Amazon has recently decided to exercise their policy regarding explicit material to remove a selection of yaoi manga from the Kindle Store, much to the dismay of a vocal set of Kindle owning manga enthusiasts and anti-censorship enthusiasts. The decision is based around rules prohibiting “Pornography and hardcore material which depicts graphic sexual acts”. Pretty understandable, I suppose, but it’s an oddly complicated situation.
First off, there’s the matter of precedent. Many of the now-denied manga offerings are analogous to previously approved titles, according to their publishers, and at least two of the titles in question were previously in the store and only recently received updates that apparently brought them to the attention of whoever happened to make the latest decision. While you cannot fault Amazon for enforcing their own stated rules, the fact that the enforcement is selective and at the discretion of the company without terribly specific guidelines is troublesome.
There is also the fact that one of the Kindle store’s largest sections at present is their erotica section, which contains thousands of depictions of potentially offensive material and remains pretty much untouched. Some have connected the attention received by this particular brand of manga to the fact that it depicts homosexual romance between men. It would not surprise me at all if that fact, highlighted by user complaints from somebody hoping to police the perceived morality of their favorite shopping venue, were what started this whole mess. Since the first I heard of this, however, several heterosexually oriented titles have met with similar complaints.
This definitely leads to the conclusion that no matter how all of this began, Amazon is stepping up its enforcement practices. Will this extend to depictions of possibly offensive content that are not being displayed graphically? It seems unlikely Amazon will be going through the Kindle Store and deleting thousands of selling titles, but to single out one particular area that is no more guilty than the rest is a bit hypocritical.
There are some moves being made to organize boycotts and emails, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Some twitter users have even revived the once popular #amazonfail hashtag to raise awareness of the situation. Whether you care about yaoi or not, there would seem to be an advantage for all of us in keeping selective censorship out of the store as much as possible. If they’re going to enforce well defined standards uniformly across all eBooks, that’s one thing. When the rules are being applied on a case by case basis depending on the personal interpretations of individual judges at Amazon, it’s a problem. The Kindle platform is one of the best things about owning a Kindle eReader, mostly because of the impressive selection. If the central distribution point for all of our reading material becomes a bit irregular, it’s to all of our disadvantage.
While it is hard to say at this point if Amazon is likely to back down in time, chances are good that they’ll hold to their decision for the immediate future. If you’re interested in one of these titles and see it in the Kindle Store, it might be a good time to consider picking it up. No eBooks that have already been purchased will be removed from user accounts, they are simply being made unavailable for future sales.