Amazon has had a rocky history with censorship and apparent censorship. There was the time that they took a great number of books regarding homosexuality out of their sales ranking system, flagging them “Adult content” without regard to their actual sexual content (included were “children’s books, self-help books, non-fiction, and non-explicit fiction“). And there was the time that they caved to public pressure and stopped selling a book on pedophilia, while maintaining that despite their actions they did not condone censorship.
Now, Amazon.com appears to have pulled a number of self-published fictional erotica titles from its virtual shelves because they are incest-themed. Not only have they pulled them from sale, they have also deleted them from the Kindles of any user who purchased them. This has gone largely unnoticed, except, of course, by the authors and readers of the books.
The biggest problem with this, if it is true, is that Amazon just finished a lawsuit last year where it agreed, in legally binding terms, that deletions would only occur because of “failed credit card transactions, judicial orders, malware, or the permission of the user.”
Writer Selena Kitt was notified that one of her books violated Amazon’s content guidelines, and when two subsequent works were also taken down with little explanation, she started to notice a pattern. She has found three other authors who have also recently experienced take downs of fictional incest-based stories; and, more disturbingly, her readers reported that their Kindle copies of the books, copies that they had paid for, were no longer available on their devices.
From Kitt’s blog post:
I want to be clear that while the subject of incest may not appeal to some, there is no underage contact in any of my work, and I make that either explicitly clear in all my stories or I state it up front in the book’s disclaimer. I don’t condone or support actual incest, just as someone who writes mysteries about serial killers wouldn’t condone killing. What I write is fiction. It’s fantasy, not reality. And I’m not saying what I write isn’t controversial, but it’s not illegal (at least in some states) or a threat to national security, and seems [undeserving] of censorship.
One of her readers called Amazon to inquire, and was actually chastised about her taste in fiction by the representative.
Ars Technica points out that the bigger problem for Amazon is that, though they have a shown history of removing books based on objectionable content, they’ve already said, in a legally binding way, that they won’t remove already purchased Kindle books for the same reason.
Ultimately, this kind of thing is just one more reason why you should either buy a physical book, or, yes, pirate.
Update: Amazon has since contacted us to let us know that in regards to this situation, they
Recently posted the following on our customer forum: “Due to a technical issue, for a short window of time three books were temporarily unavailable for re-download by customers who had previously purchased them. When this was brought to our attention, we fixed the problem and those books were once again made available for re-download. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
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