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Like the saying goes, the first step is the hardest. Now that Amazon, by a massive margin the most dominant online book retailer, has started banning books on issues like transgenderism and politics – pressure is piling up to expand this list of virtual digital book burning to other issues as well.
However, some people, particularly in Europe, for obvious reasons, clearly still feel uncomfortable about advocating any kind of book burning. But can’t we at least add warning tags, mainstream media and opposition politicians in the UK are now pleading with censors.
Covid, vaccines, and (mis)information are some of the issues around which censorship could be expanded, say reports who looked at how books dedicated to these topics perform on Amazon, but also on UK’s large retailer, Waterstones, and another local bookseller chain, Foyles.
And those books are doing well. Too well, perhaps, for some. It doesn’t matter that Vernon Coleman, the author of one of the most popular books in that category – “Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe And Effective Is Lying” – denies he is anti-vaccine or perpetuating medical misinformation, instead says his work focuses on truthful information.
The reports against these books (for now) don’t mention what we are supposed to do with the people who buy them – because not only are Covid vaccine-skeptic books out there, they are topping the sales lists, and garnering stellar customer reviews.
A population’s right to information via books (whatever they may be) is linked to the vaccination drive in the UK – apparently, people like shadow Health Minister Alex Norris are not convinced enough people will accept to be inoculated unless they are completely cut off from different points of view, and isolated in a hermetic pro-vaccine bubble.
“Getting our population vaccinated is a massive priority and it is very sad to see these things so freely available,” Norris told Sky News, apparently very skeptical of people’s ability to engage in critical thinking. Is everyone purchasing these books necessarily a “Covid misinformation advocate” – or simply a person who wants to learn more, from different points of view, before making a decision before getting that “jab”?
But let’s also take pause to consider Norris, a Labour politician, is saddened by “these things” (namely, books) being freely available. What kind of society allows that, right?
Last, but not least, the report says that Waterstones and Foyles said selling books “does not mean the company approves of its content” while Amazon was a bit more sinister-sounding in its response, saying that it encourages customers to read official sources of information – “and will remove any products that breach its guidelines.”