However, Amazon has been revealed as unethical, bigoted, and biased when it comes to being gatekeepers for literature, and their products ought to be mistrusted and passed over by any discerning consumer with a conscience.
Amazon's recent public relations nightmare that stemmed from sorting and delisting adult, gay, and lesbian literature was neither a "glitch" nor a "hack." It was a policy initiative that began with their Kindle books, and was then implemented "too soon" on the rest of their print media.
(Why has no one sued them for lost profits yet?)
Francine Saint Marie, author of "The Secret Keeping" and several other LGBT paperbacks gives a detailed history of her year-long struggle to get her rights, royalties, and rank inside Amazon's system at AfterEllen.com:
"As Amazon can confirm, the cry "missing sales ranks" and "discrimination" was Team Saint Marie's mantra in 2008, and it was even the title of a widely read "thread" we posted in the Kindle publishers' forum, which Amazon hastily deleted. Indeed, "missing sales ranks" and "discrimination" was the subject of many circular (and recorded) phone conversations with Amazon's representatives, not to mention an awesome number of e-mails!
"In the first week of March 2009, it suddenly all became crystal clear to us. We pulled every single Saint Marie LGBT title from the Kindle store, deleted all gay/lesbian categories and tags from them, republished them as plain, old, ordinary romances, and then sat back to see what would happen. If we were right, if our theory correct, we reasoned, then we should have sales rankings in approximately twenty-four hours...
"Twenty-four little hours later, I couldn't help but whoop with joy. There were sales rankings on all of my titles in the Kindle store, and some were even on the bestselling lists! A week or two later, we began gingerly adding the gay/lesbian categories once again. This time, however, without the search tags -- and without consequence."
(Note: if you found out that your publisher did not publish gay or lesbian authors as a matter of policy, would you still let them profit from your work? I personally want a publisher that will even publish assholes with whom I profoundly disagree.)
Why is Saint Marie still doing business with Amazon? What's to stop Amazon from finding new ways to creatively censor and control content, now that vast public outrage killed their last plan? They still haven't apologized. What will they roll out next to make sure that "adult" books don't get into the wrong hands or that people are not burdened with the sad knowledge that gay books sell better than Christian ones?
Of course, maybe Saint Marie is simply hurting for options. There are worse companies to deal with as a content provider.
Apple, for instance.
You know how it is basically impossible to find good computer games to run on your Apple machine? That's because Apple has the worst track record in the business as far as letting third-party creators make content for their hardware, especially when it comes to products that run applications that Apple may find offensive (offensive = the business of literature).
To compete with the Kindle, Apple is developing their own touchscreen mediapad that will hit stores this summer and that will run with the same brutal, autocratic model as their iPhone. They will control who can design apps for their machine and which books will be available for sale using the same glossy, pink fist they use to control all other media.
It was only last January that Apple banned David Carnoy's novel "Knife Music" from the iPhone because of the line: "fuck me like you mean it." They wouldn't publish his book until he erased that bit of dialog from his manuscript forever.
And just yesterday, Apple banned Trent Reznor's iPhone app because of offensive lyrics, causing him to freak out about Apple on the NIN message board.
(Reznor to Apple: "You can buy The Downward Fucking Spiral on iTunes, but you can't allow an iPhone app that may have a song with a bad word somewhere in it," Reznor wrote. "Come on Apple, think your policies through and for fuck's sake get your app approval scenario together.")
But, see, Apple CAN'T create a consistent "app approval scenario." The moment they come up with clear approval requirements that are both consistent and public, they will get sued. They can either create an open platform and toss aside their ability to manage it, or they can create a senseless, closed platform and try to sell as many units as possible before somebody else makes a better, open system.
This is why Amazon did two swift, bold gestures to compete with Apple this past week: they bought "Stanza," the leading iPhone application for ebooks, and they raised the prices on transferring files via Kindle to fifteen cents per megabyte, so they won't get killed on all that "free wireless" they offer. Amazon is hoping that their clandestine censorship methods will trump Apple's clumsy, top-down system.
Apple is hoping that more authors will follow Carnoy's lead and will let Apple tell them exactly what to write.
And then there's Google, who has an even more serpentine creative control mechanism built into their Author's Guild settlement. They may be the worst offender of the three, poised as they are to become the biggest "library" in the world, and yet able to sort and censor their content with the same ruthless Puritanism with which they manage YouTube. Google isn't even messing with new literature yet. Too much risk. Too many unbroken souls. They are simply going to clean up all the old shit, delete all the troublemakers, and let you buy the rest.
Every fiction writer and publisher in America ought to be learning to write code.
These companies are not your friends. These companies are not your friends like Hollywood producers are not your friends. You are trying to understand and ennoble humanity, or, at the very least, condemn it to hell. Corporations, on the other hand, have a predatory view of human beings. They ARE hell.
More than any two forces in modern culture, the aims of literature and the aims of the "profitable company" are in direct opposition. Never forget. Never forget.
Posted by miracle on Tue, 05 May 2009 02:11:56 -0400 -- permanent link