Sigh. I’d planned on not posting anything else today. It’s Friday. I’m not feeling great and I really thought things would die down once Amazon removed the book that caused all the uproar. Boy was I wrong. If you were to go to the first page of the kindle discussion board at Amazon right now, you’d find no less than five different threads talking about the book. Two are claiming the book is about to be put back up for sale. Why? Because in an interview the author said he was “confident” it would be back on Amazon before long. Nothing else. A couple of threads are simply extension of the threads that have been up for the last 24 – 48 hours.
And then there’s the thread that lists other books the thread’s author thinks are worse than the original book. Apparently this person went on a search through the books offered on Amazon looking for things that are so bad they should be taken down. He even, oh so helpfully, adds links to the offending books. Needless to say, the mob mentality is continuing despite one poster’s assertion that it is dying down. Heck, there’s even a thread noting that the witch hunt has begun.
This isn’t limited to the Amazon boards either. If you go to some of the nook boards, or other boards dedicated to e-books, you’ll find the same thing. Why, because a lot of posters are active on more than one forum. So, the topic is being hashed and rehashed over and over again.
What worries me is the fact that, even though there are people warning them that all they are doing is giving free publicity to these books they disapprove of, these people continue to shout at the top of their lungs, metaphorically speaking, about how offensive and evil these books are. They spend time searching out books that probably, until they brought attention to them, had very few sales. Worse, they don’t seem to recognize the slippery slope they’ve started down.
Where do we draw the line? If we demand a site like Amazon or B&N or any other remove a book for “offending matter” and that site agrees, it makes it so much easier to make the demand the next time. Today they take down a book supposedly promoting pedophilia. I say supposedly because I haven’t read it. I didn’t click on the link that folks posted. So I can’t say for sure what it is about. Frankly, the title of the book was enough to keep me from looking at it.
So, what is to prevent a group of people from protesting, for example, paranormal romances as “porn”? Oh, don’t laugh. There are those out there who think that is exactly what they are. These books have lots of sex. They have magic or unnatural creatures in them. They have sex outside of marriage and, often, outside of species. After all, vampires aren’t human — at least not any longer. Nor are werewolves or elves or ghosts.
Okay, I’m using this very much tongue in cheek but hope you get my meaning. It is very easy to find books that someone isn’t going to approve of. Do we want to find ourselves in a position where book burnings, even metaphorical ones, are common place?
The way I look at it, once Amazon was notified of the book, they had the responsibility to determine if it violated their terms of service. It did, if it said what it is alleged to have said. Amazon was then in the position to take the book down. No harm and no foul.
I’ll even allow how going through their catalog to see if there are books that are objectionable is something anyone can do. They can then email Amazon and voice their objections. But to start rallying the troops for boycotts and demanding books be taken down isn’t something I can support. Maybe I read too many reports and saw too many interviews of people demanding the Harry Potter books be taken off of shelves because they promoted devil worship and witchcraft. Then, when asked, the person being interviewed would have to reluctantly admit they hadn’t read the book. But they’d heard about it. So it had to be true and, therefore, the book was bad.
The way to battle books like this is to do our homework and see first if they are promoting what we’ve been told they do. If true, then we should privately contact the distributor or publisher or store where it is being sold and give them the facts. Show how the book violates their terms of service. (In Amazon’s case, anyone can find the terms of service for the DTP program). Then wait. Give them a reasonable period of time to investigate the issue and act. Only if they don’t respond should we then consider starting the calls for boycotts, etc., for the simple reason that once the call goes out, we are now giving the offending material publicity it hadn’t had before. Remember the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad PR.
There was one commenter on this topic who brought up a very interesting alternative. He noted that every time we order a book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any online store, they have not only what we ordered but our names, addresses, etc. That means there is a list available for law enforcement to subpoena should a book be found to promote illegal activities. Think about that. Not only would those honestly wanting to learn how to commit the act and get away with it be tagged, but so would all those who downloaded samples of the book or who bought it based solely on the curiosity factor because of the calls for boycotts and more.
I will close simply by repeating what I said in an earlier post. We need to think about the consequences, intended and unintended, that are arising from this call for action. Are we willing to live with these consequences, especially the unintended ones?