Amazon is at it again — purging titles they find “offensive” so as to protect our sensibilities from irreparable harm. And this time, they are being downright Draconian about it.
You may remember last September something similarly underhanded happened when they started applying a filter to adult titles, which ended up being the kiss of death for a title by relegating it to the dusty, cobweb-infested halls of Amazon’s equivalent of an OUBLIETTE. If your title had the misfortune of being labeled ADULT, you could pretty much kiss any hope of sales goodbye. It was heartbreaking to see entire catalogues wiped out with a keystroke. And the filter wasn’t always applied with any sort of rhyme or reason. Authors started whispering in fearful tones about the dreaded adult filter but as awful as it was, it was only the beginning.
Now, Amazon has taken matters a bit further by actually DELISTING and BLOCKING titles they deem offensive. And the worst part? Trying to figure out what is considered offensive because as we all know, that can be pretty subjective. What I find offensive might be fun and games to someone else. Apparently, the watchdogs at Amazon are painting with a fairly wide brush and they’re gleefully taking down people’s livelihoods as they go about their purity crusade.
So far I’ve had at least eight of my titles targeted — three of which were very good sellers. Am I angry? Hell yes. Amazon, in its infinite wisdom, has decreed that my some of my work is offensive to someone out there. Well, boo hoo. Instead of stomping another’s art into the ground just because it doesn’t conform to YOUR standard of purity, how about installing an adult filter that can be switched on and off? I mean, for crying out loud, even Smashwords (which has a terribly archaic system) has a button that will restrict adult content, why can’t Amazon put their heads together and find a similar solution?
I guess it’s because Amazon has too much money and thus, they don’t need those dirty book writers sullying their marketplace with filthy prose. Pssst…Amazon, your cravat needs straightening (oh, and while you’re at it, please remove the riding crop from your ass.)
Here’s the thing: Amazon has every right to refuse service to anyone they choose, however, they cannot police what people will seek out. The bottom line is Amazon is pushing their customers to other distributors. And I guess that’s okay with them because Amazon is a Goliath, rolling in so much green that they warm their toes with hundred dollar bills. Good for them. But for us regular folk, losing out on thousands of dollars a month affects how we buy groceries, clothe our children, and pay our mortgages. We are not faceless numbers; we are people who are working hard to make a living doing something we love.
I am disgusted by this latest round of senseless carnage. Do I recognize that some titles out there are truly gross? Sure. And that’s why I don’t read them. I am not their target audience. But I’m sure as hell not going to tell someone just because I don’t like the subject matter that they can’t enjoy it either. Frankly, where does it stop? Let’s not forget that at one time certain classics were considered verboten by those in authority. Am I comparing great literature to some of the obviously dirty sex-fests that are out there? No, but who are we to judge because at the end of the day one simple fact is being blatantly ignored: they are words on paper. Let that sink in for just a moment. WORDS ON PAPER (or cyber paper as it were). No one is being filmed, watched, or forced to read these offensive works. What someone enjoys reading for pleasure isn’t anyone’s business.
And it sure as hell isn’t Amazon’s job to chastise us for our choices.
I’ve likely painted a big, red bullseye on my back and I suspect more titles will fall under the blade and all I can do is share what is happening as it happens. With enough pressure/exposure, perhaps the general public can make a difference. Whereas one voice is small, several voices create a chorus.
So far Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords are not jumping on board with this purity crusade so perhaps we should reward them with our hard-earned dollars. Just a thought.