This morning’s discovery of a mind-bogglingly offensive title in Amazon’s self-publishing e-book platform has drawn a variety of responses. There are a number of issues in play here, from first-amendment rights to a “curated” web. And although Amazon has issued a statement apparently taking a hard-line stance against censorship, the book is almost certainly in violation of their Digital Text Platform guidelines, which makes their defense of this title seem a bit arbitrary.
The guidelines state that offensive material (which they define as “about what you would expect”) will be rejected or removed, yet they stated today that “it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.” They can’t have it both ways, and it’s dangerous for such a sensitive question to remain unanswered when the company shapes digital publishing to so significant an extent. So what’s it going to be?