Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon Reverses Course

Last night I'm watching the local news, and it includes a story about a book written by some miscreant in Colorado titled "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure." And of course, because they are the media, the story focused not so much on the abhorrent subject matter of the book, but rather on the fact that Amazon was selling it on their mega-website. Apparently there is no story that can't be bastardized into a news sensation.

Don't get me wrong. Amazon's decision to sell this vile screed can be seen as at least questionable, and they must be willing to take any public relation or commercial hits as inevitable consequences. But as a long-time opponent of censorship, I do not have an issue with Amazon's right to sell the book. They sell books about racist supremacy, religious fundamentalism, and various other nasty, exclusionary, bigoted topics, and they are allowed to do so. Still, there comes a time when doing something just because you have the right to do it is counterproductive to doing what is right. Yes, there is often a difference between exercising your rights and doing the right thing.

And so, Amazon has now apparently made the decision that selling the book is not the right thing to do. Granted, the over 3000 one-star reviews (the site review minimum), anguished expressions of disgust, and countless calls for boycotting Amazon likely played a substantial role in determining this course of action, especially heading into the free-for-all holiday spending season. But regardless of the reasons, Amazon, after coming to the realization that their anti-censorship policy could in this case cost them untold millions in revenue and reputation, made the right call in making the book unavailable on their site.

I have more to say about the author of the book, one Phillip R. Greaves II, but that's a special topic for the near future. For now, I'm thanking Amazon for doing what is right. It's not often a large company has an admirable corporate philosophy that it actually stands behind, and rarer still when such a company comes to understand that said philosophy, while well-intentioned, can also work against morality, ethics, and sensitivity.

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