The censorship machine
randomly-censoring publisher against the very real fact that in every country – except France – where Amazon has a local e-bookselling presence, “they are the single largest source of ebooks” sold, according to a major international survey concluded in 2012.
This sets a confounding precedent for censorship. It’s not hemmed-in by international borders. Obscenity is no longer defined within communities; it has no legal perimeters or boundaries. Worse still, there is no avant-garde publisher like Barney Rosset taking on the United States Supreme Court, insisting upon the literary value of certain censored books and causing them to no longer be censored. In fact, the vast reach and impersonal electronic presentation of e-books glides over any openings for a social discourse on censorship, or on ideas themselves, or on bold new literary styles, if only because there is nothing concretely stating why a particular manuscript is being entirely rejected from publication.
Yes, it might be erotica – but exactly why is it being judged obscene and/or pornographic?
Well, let’s look at exactly how Kindle describes their content policy on their website:
We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.
Those descriptions might be amusing if they weren’t coming from such a giant, far-reaching machine that does in fact blatantly publish fiction that many would readily consider to be pornography.
Granted, many would also consider literary erotica – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for instance – to be pornography, since pornography is defined subjectively. However, what sets literary erotica apart from general erotica is that complex stories, with complex characters, are being told. And if, for any reason whatsoever, any characters under the age of eighteen are so much as mentioned in the book, even if they are not portrayed in any sexual context, the entire book will be rejected from publication as obscene and pornographic. Because anyone under the age of eighteen is considered a “child” by Kindle’s publishing software – and “child” is a keyword that’s not permitted to appear in an erotic manuscript.
It is censorship without context; why isn’t this considered obscene?
The Digital Reader: “Bowker – Amazon Dominates the World eBook Market”.
Background on Barney Rosset.
Kindle Direct Publishing Content Guidelines.