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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Open Letter to Amazon.com Re: "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure"

I was appalled to find out you sell a book promoting pedophilia in your Kindle store. The book in question is The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure by Phillip R Greaves II. I immediately called customer service (1-800-201-7575) to complain, and the first customer service representative was appalled right along with me. I was sent an email saying Amazon is looking into the matter and I will be notified of developments.

Some hours later, I called again. This customer service representative said "Amazon has a policy of non-censorship." I answered her that, while the First Amendment protects the author's right to say, write, and even publish his thoughts, the First Amendment makes no requirement for booksellers to sell any given book.

Booksellers have free reign in what they choose or do not choose to sell. There are many books on, for example, Medieval Literature which Amazon does not carry, not because they are offensive or poor in quality, but simply because they are not found appealing or marketable. Nobody is raising a question of censorship in that case. A bookseller can choose not to stock his shelves with books on birds, if he finds birds repulsive. Or he can choose not to order a book on Linguistics, if he thinks it is not interesting or will not sell. Similarly, a bookseller has the right to not order books he personally finds offensive. There is no law, no amendment to the Constitution that requires a bookseller to sell every book ever published.

By Amazon.com not pulling the book in question off their shelves means implicit endorsement of the subject matter. It means this bookseller, Amazon.com, finds some merit in the book; does not find it morally repugnant.

Thus, it begs the question: would Amazon.com similarly choose to offer for sale books with titles such as "How to Torture Animals: Step-by-Step Instructional Manual", "Serial Killer 101", "The Rapist's Guide: How to Excel", or "School Shootings: How to Kill as Many People as Possible in the Least Amount of Time"? If someone wanted to self-publish such titles through Amazon Kindle, would Amazon just shrug and say "We don't want to be accused of censorship", as they have so far done in the case of "The Pedophile's Guide", or would Amazon actually show some ethical backbone?

I have been an Amazon.com customer since the first day Amazon opened its website over a decade ago. I buy everything from books to Kindle books, from shower heads to decalcifiers for my coffee maker, from birthday presents to Christmas presents. I've been part of Amazon Prime from almost its inception and our family spends hundreds, some years thousands, of dollars through Amazon.com. Currently, even my entire baby registry is through Amazon. Please feel free to check my purchase history for the last decade.

I am distressed and grieved that Amazon would hesitate for a minute to pull this title. Where does it say it is acceptable in the name of profit to throw ethics and basic human decency out the window?

Sincerely,
Anniina Jokinen (anniina@luminarium.org)



*** UPDATED TO ADD (5:30pm ET/4:30pm CT) ***

Immediately after posting, I sent this over to Amazon as an email. When I got back from getting groceries, I had a reply awaiting. Here it is in its entirety:

On 11/10/2010 3:25 PM, Amazon.com Customer Service wrote:

"Hello,

As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking. That selection includes some items which many people may find objectionable. Therefore, the items offered on our website represent a wide spectrum of opinions on a variety of topics.

Let me assure you that Amazon.com does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we'll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they're prohibited by law. We also allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views freely about these titles and other products we offer on our website. However, Amazon.com doesn't endorse opinions expressed by individual authors, musical artists, or filmmakers.

We value all feedback from our customers, and I thank you again for taking the time to send us your comments about this issue. Although we won't be able to comment further on this topic, we hope you'll allow us to continue to serve you.

Best regards,

Prince A.
Amazon.com"


!!!

I, of course, wrote right back:

On 11/10/2010 4:17 PM, Anniina Jokinen wrote:

"Hello,

Your reply is a form letter and it is woefully inadequate. It does not respond to the specific points I've brought up in my letter to Amazon (see http://alaydhien.blogspot.com/2010/11/open-letter-to-amazoncom-re-pedophiles.html). This is not a case of "gray area" or run-of-the-mill objectionable or offensive content. This is content that directly promotes crimes against children. This is a black or white issue and as such there are only two options here: 1) Amazon keeps selling it, which means Amazon thinks promoting child rape is acceptable; 2) Amazon pulls it, thereby clarifying its position and sending a message saying child rape is not right. How does your CEO, Jeff Bezos, feel about this matter? Are all the stockholders also quite alright with Amazon selling a book that is a guidebook on how to successfully rape children?

Anniina Jokinen



No response as yet.




*** UPDATED TO ADD (6:45pm ET/5:45pm CT) ***

Amazon terminated the customer service email thread. I called them again just now and spoke with two people. The first was a woman who had no idea such a book was being sold by Amazon and who was, understandably, horrified. She transferred me to the Kindle department. The gentleman told me he was not allowed to say anything more than what Amazon had released in their formal statement (which is nearly verbatim to the email they sent me). See MSNBC's article:

Amazon defends 'Pedophile's Guide'

He made it clear no further statement would be made by Amazon, but agreed to forward my further complaints.



*** UPDATED TO ADD (7:55pm ET/6:55pm CT) ***

I have removed my baby registry from Amazon.com. I can't have people purchasing gifts for my baby from a company who at the same time sells a book on how to molest that same baby. This whole thing makes me want to vomit.



*** UPDATED TO ADD (12:45am ET/11:45pm CT, Nov 11) ***

After Anderson Cooper did a segment on this on CNN tonight,

http://www.cnn.com/video/

Amazon has quietly made the page for the book unavailable through either direct link or through their internal search engine, on both the US and UK sites.

Thank you to everyone who tirelessly campaigned for this today.



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16 Comments:

Blogger Graham Short said...

I'm right behind you with this one, as are many of my friends. Its a disgusting lack of responsibility on Amazon's behalf, and I can not begin to fathom the author's motivations.
I hope this eBook never again sees the light of day!

November 10, 2010 4:06 PM  
Blogger Ro said...

First, ridiculous argument on their part. Amazon.com is not the library. They're in it for profit. They are not obligated to carry the book. Second, I hope this book isn't in the library. Third, I can't believe my novel is unpublished but this one makes it past somebody. And, four: Amazon sells decalcifiers? Who knew?

November 10, 2010 4:34 PM  
Blogger Jackie Barbosa said...

"Serial Killer 101" pretty much DOES exist. It's a book called "Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors" and Amazon sells it.

Whatever you may think of their decisions on offering either of these books, they ARE being consistent.

And Ro, I WISH libraries were required to carry books. You can't get my Kensington Aphrodisia release in most libraries. You CAN get it at Amazon.

November 10, 2010 5:58 PM  
Blogger Anniina said...

Jessica,

It is not exactly equivalent. In the US, the laws traditionally protect minors. While there is no applicable law in this case (for all I know, not being a lawyer myself), there is a difference between a hitman manual and a manual promoting child rape. It is to be assumed a hitman will be targeting adults, whereas a pedophile targets minors.

November 10, 2010 6:09 PM  
Blogger Jackie Barbosa said...

Anniina, if you can produce one US statute, federal or state, that prohibits the production, sale, or distribution of books that promote child rape, I will be happy to cede the point to you. I do not, however, believe there are any. Child pornography is illegal, but only visual images of children engaged in sexual acts are considered child pornography. This book, appalling as it may be, is NOT by its own description child pornography, and therefore, I doubt it illegal under any US statute. The author MIGHT be prosecuted as a co-conspirator or instigator if someone being prosecuted for child rape claimed the book instigated or guided his actions. But that can only happen after the act. In the US, we almost never prosecute ideas, but actions. Even when children are involved.

By the way, I find your contention that a manual promoting murder is okay because the intended targets would likely be adults and it's somehow more acceptable to murder grown-ups than it is to have sex with children to be almost as appalling as the book we're discussing. Are you honestly telling me it's WORSE for your husband to be murdered than for your child to molested? Seriously.

Finally, all this shitstorm has done thus far is to propel this book from a rank of about 154,000 in the Kindle store to 825 (and climbing). Good job, people.

November 10, 2010 6:39 PM  
Blogger Anniina said...

I never claimed that it was illegal to publish or sell the book, not in my post nor in my response to you. Quite the contrary, in fact, if you reread what I wrote. I'm the first to speak for First Amendment rights. I said explicitly that he has the write to say it, think it, write it, publish it. But I also said that Amazon has the right to choose not to sell it--no law compels them to sell it. As such, it is Amazon's CHOICE to sell it, and a repulsive choice it is.

I was further not saying a manual promoting murder was alright. I was only saying that traditionally we, as a country, are more protective of the rights of minors than those of adults. Any manual promoting violence against anyone is to be condemned, but Amazon gets extra sleeze points for selling one that advocates violence against children.

November 10, 2010 6:46 PM  
Blogger Zoe Winters said...

The simple fact is, if the Internet hadn't collectively decided to freak out about it, this book would have remained in total obscurity and eventually been removed by the author when it didn't sell enough. It was only stumbling upon it and then everyone freaking out that caused the book's visibility to rise. This book won't turn anyone into a pedophile. And probably most pedophiles aren't literate to begin with (The author can't even spell "lighter" in the description.)

If anything, the existence of this book makes HIM and whatever his proclivities may be, easier to sniff out by the FBI by leaving it up. Any pedo who DOES read it and emails him... there's some more evidence for the FBI to find more pedos.

If a book like this gets banned, it sets a precedent so anything most people don't like and complain loudly enough about, could get banned.

November 10, 2010 6:46 PM  
Blogger Anniina said...

Nobody is calling for it to get banned. Only for Amazon.com to stop selling it. He can still publish it and sell it on street corners to his heart's content, as per the rights the First Amendment guarantees him.

November 10, 2010 6:53 PM  
Blogger Jackie Barbosa said...

You're right, you did say there wasn't a law that bans this book (and I apologize for missing that when I initially read your comment).

Amazon's stance, however, is that it is not an arbiter of taste or morality for its customers. And as Zoe said, if no one had flipped out over it, the book would likely have remained in security.

November 10, 2010 7:03 PM  
Blogger Jackie Barbosa said...

That's "in obscurity." D'oh!

November 10, 2010 7:12 PM  
Blogger RahadyanT said...

Anniina, thank you for fighting the good fight.

November 10, 2010 8:23 PM  
Blogger bart said...

I'm with you on this one. Once again an example of how profits take precedence over ethics.

November 11, 2010 3:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I passing this on to the media!!! Disgusting that they would allow this! Someone has to stop this.

November 11, 2010 10:27 AM  
Blogger SzélsőFa said...

while i see Jackie barbosa's point (the book would have remained obscure had no-one ever complained about it - as in: a bad ad is better than none)
i'm with you Anniinna on this issue. there has to be certain standards for a decent censorship.

appearently, amazon's policy is liberalism at its worst.

- - -
good to see you back!

November 21, 2010 4:57 PM  
Blogger Sonia said...

I find the book very... objectionable. It's as if they're promoting pedophilia. Good thing that the customer service call center agents from Amazon did their job quickly. So much has happened in just 2 days. As a customer of Amazon just like you, I'm satisfied because they worked on this issue fast. More power to you, and let's hope that Amazon wouldn't sell anything like that anymore.

January 04, 2011 1:55 AM  
Blogger Infinity Creations Studio said...

Isn't this the same as child pornography? It achieves the same purpose anyway... I'm sure not going to deal with Amazon anymore. I can't believe that it took this much for them to remove it!

This is so sick!!!

December 04, 2011 12:49 PM  

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