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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fantasy vs. Reality In The Bookstore

There was an article in the New York Post on July 10 about how Amazon and B&N were selling more titles with erotic themes but also were starting to pull titles that it felt were over the edge.

Who makes the decision on which books to write, publish, sell, or buy?  What educates these decision-makers?  Is there any definitive filter or test by which we can objectively rate or review a book’s content to the point such a tool helps determine if a book should be available to the public?

It’s an age-old debate when it comes to obscenity, pornography, nudity, sex, and erotica.  Definitions and censorship and bans and punishments vary by culture and time periods.

The books in question, on Amazon and B&N’s site involved incest, bestiality, and pedophilia.  As revolting as any of this may be to many of us – but apparently not all – I think the bigger question is this: Are we talking about fiction or non-fiction?

The distinction means everything.

Books that fantasize about terrorists, murderers, rapists, etc. are a lot different than how-to manuals that encourage one to commit a crime, shows them how to do it and then how to cover it up.

I would not choose to read a manual about how to have sex with a seven-year-old and question why such a book should be published, though I would still lean towards agreeing the book has a right to be published.   But one step away from that would be a novelization about subjects such as pedophilia and incest.  I wouldn’t choose to buy it, but I’d accept its right to be published without any reservation or doubt. Books represent ideas, history, and imagination. As repulsive as some books may be, we cannot have books banned or censored. 

Although I am a staunch free-speech advocate, there are limitations to any of our rights.  No one has the right to publish a manual on how to violently harm another.  But as a fantasy or a story of fiction, that is completely and utterly acceptable.

So it surprises me that our booksellers would be hypocrites.  First they sell books they want to be quiet about.  Then, they pull them for fear of criticism.  Fiction is harmless and allows us to express ideas or situations that otherwise would not be permitted to take place.  Having a fantasy outlet for our dark side helps us keep that part of us in control.

Perhaps a novel about someone killing the book banners at Amazon and B&N would sell well – if it were ever made available.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013


  1. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" "Who will guard the guards?" Attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–8), and still relevant today. Who makes the rules that are becoming increasingly draconian ... and who will stop them?

  2. A sample case is my memoir: A Harem Boy's Saga - I - initiation. Create Space/amazon published my memoir about my experiences in several Middle Eastern harems when I was an adolescent. A week after its been on sale at amazon, CS pulled my book from amazon. A book which CS had been formatting for 2 months prior to the book launch. Even-though my harem experiences were positive and I entered the harems willingly - CS made me delete all my age references. The case they provided is that all characters have to be 18 years old or older before they can have sex with an older person. We all know that in reality, that is not true yet CS had me delete all my adolescent age references, before I could relaunch the book again on amazon. Such hypocrisy!

    Below is the original synopsis printed at the back cover of my original book which has now been revised to accommodate CS "censorship" regulation.

    Synopsis: A Harem Boy Saga; A Memoir. Book 1 - INITIATION.

    This provocative story is about a fourteen year old boy who was initiated into a clandestine sexual society. He was spirited to the Middle East, from his UK boarding school. He attended the Bahriji School (Oasis,) in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for serving in Harems for the wealthy and elite.

    It is also a love story between the young man and his ‘Valet’ who served as his chaperone and mentor during the boy’s Harem service.

    Author’s note:
    I had a privileged and unique upbringing in Malaysia. Following in my brothers' footsteps, I was sent to an exclusive boarding school in England. It is there that I was inducted into a clandestine organization, E.R.O.S. The Enlightened Royal Oracle Society. For four years, unbeknownst to my family, I was willingly and happily part of a Harem.

    My story has been kept under wraps for close to 45 years. The correct moment has arrived for me to make known my unique education.