In Brief

Amazon Quietly Scrubs Nazi Books From Digital Shelves

The company has eliminated books by white supremacists, including former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, from its site.

Edit by Jasmine Weber for Hyperallergic

The largest online book retailer has reduced the number of Nazi-related books readers can buy from its website. The New York Times reports that Amazon’s recent decision has ceased the sales of books by former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell. However, it’s not just that Amazon will no longer allow readers to buy the books on their site. The company has taken the decision a step further, completely scrubbing the books’ presence from their site so that even third party vendors and independent sellers can’t list the titles for sale. Searching for some of these banned books leads to an error page affectionately known as “dog pages,” since they feature employees’ pups. 

Amazon controls a bulk of the book industry, which the Times estimates to be about “two-thirds of the market for new, used and digital volumes in the United States.” Amazon does not provide a list of which books are banned from its digital shelves, which worries some booksellers who see the company’s decision as a form of arbitrary censorship. 

Although its retail side of the site takes down Nazi-themed items as it breaks its rule against selling “controversial or offensive materials,” books were not listed under the same guidelines, and Amazon has the legal right to refuse to sell objectionable books under the First Amendment. Danny Caine of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, told the Times, “I still don’t trust Amazon to be the arbiters of free speech. What if Amazon decided to pull books representing a less despicable political viewpoint? Or books critical of Amazon’s practices?”

The erasure of Nazi symbols from the site even extends to one of the company’s first original shows, The Man in the High Castle, which imagines a future where the Axis Powers won. In a new book about the series, almost all Nazi-related insignia were digitally removed from the show’s stills, which its publisher said was due to Germany’s strict anti-Nazi laws. The publisher, Titan Books, also told the Times that Amazon had cleared the new images in the book. 

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