No, self-pubbed authors haven't been banned from Kindle. But if you're a self-pubbed author, that title just about gave you a coronary, didn't it? The reality is that it could happen, and it could happen sooner than you might think.
If you haven't heard the controversy about the self-published book The Ped0phile's Guide to Love and Pleasure (that link is no longer active on Amazon, by the way) by Phillip R, Greaves - where have you been? It went on sale, according to Amazon's book page, on October 28, 2010. On November 10, 2010, the link disappeared. Before Amazon pulled the book, they issued this statement:
"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."
So much for that noble idea. The book went bye-bye.
Now, I'm not going to take a position on the heinous topic of the book or whether it should have been censored. (Or pulled for atrocious spelling alone - the description was in need of serious spellcheck). It's a moot point at this juncture. But what I am interested in is the possible problems for self-pubbed authors that this may cause.
I can see Amazon's legal having a heart attack at this point, telling them that THEY would be seen as the publisher and responsible for any backlash from this book if anyone sues. And someone just might. People were pretty angry about the whole thing - there were over 3000 comments (i.e. "reviews") on the book before it disappeared. And there is precedent for threatening to sue over books like this (see example below).
Remember that article in Slate a few months back about Amazon publishing "porn":
"The Kindle, however, pushes Amazon over the line from mere enabler of erotica to promoter and producer. Many of these e-titles are specifically being published by Amazon..."
Amazon is, essentially, a publisher now. And they're publishing not just erotica (which is fine as far as I'm concerned, obviously) but apparently, guides on how to be a pedophile.
What's even more interesting and indicative of a possible future ban on self-pubbed authors is that in 2002, Amazon had a similar problem with a title called Understanding Loved Boys and Boy Lovers by David L. Riegel, but this book is still available on Amazon - and it was published by SafeHaven Foundation Press. Presumably, the conservative group who threatened to sue over this book would have had to take it up with the publisher, not the retailer.
But in the case of Mr. Greaves books, Amazon is the publisher. As of this writing, his other four listings are still available for Kindle. For how long, I wonder?
I know I've been called an alarmist in the past, but hey, someone's gotta watch for forest fires, and where there's smoke...
I wouldn't be surprised if we heard in the future that Amazon will no longer be accepting self-pubbed works and publishers may have guidelines to prevent them from just incorporating as an LLC and publishing their own books (i.e. Fictionwise has had these requirements for years: each "publishers" must have for sale at least twenty-five non-public-domain works by ten different authors).
Of course, Amazon may decide to tighten their own gatekeeping process in accepting books for Kindle. That's a possible solution. (And another slippery slope). But if they decide to skip that process altogether, in order to avoid being seen as the only gatekeeper and responsible party, self-pubbed authors may find themselves out of a publisher.