Books Banned on Amazon
This page is under construction. It will serve as a repository to document and provide sales information for books that have been banned from sale by Amazon and other large online booksellers. Stay tuned.
There was a time, not so long ago, when adventurous readers could expect to find and purchase virtually any book in print through Amazon.com.
Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and current CEO, expressed his core commitment to content-neutrality in a 1998 speech, stating “We want to make every book available—the good, the bad and the ugly.” It was an admirable stance that reflected an ethos that is still widely embraced by booksellers and librarians: Let the reader decide.
For much of its history, the world’s largest online retailer held true to this commitment, resisting calls to censor or otherwise restrict the sale of books. Exceptions were exceedingly rare and generally stemmed from threats of litigation over the publication of purportedly defamatory content.
Things began to change in 2010, when Amazon relented to public pressure to remove a single title, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure, from its storefront. This might have seemed like a reasonable exception, but it set a precedent for what would come.
Beginning in 2016, Amazon began to take a far more proactive approach to the censorship of books, often being joined by other giant online corporate retailers in their efforts to restrict the sale of controversial publications. The initial targets were mostly works of revisionist or negationist Holocaust history, but the list of prohibited publications has since expanded to include seduction manuals, books advancing questionable health claims, and a growing number of dissident political texts, usually associated with white nationalism or what is now commonly referred to as the “alt-right.”
Whatever one makes of the titles that have been removed from sale to date, it is now very clear that Amazon and other corporate booksellers have abandoned any pretense of content neutrality in favor of a motivated campaign to restrict not only the sale of specific books, but the free exchange of information and ideas. They have traded the “bookseller’s ethos” for a what can be described as “gatekeeper’s ethos.” The chilling effect on free speech has received little attention to date, but it should be of profound concern to researchers, librarians and readers who understand the importance of intellectual freedom.
01/04/2020 UPDATE: The original purpose of this page was to provide a comprehensive list of books that have been banned from sale by Amazon or other major online retailers, updating the “blacklist” as news of censored titles became available. Unfortunately, such as project has proven difficult to maintain. The list is now vast and nearly impossible to monitor effectively, at least from my time-constrained vantage. For corporate booksellers that once embraced content neutrality, complaint-driven censorship has become the “new normal.”
Rather than regroup around the initial mission, I am — at least for the time being — simply going to reserve the space below for links to publishers that have been targets of corporate censorship. I will also link to relevant articles and news sources that focus on online censorship, and I may devote space to the discussion of specific books from time to time.
Useful Links and Sources: