An increasing number of authors have complained that “politically incorrect” books face added obstacles to be approved for publication on Amazon.com. So far that’s been a relative trickle: but last week something ugly happened. Margaret Ball has already raised concerns about it here, but it goes further than that.
On June 4th, Alex Berenson submitted for publication his latest work, “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates“.
It’s the first in an intended series of booklets dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Within ten minutes of the book being submitted, Amazon rejected it. That time period is significant. It means that the book was rejected without anyone at Amazon actually reading it or checking its contents. Its mere subject was enough. Mr. Berenson tweeted about the rejection as follows.
Fortunately for Mr. Berenson, who’s a well-known and widely respected reporter, he has some influential friends. Elon Musk tweeted in response:
That, plus other complaints in his support, appears to have done the trick. The booklet was hastily approved for publication, and is now on sale. However, less influential authors might not receive such favorable treatment.
That’s worrying enough in itself: but during the same period, Amazon also took sides with regard to the recent riots and unrest in the USA, putting a banner on its welcome page in support of Black Lives Matter – the concept, if not the actual organization (that wasn’t clear). This naturally attracted backlash, both from Amazon employees who felt it didn’t go far enough, and from customers who objected to a vendor taking sides at all. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, went so far as to republish an offended customer’s profanity-laced complaint, and dismissed it with the offhand statement that “Dave, you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose”.
That, taken in conjunction with the short-lived censorship of Alex Berenson’s latest book, has to give pause to all of us who depend on Amazon.com as the outlet for our books. Many of us are locked into that company’s economic ecosystem – we don’t market through any other channels. What if the censorship exposed over the past few days becomes more widespread? What if we don’t fit the “politically correct” model that Amazon.com’s founder, and many of its employees, appear to espouse? Will we find ourselves (and our books) no longer welcome on that e-commerce platform?
That’s a very serious question, and it deserves very serious consideration in these troubled times – particularly for those of us who make our views known on social media platforms (i.e. blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Gab, etc.) that are (at least theoretically) outside Amazon’s purview. Could our social media posts be held against us by Amazon in its book approval process? Based on de-platforming efforts we’ve seen elsewhere, I suspect that may become a factor in future.
If we haven’t already done so, it’s time to consider our alternatives, and make contingency plans in case of future issues. That’s going to be difficult, because right now there aren’t any alternatives as comprehensive as Amazon.com. Nevertheless, it may be time to actively look for and encourage them, and/or “go wide” (i.e. publish both on Amazon.com and also on other e-book and print vendors) instead of remaining exclusive to Amazon’s (admittedly more lucrative) Kindle Direct platform. We’ll make less money that way (at least initially), but it may be the only way forward that offers any guarantee (no matter how parlous) of at least some authorial and financial security.
What say you, Mad Genii?