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Amazon Removes Some Incest Books, Keeps Others, and Still Has Pedophilia for Sale

Amazon (AMZN) has found itself in another censorship controversy. This time, the company began to take some erotic fantasy fiction with an incest theme off its physical and ebook shelves. But the company appears to be trying to keep a lid on the issue, tightly controlling what it says and refusing to address questions about its current actions that would be considered fundamental by many of its writer and publishing house vendors. Given that Amazon still sells incest fantasy -- and even pedophilia books, which caused a ruckus not long ago -- by other writers, you really have to wonder what is going on.

Self-published author Selena Kitt blogged about the issue early this week, writing that Amazon had removed both print and Kindle versions of three of her books. The only characteristic she saw common to the three was an incest theme. She noted that the characters were all adults. In addition, she wrote that some of her readers complained that Amazon had taken the previously-purchased titles off their Kindles.

An Amazon representative emailed the following statement to me:

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.
The representative asked me to update my previous story, so I took the opportunity to ask the following questions:
  1. Why were the books removed for sale?
  2. To what degree was the incest theme a cause for the action?
  3. If not the theme, what was the problem?
  4. Did Amazon remove other incest-theme books at all? If so, did they include both fiction and non-fiction, or just fiction?
  5. What other categories of material does Amazon plan to remove from sale?
The answer I received was that "these books were removed from sale for violating our content guidelines." The representative deliberately ignored the questions, so apparently Amazon won't even admit that it was the incest theme that caused it to act.

This puts Amazon in exactly the same position as Apple (AAPL) has taken with regard to apps and other content on iPhones and iPads. It is good business for a retailer to give others a clear understanding of what would cause a product to be withdrawn for sale. Amazon has also combined this with a completely unpredictable and erratic record in censoring work:

  • In 1999, Amazon pulled from its shelves an expose about Scientology, A Piece of Blue Sky. An Amazon spokesperson said that "under certain circumstances, for legal reasons, we need to stop selling a book. I really just can't comment any further."
  • In 2009, many consumers became angry when Amazon removed sales ranks for many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender themed books and prevented them from appearing in search results on the company's site. Eventually, the books received their normal status and Amazon apologized for the "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error."
  • Then Amazon got caught selling books with a pro-pedophilia theme. As my BNET colleague Lydia Dishman noted, the company tried to defend the sales as ensuring freedom of speech. And then, when enough people complained, Amazon capitulated.
With its refusal to address what is happening now, the company has made its position clear as mud. If you are a writer or publisher, Amazon may decide that whatever topic you address is unworthy of being sold. If you try to find out what is objectionable, you may get no details. It gets even more confusing as Amazon still sells other incest fantasies, including a series of books by Leonna Black.

Furthermore, Amazon also has for sale a Kindle edition of Trailer Trash 2 Sex Down on the Farm by Peter de Sade (a nom de plume if I ever saw one). Here is the description, typos and all:

When Sheriff Buford threatens to serves a warrant for her arrest, Becky take the kids, Bo, Kate, and little Clara to visit Uncle Bob's farm. She quickly learns that Uncle Bob is a pervert and the only sex her and the kids can have is with him, his black lover or a barnyard full of farm animals. It's Old MaDonald's sexy farm from the time her and the kids step out of the car and find their Uncle Bob being humped by a dog until Becky get mounted by Uncle Bob's big black stallion. No animal is save from Becky and the kids as they seek their sexual pleasures where ever they can find them.

So, erotic fiction involving minor girls (6 and 9 according to the one reader review), incest, and farm animals makes the grade, but erotic fantasy with adult incest themes does not? Oh, and Amazon, you might also want to check Schoolgirl Sex Slaves:
A group of girls from the exclusive Rushdale Academy become stranded on an island in the South Pacific during a school trip. Lesbian lusts abound, however the girls become the sex toys of the male group leader & his minions.
And there appears to be a lot more where that came from. I can't wait to hear the explanation for this. That is, if Amazon deigns to provide answers.


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