back to article Amazon randomly censoring incest books

Confusion over the censorship policy at Amazon continues to mount, with news this week that the company now appears to be removing incest-themed material from its Kindle. Evidence that not all was well in the world of Amazon first surfaced in a discussion thread on Amazon’s own Kindle Community forum. Author Jess C Scott asked …

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  1. raivn
    Stop

    Cowards

    I stopped using amazon when they bowed to US pressure.

    Amazon should pick a stance on permitted erotica and go with it. Flip flopping around with your policies based on tabloid backed opinions is retarded.

    1. Michael C

      not so simple

      As with Apple, the "no porn" issue is not exactly one of parental motivation, its a matter of dealing with a myriad of laws covering controlled sale of porn material, including requirements to validate age, proper display of the material, or outright bans on certain content, which are made worse when trying to compare state to state.

      As for online-only or mail order sales, most of these laws don't apply, but because Apple has retail outlets in (is it every state now?) most states, its more complicated. Amazon has distribution facilities in a dozen or more states as well.

      This is all the fault of Republican Christian Zombie Vampires, oh and Tipper Gore too.

  2. Andy Livingstone

    Amazon?

    Oh, I see, you mean US Amazon. Why didn't you say that in the first place.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    I don't know...

    Maybe they wanted to keep it in the family...

  4. Paul_Murphy

    Silly people.

    >and open to charges that its policy is mostly to give in whenever the moral majority

    >comes calling in sufficient numbers

    Hold on I'll get that one for you.

    'and open to charges that its policy is mostly to give in whenever the vocal minority comes calling in sufficient numbers'

    Moral majority? who are those exactly? would that be 'everybody else'? in which case Amazon can argue that since the rest of the world HASN'T complained then the complainers are far out numbered.

    'Sufficient numbers' must surely be something like at least 10% of the global population I would have thought

    Anyway - does this mean that as a UK person if I buy a kindle will my choice of reading material be artificially constrained? or is it just the USAians (tm) that are affected?

    ttfn

    1. Michael C

      indirectly

      See, its not the complainers who do lobby against amazon, it;s the ones who successfully already lobbied to their state legislatures, creating an array of complex and differing by state laws covering how porno material is legally allowed to be displayed, advertised, and sold. In most states, especially in the south, its harder to buy porn than it is to buy liqueur. Since amazon has a physical footprint in that state (distro warehouses and/or offices), and is bound to collect taxes and obey local laws in those states, they have to follow local laws. Taxes are one thing, as they apply mostly equally to all items sold in that state, but porno rules are complex, and don't easily apply to Amazon, or Apple's, electronic sales processes. So, they simply ban it (and gain favor in elderly and church communities, and with some parents).

    2. laird cummings
      Troll

      Moral Majority

      The Moral Majority was in fact a minority - It was a US-based political action / pressure group which pretended that they' were defending the majority of the citizenry in the US from Things We Don't Like. IOW, trolls.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Majority

      They're gone, now, but their spirtual heirs linger on, kinda like a bad stink after taking a particualrly foul crap.

  5. ratfox Silver badge

    Hammer and anvil

    Honestly, I wouldn't want to be the guy in charge of making these decisions at Amazon. No matter what they do, people will complain on both sides...

    One might regret that they are not willing to make a stand and go "we will publish anything without censorship" but they are a business trying to make money, not a civil rights organization. Accordingly, they try to make everybody happy, even though this is clearly not possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Troll

      Re: Hammer and anvil

      you don't actually need to keep "everyone happy," that is why you have policies and _laws_.

      did those book break any law? did they break any _clear_ policy? if not, then the book can NOT, nay _should_ NOT, be removed no matter who is complaining and no matter what *your* personal opinion is.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        FAIL

        they're obliged to sell?

        I don't think so. It's Amazon's business and they can sell what they like. There's no obligation on their part to keep selling, whatever the moral issues are. Or, to turn it back to you, what _law_ are they breaking by stopping selling this book? Isn't their policy perfectly clear, it's at their _discretion_?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          FAIL

          Clear as mud

          There is a difference between an outfit that claims to sell books and Neurotic Annie's Preselected Backyard Sale, ya know.

      2. Greg J Preece

        One problem

        "did those book break any law? did they break any _clear_ policy? if not, then the book can NOT, nay _should_ NOT, be removed no matter who is complaining and no matter what *your* personal opinion is."

        While I actually completely agree, the one problem with this is that if the Towering Intellects* can't get their pound of flesh with Amazon, they'll start screaming in the newspapers about how There Should Be A Law. And then there is one. And then we're all screwed.

        But then, we're probably all screwed anyway.

        *Rhymes with Shining Wits.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    I'll ammend the article...

    "moral majority comes calling in sufficient numbers"

    "mouthy minority comes calling in sufficient numbers"

    there.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Headmaster

      And I'll amend your title.

      There. ;o)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    first they came

    First they came for your Rapelay

    Now they come for your incest stories

    Next who knows?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Next...

      They simply couldn't come any more, being somewhat drained and exhausted...

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Coffee/keyboard

        *cof* *cof* <spill drink>

        You, sir, owe me a new keyboard!

  8. Rich 30
    FAIL

    typical

    Typical conservative America, terrified by anything slightly different. Morons.

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    It's not just that they aren't selling them

    They are removing copies which have already been purchased from the customer's personal archive on their servers. And according to some reports they are insulting customers who try to get a refund.

    See for instance http://theselfpublishingrevolution.blogspot.com/2010/12/amazon-in-book-banning-business.html

    1. Pablo
      WTF?

      Now that DOES surprise me

      I'm disappointed, but not be any means shocked that Amazon is removing some of their more controversial content, but I'm really quite surprised to hear they would repeat their "1984" blunder after having apologized profusely and paying $150,000 in damages. Further more this claims the customer didn't even receive a refund, making it an outright theft. Frankly I'm a little skeptical that really happened.

      1. Pablo
        Coat

        Oops

        I obviously didn't read that close enough. For the benefit of anyone who made the same mistake, no one is saying Amazon is actually "disappearing" the books off customer's devices this time. What they are apparently doing is removing them from the online archive, thus making it impossible to re-download as you are normally allowed to do. That's substantially less creepy, but still pretty bad if the book was purchased with the understanding that this online backup would remain available.

  10. DragonLord

    quick bit of research

    shows that the book title given in the article doesn't exist on amazon.co.uk

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I may surprise you to know

    1. Amazon can choose what it puts on sale, sort of like Waterstones.

    2. Amazon doesn't give a toss what anyone else thinks about that.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      That's as may be..

      But when you pay for a book you don't expect it to disappear with no reason and no refund. Even if you haven't paid anything for a book, having it suddenly disappear fro your collection is not reasonable.

      Also when you look through an 'erotica' section what might you expect to find? you've no reason to be surprised when the books turn out to be a little adult in nature.

      ttfn

    2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      OK, but

      Except Waterstones' shop assistant won't break into your house to take back a previously sold book from your shelf because his manager decided that it is no longer appropriate, licensed, politically correct etc.

      Kindle = BD player = Internet-connected TV = iPhone = Steam = any other DRMed crap and those who use it are either ignorant or not very bright or just like to be abused.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      AC@ 15

      Yup, Amazon CAN choose what they put on sale.

      BUT in this instance they received a book from the author, printed it, offered it for sale in both electronic and printed format, sold it in both formats and THEN unilaterally removed it from their customers' devices.

      I perceive a major difference.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Of course they give a toss !!!

      Of course they give a toss what people think. If they believe that something they are or are not doing will impact sales then they will change their behavior.

      Companies spend billions trying to work out what people think.

    5. Pablo
      Thumb Down

      Re: I may surprise you to know

      Actually, it would be great if that were true, but it's not and that's exactly the problem. If Amazon didn't care what anyone thought about what they sell, they would obviously choose to sell as much as possible since, unlike Waterstones, they have near unlimited shelf space (especially for virtual goods like Kindle books).

      But apparently they do care what people think, because they bow to public pressure by removing whatever certain people find offensive.

  12. Hollerith 1

    There's a law for that

    There are clear laws in most countries about what is acceptable and what isn't. All Amazon has to do is apply them. Yes, it calls for judgement, but that is what lawyers are for. Once the books remaining pass the test of law, Amazon should defend its right to sell.

    This is why self-published books are such a pain: books accepted by publishers have already been tested by someone's judgement.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge
      FAIL

      clear laws in most countries

      Clear?

      "Yes, it calls for judgement"

      So much for clear. Who gets to be the judge? Oh I see it's someone... very clear, glad that's all straightened up.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Private company

    First, Amazon are a private company and they can do anything they like in terms of not selling books. They should be making their decisions on whether or not the decision makes them more money. However they don't seem to be taking this account in their censorship decisions.

    Bowing down to a vocal but minority* sector of your customers doesn't make much difference to your profit line. If you are large enough, like Amazon, then even negative publicity campaigns won't make any difference either (see Vodophone and UKUncut). All it does is mean that you can't sell to another minority who would have bought the products.

    * The moral majority are actually a minority group, just very vocal and they label themselves as the majority.

  14. Graham Bartlett

    @AC

    Too right.

    You have the right to write anything you like. However you don't have the right to force anyone to sell or distribute it. Tough titty, basically (although that's a whole new category...)

  15. Julian C
    Grenade

    Start with this book...

    I expect to hear that Amazon have applied their censorship in an even handed way and removed other titles which throw incest about as though it were a normal state of affairs, that would surely please the "Moral Pejority" (TM Me 2010)... starting with the Old Testament!

  16. Tim Elphick
    Heart

    "If underage sex is illegal, why is Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita still available for purchase?"

    I'm not sure that's quite what she meant...

  17. Steve 13
    FAIL

    Laws?

    "There are clear laws in most countries about what is acceptable and what isn't."

    Are there actually laws in the US that specifically tell you what you are not allowed to write down in a fictional form?

    1. Michael C

      no

      but there are laws about how, where, and to who that content can be sold. I don't think this is amazon getting involved personally in this decision, I'm thinking this was an unfriendly phone call from a few state AGs letting them know they might want to repeal some of what they were selling in violation of that state's law, but it was kept under the table if Amazon quietly complied.

      Apple doesn't sell porn not because Steve is a prude, but because dealing with local pornography sale legislation is more complex than dealing with tax collection, has ridiculously severe penalties, and pretty much most of it can;t be applied to simple online transactions. They have physical outlets in those states, so what mail order firms can do to get around state laws, they can not.

    2. Pablo
      Megaphone

      Yesh, there is a law about that

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      Alas, enforcement is spotty at best.

  18. G R Goslin

    think on it

    If every book that someone disapproved of was removed from sale, it's unlikely that any book anywhere would ever have been published

    1. Michael C

      Waiting to see

      if they dare apply this to George R R Martin's work in the Song of Ice and Fire saga. There's rape of children, consensual sex with children, rampant incest, and depravity galore in those books. I can;t wait to see how they're handling this on HBO (I know many of the characters have already been "aged" to handle some of it).

  19. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    Oopsie!

    "....they would judge each case on its merit, and they would act as their own judge and jury..."

    Cue lawsuit from Apple claiming that they own the IP to that process.....

  20. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    @"Hammer and anvil"

    Is this comment title also a reference to the Harry Turtledove novel of that name (0-345-38048-7) in which the main character has intimate relations with his cousin? Or is that a coincidence?

    Paris, because I'd sure like to see her try to put on those red boots...

    And thanks to my father for giving me this book in the first place. I suppose he had to thin the library and (oblig.) he at least kept the book in the family.

  21. cs94njw
    FAIL

    Why this is now more scary...

    ... is because the EBook market is starting to mature. EBook readers are becoming more popular, and people are starting to consider this as a serious medium (not sure I subscribe to that, but hey...).

    Actual book shops are now shutting down, due to pressure of online sales.

    Unless your book is Disney-sweet, it's likely to get removed by all the vendors who are the first port of call for EBook customers.

    It's commercial censorship.

    Better hope Waterstones and Barnes & Noble stay afloat...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    "whenever the moral majority comes calling in sufficient numbers" ???

    This should read...

    "whenever the self righteous minority comes screaming at the top of their voices in any numbers"

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    MY beliefs count - screw you

    As a fervent believer in an omnipotent God I am pleased that Amazon has removed this book, as I demanded.

    Now please remove ALL books that mention the theory of evolution, 'Buddism for Beginners', and Harry Potter.

  24. Cunningly Linguistic
    FAIL

    Perfectly valid reasoning...

    ...on why one must be puddled to buy a Kindle.

    At least all my paper books are mine and can't be taken back by the retailer I bought them from.

  25. Stuart 25
    FAIL

    No Kindle for Christmas

    I had been thinking about which e-Reader to get for Christmas, but Amazon's behaviour has suddenly made that decision a bit easier.

    When I buy books I do so in the belief that I'll probably keep them for years and will almost certainly read them repeatedly over the years. I am certainly not going to pay for books that can be stolen from my collection whenever Amazon decides a book is no longer suitable.

    1. Pablo

      Just a suggtion, but...

      TELL Amazon. They have clearly shown that they ARE swayed by public pressure, perhaps there just aren't enough people vociferously pressing on this side.

      1. Matthew Collier
        Unhappy

        @Pablo (and telling Amazon)

        I agree, tell Amazon you won't buy a Kindle whilst they continue to excerise unacceptable control over that which you purchase from them. I certainly will (and am sick of explaining why I want an e-book, but don't recommend a Kidle, to people). However, last time I emailed them, when they launched their UK MP3 store, telling them I won't buy albums (or more than the odd track, at least), until they provide them in FLAC, you can probably guess how much of a toss they gave, due to the speed of the response.....(I'm still waiting ;) )

        The iRiver cover looks the most interesting/likely e-book reader to me, at the moment....

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why I wouldnt ever buy a kindle or similar

    I have little doubt that they charge full price for the books available unlike real books and at least with a real book I dont have it disappear at the whim of Amazon.

  27. Graham Marsden
    WTF?

    I will now read from the book of Genesis Chapter 19 Verses 30-38

    30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.

    31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth.

    32 Let us get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

    33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

    34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let us get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.”

    35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

    36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.

    37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today.

    38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

    Erm, excuse me, Amazon...!!!

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Incest in the bible

      ...is an act usually performed by bad people. The Moabites and Ammonites are enemy nations. It's propaganda.

      One does have to wonder about how Adam and Eve's grandchildren came to exist, though. Indeed Eve was created out of Adam's body, making him the first pregnant man, with his future wife, and also that happened only after he had tried all the animals for companionship. It really is in the book, all of it.

  28. Dante
    WTF?

    The goddamn bible

    includes incest get to removing that Amazon go on... be consistant I dare you.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Troll

      re: The goddamn bible

      (leaving aside the confusion of asking a deity to destroy his own book...)

      Of course Amazon's policy appears confused, but it isn't really. Amazon operates on a materialistic basis. Their policy is to make money. Mouthy people hurt profits (pro or anti-incest), not selling stuff hurts profits, so they will try to avoid both, which leads to policy implementation alterations depending on who is shouting loudly at the time.

      Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Based on the assumption that there is no God, then Amazon's actions are just part of the randomness of the universe. There is no right or wrong except what we make for ourselves and Amazon has simply done that. You can also chalk up any complaints about Amazon to more randomness, which the high-priests of Science will one day be able to trace the way back to the big bang.

      Yay for Materialism!

      (and I'm still not sure of most people here are in favour of having sex with close relatives...)

  29. Rippy
    Big Brother

    Was it Animal Farm or 1984?

    that Amazon first retracted from the Kindle?

    I thought that after that incident all the Reg crowd quickly figured out that this might not be a very good analog of a physical book.

    G.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is different, I think

      They really did delete "1984" from customers' devices, but in this case they only deleted the book from their own archives, meaning that customers who had bought it couldn't download it again, but they still had the book, provided they hadn't deleted it themselves.

      Apparently you can do your own back-up of purchased content on the Kindle. So presumably some of the people who had "1984" deleted were able to restore it from back-up. Having received a refund from Amazon.

      Not totally sure about all of this. I'm just going by what I've heard.

      (You can get "1984" for free from servers in Australia, where it's out of copyright. Hope I'm not breaking any law by mentioning this.)

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See they're still stocking Dogtooth.

    Incest, violence, sex with minors and a political subtext too. Great viewing. Bound to be banned.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    knee jerk nonsense

    Ive just read 'The girl with the dragon tattoo' which I bought via amazon kindle only a few days ago. That contains themes of peadophillia, rape, incest and sexually motivated murder. I actually think its quite good so have bought the next two in the trilogy. I wonder when it will be banned?

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