Last night, Amazon executives decided to pull a self-published book about pedophilia off their digital shelves. The move followed threats to boycott the site stirred by a rapidly-spreading story over the Internet. Earlier in the day, Amazon had defended its initial decision to keep the book, which saw a 101,000 percent jump in sales over 24 hours, climbing the ladder into the top 100 best-selling paid e-books for Kindle. Amazon was right the first time, wrong the second. If I want to buy a book about pedophilia -- or anything else -- on Amazon.com, I should be able to.
Responding to the first wave of stories yesterday, an Amazon representative said:
Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.
Bravo. But that policy was quickly wiped out by one man's obscene e-book. What books will Amazon decide to keep you from purchasing next?
The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Childlover's Code of Conduct went on sale on Amazon.com at the end of October for $4.79. Written by 42-year-old Philip R. Greaves II, the book offers how-to advice -- use latex gloves for small boys when condoms won't fit -- and "muddled philosophical defense of pedophelia," according to Gawker. "But we can safely say this book will not convince a single regular person to become a child predator." As is often the case with viral stories, the book only started selling well because people were made curious by the avalanche of online coverage.