, but searching for it brings up an error message.
An error message is about what that book was worth. The author’s comments to CNN were extremely disturbing, as were the clips from book. It was clearly designed to facilitate the rape of children. That’s a pretty solid violation of Amazon’s own content guidelines, which state that they will not publish anything they consider “objectionable” or that might lead to “criminal activity”.
This is a book about how to rape kids. It’s hard to imagine anyone wouldn’t find that objectionable, and rape is certainly a criminal activity.
Given how clear the violation of their own publishing rules is, why did Amazon initially defend this?
The San Francisco Business Insider claims Amazon was just sticking by their usual practice. They sell a wide array of objectionable books, from Holocaust deniers to videos of dogfighting. This one is different in that it’s a how-to guide to commit violent crimes. It’s also different because Amazon wasn’t simply selling the book. They were acting as the publisher as well.
A few people, including Paula here at Strollerderby, said they won’t boycott Amazon over this book because they believe so strongly in freedom of speech. Neil Gaiman would be proud; he wrote a classic essay a few years ago about the defense of icky speech.
Do you think Amazon should sell anything anyone wants to publish? Or were they right to respond to the critics and pull this book? They’re not a government, they’re a business. I think they made the right call here, finally.
Their change of heart doesn’t change my position though: I still won’t buy anything from Amazon because they’re just too big. I believe local, independent, diverse booksellers protect real freedom of speech better than any behemoth.