While I was working this morning I had the Today show on in the background and stopped when I heard a story about a book on Kindle called The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure, which is exactly what it sounds like, a guide for pedophiles to follow. Specifically, the author, in the t.v. interview, said the purpose of the book was to give tips to pedophiles so it would be safer for the victims of pedophiles, and so that when the pedophile is caught, he may get sentenced to a shorter sentence. Keep in mind, victim was my word choice, not the author's, and I am paraphrasing, but the gist is the same.
There has been a huge outcry among the public, some going so far as to boycot Amazon and Kindle for selling the self-published e-book, which is bad for Amazon right at the beginning of the holiday season. It could also be bad for us, writers with indie publishers whose primary sales may come from Amazon and Kindle.
I find it interesting that this comes up now, when the writer's site Red Room is doing a promotion for freedom of speech. For part of Red Room's promotion, authors auction off the chance to name a character in their next book. Stephen King, Grisham, and several other big name writers participate, and the funds go to the First Amendment Project, an organization that provides advice and legal representation to activists, journalist and artist for First Amendment issues.
Amazon's official position is that prohibiting a writer from listing a book is censorship and never an option, although they have removed the link to purchase the book from the website. The e-book itself is still there. A gentleman, and I use the term loosely, who was also interviewed on the Today show, stated that t.v. portrays pedophiles as kidnappers, rapists, and murderers, and that most pedophiles are none of these things. Having prosecuted and represented many men accused of having sexual contact with children, I can say the interviewee probably believes what he says, because most pedophiles either emphatically deny that they did anything, or emphatically deny that what they did was wrong. Consequently, most don't see what they did as rape, regardless of the victim's age.
The real issue, however, is censorship. As writers, we hate it. When there is a public safety issue with what someone has written or said, however, the person can not hide behind the First Amendment. It is not a catch-all to say anything and everything. For example, speech designed to incite a riot is not covered, the standard you-can't-yell-fire-in-a-crowded-theater argument.
I guess the question becomes at what point is something that is published on Kindle and available for the public to purchase considered a public safety concern? What do you think?