So while I would like to rant about Star Trek Lower Decks, the last post was ranty enough. So why not, let’s talk how Amazon has been doing some digital book burning. That’s a hyperbole if I ever heard one, I hear Liam saying there in the background. While it certainly sounds like one at first, consider the end-goal of book burnings throughout the history, like the one the Chinese cultural revolution. The sad thin is that book burnings happen all the time, like how Zhenyuan in China saw a book burning of party banned books being thrown into the flames. Who knows what were in there. Sure, we know a Catholic priest was burning Harry Potter and Twilight novels alongside Hello Kitty stuff in Gdańsk, Poland, and some might even applaud to that, but the end goal was the same as with when burning New Testaments in Yehuda, Israel; make a statement about the books and limit their availability to the public. Don’t listen to the people who might want to read this garbage, listen to the people who are telling they’re bad for you and for everyone else.
What Amazon is doing is the exact same thing as the end goal. As reported by J-Novel club, Amazon has begin to limit the sales of some of their titles by cancelling customer orders and outright refusing products on their front. Products that already had been there, with both sales and pre-sales already been conducted. Even books that had been on sale of Amazon for three and a half years, namely Grimgar of Fantasy, has been refused. Considering Amazon sales apparently covered almost fifty percent of J-Novel Club’s sales at some point, limiting their product sales leaves rather significant impact, but also shows how dangerously close Amazon is to a certain kind of one-store-to-rule-them-all status. Almost everyone uses an Amazon storefront for something.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has done this to products originating from Japan, however. Recently they silently removed numerous statues and figures from their listings. It’s the sellers that had to step forwards and make statements you wouldn’t hear Amazon themselves making, because PR is precious. Certainly large numbers of these products are in sale at different sellers, which mostly means Amazon has either been bombed by some groups to get a specific item or seller off the site, or that they simply don’t have the time to apply the same decision power over the new listings. Not all goods under the same brand have been hit with the bans either when it comes to the figures, but the case with J-Novel Club is all about singular titles in English. The most probable reason for the blocking of sales of these goods is, as Amazon sees it, child exploitation.
No child was exploited in making these products, of course. Nor children have roles in the making, unless they’re being slaved in the Chinese factories there figures were assemble and painted, or in the presses where the books were printed. That’s a whole another thing altogether. No, it’s the perception of these characters, and the images found in these novels, being too young and in too risky for… whom? The question is not invalid in itself. I’ve discussed this when the topic has been about Sony’s censorship. We are able to recognise certain elements that repeat here; goods that had no true infringement are being actively purged based on perception. Something inside Amazon, or influencing them, has deemed these products as offensive either to morals and sensibilities to the extent of demanding removal, which has only lead to competition move in to fill in the niche even at Amazon Marketplace, or in worst case scenario Amazon has decided to follow some stricter lines found in some laws that determine these kind of figures and drawings as child porn and child exploitation. Overcareful laws that equate drawn characters and real photos do only harm on the long run, but considering how little sense there has been regarding who is considered an adult is mucky at best, because people mature differently. Perhaps being overtly careful with children is a net positive in the end, yet we’re talking as if teenagers were the same thing as six years olds. Applied to fictional characters no less.
This is the problem with yours truly. In the context of the writer’s persona I can admit to Amazon being its individual corporation and they have the freedom to choose what’s on their stores as long as they apply the reasoning and methods across the board without picking and choosing. That may impact their sales or fame, but that’s their choice. In the same breath, I can also admit that Amazon shouldn’t care what people are selling on their stores within the limits of law in an aim to maximise sales. They’re not doing either in this case, however. Their design here is whack and malformed. In person proper, I have to question the sanity of whoever considers these products infringing reality. You hear different groups with similar agendas tooting their horns about understanding other cultures and valuing them, yet here we are, having a digital bonfire of books and goods because they infringe another culture’s sensibility. The Japanese culture of cute does not carry the same meaning for cute as American. Be sure of it, Amazon’s bannings are based on certain Americans’ values and virtues. There are plenty of those who would rather see all these efforts put into ending slavery in Africa or shutting all those factories employing child labourers down. Major tech companies like Apple and Tesla are using cobalt mined from Congo, which relies heavily on child labour, and are being sued over knowingly enforcing child labour. Of course, what Amazon does is to ban books and lumps of plastic instead. It’s easy and relatively safe. You may claim that the two have nothing to do with each other and equating them with each other is false. Perhaps to some extent, but if the reasoning from Amazon is anywhere close to child exploitation, Amazon should take a damn good look how much of its products (and the products these major companies) employ said child exploitation. It’s easy to get brownie points from banning cartoon characters; it’s hard to make movements towards ending actual child exploitation.
You can say that, but a child in racy situations or positions is different than exploiting their livelihood. Which leads us back to one of the cruxes; these aren’t children, these are fiction. There is no true end benefit here, there is no actual exploitation done. Exploitation of material at best, but that applies to any product out there. Only true infringing someone’s standards and taste. Of course, these people who can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality have inserted their views in some of the laws around the globe under moral panic. Changing or challenging these laws would be scrutinised to an unmoral extent and would lead into unfavourable questioning, making it a nightmare to even consider taking actions to correct them to be more sensible.
What does Amazon’s bans hope to accomplish? As there is no exploitation of any kind, nothing will happen on that front. Maybe some people will find less offensive stuff on Amazon, but even that is negated when other sellers put similar items on. Hell, nothing prevents another seller listing their own copies of the banned books there and Amazon just so happens to miss said listing. It’ll impact some of the sales from these products even when they’re moved to other venues. You can still pick up J-Novel Club’s books from any other physical books store, for example. All this reeks of useless pandering with false morals to placate some group of people. As much as I hate personally hate it, at least the digital revolution has given providers like J-Novel Club a method to sell their products on their own digital stores without relying on Amazon, even if it would mean losing sales from Kindle. Nothing much a customer can do about Amazon’s practices, outside voicing their displeasure and voting with their wallet.