Updated at 7:12 p.m. ET
Amazon.com Inc. is selling a self-published guide that offers advice to pedophiles, and that has generated outrage on the Internet and threats to boycott the retailer.
The availability of "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct" calls into question whether Amazon has any procedures - or even an obligation - to vet books before they are sold in its online stores.
In a statement to the website TechCrunch, Amazon said:
"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."
The title is an electronic book available for Amazon's Kindle e-reader and the company's software for reading Kindle books on mobile phones and computers. Amazon allows authors to submit their own works and shares revenue with them.
Amazon issues guidelines banning certain materials, including those deemed offensive. However, the company doesn't elaborate on what constitutes offensive content, saying simply that it is "probably what you would expect." Amazon also doesn't promise to remove or protect any one category of books.
The author of "The Pedophile's Guide," listed as Philip R. Greaves II, argues that pedophiles are misunderstood, as the word literally means to love a child. The author adds that it is only a crime to act on sexual impulses toward children, and offers advice that purportedly allows pedophiles to abide by the law.
"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow," says a description of the book on Amazon. "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."
Many users on Twitter called on Amazon to pull the book, and a few threatened to boycott the retailer until it does.
Child online safety advocacy group Enough is Enough says it isn't surprised that someone would publish such a book, but believes that Amazon should remove it. It says selling the book lends the impression that child abuse is normal.
That doesn't mean Amazon should be prohibited from selling it, counters Christopher Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. He said that Amazon has the right under the First Amendment to sell any book that is not child pornography or legally obscene. Finan said Greaves' book doesn't amount to either because it does not include illustrations.
This isn't the first time Amazon has sold material that promotes illegal activity. It is currently accepting pre-orders for the hardcover version of "I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons" by Luca Rastello.
Nor is it the first time Amazon has come under attack for selling objectionable content in its store. In 2002, the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative group, threatened to sue Amazon for selling "Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers." That title is still available through Amazon.
In 2009, Amazon stopped selling "RapeLay," a first-person video game in which the protagonist stalks and then rapes a mother and her daughters, after it was widely condemned in the media and by various interest groups.