Amazon, mainstream media silent on book’s removal
March 1, 2021
Amazon has removed a book—a former bestseller on the topic of the transgender movement — that had been offered on its e-commerce site for three years prior. A few media outlets covered the removal of the book. Four Republican senators have sent a letter to Amazon. But the mainstream media as a whole? Radio silent.
Last week, author Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was alerted by customers—not Amazon—that “When Harry Became Sally” was no longer available on the platform.
A screenshot of the webpage that once was a link to “When Harry Became Sally” on Amazon. This link no longer appears on Google searches for the title.
After Anderson started sounding the alarm, the story was picked up by Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, some smaller outlets. Most mainstream media outlets have not reported on the scrubbing of the book, which, according to its publisher description, “exposes the contrast between the media’s sunny depiction of gender fluidity and the often sad reality of living with gender dysphoria.”
As Fox News reported later in the week, the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has yet to report on the book being taken off the platform, despite its reporting three years ago that “When Harry Became Sally” was causing an “uproar.”
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Amazon, stating, according to WSJ, that the web giant had been “unable to provide a sufficient explanation” for how the book violated its content guidelines:
“An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t have a comment regarding the letter. The company declined to provide specifics regarding its decision, saying in a statement earlier Wednesday that it reserved the right not to sell certain content based on its content guidelines for books.
Amazon’s content guidelines describe what would initiate cause for removal, including illegal or infringing content, offensive content and that with a poor customer experience. Amazon’s specific description of “offensive content” states: “We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.”
While a private company can choose what it does and doesn’t sell, Amazon holds a significant market share for where customers browse and buy both hardcopy and ebook sales. According to WSJ:
Amazon is the country’s dominant book retailer, accounting for 53% of all books sold in the U.S. and 80% of all ebooks, according to recent 30-day sales data from Codex Group LLC, a book audience research firm. Amazon’s dominance means any decision to remove a title can have an outsize effect on the book’s sales.
This isn’t the first time this year that Amazon has drawn attention for books it hasn’t allowed on its marketplace. Amazon initially prevented former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson from self-publishing a book meant to share “unreported truths” about COVID-19; Amazon later reversed its decision after it received criticism from many, including Elon Musk.