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

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