If you could dream up a sickening, disgusting and criminal how-to book, what would it be about? How to build weapons of mass destruction? How to kill and bury your family without getting caught? A college student's guide to rape? Torture 101? Well yes, those would all be pretty horrendous. But would you ever, in your most horrible of nightmares, imagine a book called "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct." Probably not. Yet Amazon.com is selling this e-book for Kindle right now.
The book description is:
This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught.
I don't want to link to it. It is bad enough that I just typed those words. Google it if you don't believe it or read this post from someone who did download the disgusting book or this news article including interview clips with the perverted author of the book.
Your first reaction is probably the same as mine: CONTACT AMAZON! THEY'LL TAKE IT DOWN FOR SURE! I did that...
It wasn't just me. Lots of people contacted them. They contacted them by phone. They contacted them by e-mail. They left reviews on the Amazon site. They called Amazon's public relations people. Many times Amazon promised it would take the "necessary actions", which we assumed would be taking the book down.
Ultimately, Amazon issued this statement (quoted at Good Feed):
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.
Is that good enough for you? It isn't good enough for me.
I understand Amazon's desire not to get involved in censorship, but:
1) It has pulled books before for stupid business reasons.
2) I don't think it would be unreasonable for Amazon to establish a few simple rules, such as not selling any how-to guides for criminal activity.
In my mind, selling this type of book is just as bad as handing a gun to someone who says he wants to commit a murder. It makes both the author of the book, and Amazon as the publisher and retailer, accomplices in any crime that is committed by following those instructions. I would imagine that the police will be looking into the author and looking into anyone who downloads this book. Suspected terrorists have been arrested for a heck of a lot less than that and certainly if encouraging someone else to commit suicide is a crime, then encouraging someone to abuse children must be a crime too.
I didn't want to write about this. I had another post planned for tonight. I hoped that a few quick calls to Amazon would resolve it. But since it didn't, I thought you, and your friends, and their friends, and their friends, may want to know what Amazon is up to before you decide where to buy your Christmas presents. Are pedophiles such a big part of Amazon's clientele that appeasing them is more important than removing books that provide play-by-play instructions for illegal and abusive activity? This is not good business for Amazon, period.
I'm not a big boycotter. The only company that I boycott outright is Nestle for decades of unethical business practices and no indication that they plan to change for the better. I don't organize and promote boycotts of companies because of a misstep, even a misstep as bad as this one. However, I am able to vote with my wallet and vote with my blog. There are other places that I can buy the products that Amazon sells and I will. There are other ways I can make money, so I don't really need the Amazon associate links to recommended books in my sidebar. Good companies recognize when they have made a horrendous mistake, they apologize, and they change their ways. Bad companies dig their heels in and hide behind press releases. Which one will Amazon be?
Thank you to Cecily Kellogg for making the world aware of this issue with a tweet earlier today. Thank you to Mile Hi Mama for her play by play reporting of her correspondence with Amazon over the course of the day.
Image credit: Joe Diamond on amazon.com.
UPDATE: It looks like Amazon may have removed the book (either that or high traffic has made that page go down) or they may not have.
UPDATE II: Some people are still able to access it and Amazon customer service says it is available. So maybe it isn't gone.
UPDATE III: The book is definitely gone. However, Amazon has not apologized, explained why it allowed the book and then later took it down, or promised that it won't happen again in the future.