Getting Filthy On Amazon

By | April 15, 2009

AmazonAmazon has come under fire recently for the apparent censorship of their catalogue. A lot of titles disappeared from their store, all of them apparently adult and predominantly gay. Oh, hang on a minute, some of them were just by gay writers.

False alarm – They are all back again and Amazon says it was “glitch”. Now, is that a software glitch, or a glitch caused by somebody wanting to stop people reading “unsuitable” books?

Whatever the facts around this story (ah, the truth such a precious and rare commodity these days with all the spin that’s around) it highlights the power of such a large organisation as Amazon.

Take Christmas. In the UK the Royal Mail now delivers huge numbers of parcels from Amazon to peoples doors ready to be presented to loved ones. Whereas decades ago the Royal Mail might have delivered the item to the final recipient, they now act as delivery boy for the online retailer. So if Amazon have a good Christmas, the Royal mail do too. Considering the Web has only existed for 19 years that’s an amazing state of affairs, a business which didn’t exist until 1994 now affects the operations of a business that was founded 150 years.

Now if Amazon didn’t have all that power the removal of certain titles from its virtual shelves would not have been a big issue. After all if a back street bookstore decides that it will only stock “wholesome” family titles than so what. Its impact on the availability of literature to us all is insignificant. But when Amazon start making judgements about what we should be able to buy then it’s worrying. If they did of course, which they didn’t, stupid of me.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any online organisation that has a monopoly of their particular sector the Internet is dangerous because in an unregulated medium like the internet and Web, never intended to be used commercially, such a monopoly makes our supposed freedom of expression a joke.

Microsoft go whacked with anti-trust lawsuits that cost them billions for (in the eyes of the courts) exploiting a dominant position. I mean what would happen if an online body did the same? Nothing. But of course that’s ridiculous because no massive multi-billion dollar corporation would abuse their online dominance to restrict our personal liberties. Would they?

You start by burning books, then you’re burning people …

And just in case you’re worrying you can buy “The Anarchists Handbook” and “Maine Kampf” from Amazon. Makes you wonder about their political affiliations doesn’t it. Oh sorry, I forgot it was all a glitch.