I emailed Amazon this morning to cancel my account. At this point, I'm sure everyone is aware of the recent "scandal" (for lack of a better word) surrounding Amazon's decision to make a how-to book on pedophilia available for sale through their website. I won't be naming the book or author on here because I refuse to provide any further publicity for something so disgusting. I will be including links at the bottom to news articles as references, so if you are unaware of the situation, please check them out.
When the first wave of complaints were heard, Amazon defended their listing of the book as an issue of free speech. Although the book has since been removed, Amazon has issued no further statements. Then, yesterday, I read an article from MSNBC on books featuring nude photographs of pre-pubescent girls from Eastern European and Asian countries (areas well known for their ties to child sex trafficking) that are available for sale on Amazon. Again, I won't be linking or naming names, but the news article is linked below. Amazon has not given any statements on their decision to make these books avaialble for sale. I have also not heard that the books have been removed, although it's possible that they have been. It's not really something I care to go looking for.
Regardless, my decision was immediately to remove all business and personal ties to Amazon. My decision had nothing to do with free speech issues and I won't be discussing that here. There are a TON of blog posts already discussing the free speech issues, and it is a fascinating conversation so I do urge you to check it out. I'll include links for that as well. My issue with Amazon is one of corporate responsiblity. A company's decision to stock handbooks for pedophiles has nothing to do with free speech. I'm not requesting a government ban of the book or that the author be arrested simply for having filthy, disgusting beliefs. I'm asking that companies I support with my money refuse to sell such material. Bookstores, even large ones like Amazon, are not denying an author free speech by refusing to stock a book. If that were true, Amazon would need to stock every book ever written by any author.
In recent years we've heard a lot about corporate responsibility in terms of our environment. Amazon has a wonderful web page listing all the things they've done to "go green" and I support all of their efforts to do so. But just as corporations have a responsibility to citizens of earth to take care of our environment, they also have a responsibility to society to refuse to make available materials that we know are dangerous and harmful to society. I realize that this can be seen as the "slippery slope". And I agree that it is very hard for a company to know where to draw a line as to what is appropriate and inappropriate. But I don't think you will find much room for argument that pedophilia is acceptable. Selling pictures of naked children/how-to books for those who wish to abuse children is wrong. We all know it. It's not up for debate except among those like the author who wish to make such practices legal.
I don't propose Amazon begin arbitrarily removing books because they deem them inappropriate. I would suggest that, like most libraries, Amazon develop a policy regarding the content they sell. I realize that there are many risks involved in deeming materials unfit for selling. But I would like to see Amazon say that they are willing to take on those risks and start determining as a company what they will and will not sell based on their responsibilities to society and their customers. We would all be appalled to learn that a company dumped toxic waste into our rivers, right? I think we should be equally appalled and angry that Amazon is dumping the toxic waste of pedophilia and child pornography into our communities. I'm angry about it - angry enough that I can't sit back and do nothing. So as much as I love using Amazon and as convenient as it is, I'm done supporting them. I've started a personal letter writing campaign and I'm encouraging others I know to do the same. And I'll be telling everyone I know how angry I am and exactly why I won't support Amazon's blatant disregard for a very serious social problem.
News Stories (I tried very hard to find stories that do not advocate for or against Amazon OR present both sides - if you have a neutral article to add, please let me know!):
MSNBC (on availability of nude photos of children)
Blogs Discussing Free Speech (I'm not debating the First Ammendment implications of the issue, but many are - here are some blogs open for those discussions - if you've blogged about it, let me know and I'll add your link):
The Book Smugglers
Back of the Book
The Goddess of YA Literature
The Zen Leaf