Censorship on a scale even Orwell couldn’t imagine in 1984 is ramping up, only four decades or so off his predicted date, but here we are: Amazon has just erased Ryan Anderson’s factual, science-based book on transgenderism – vaporized from the shelves of the distribution giant. Funny, since began Amazon as a book seller, buying up floundering second-hand bookshops, and consolidating the business. There were warnings years ago of the dangers of putting all one’s books in one Amazonian basket, but the ease of perusal and ordering, the quick delivery, and the cost reduction, were just too tempting. And like all temptations, there are bitter fruits for succumbing. Bookshops are now hard to find, and how does one market a book without Amazon? (To be fair, it’s still for sale on Barnes and Noble, as of this writing). Back in the old dystopias, they at least had to physically burn all the books – as, so many ideologues have done with their bonfires; now, they just disappear with the click of a mouse, and no one seems to be stirring, or doing much about it. Oh, well, what’s one more?
I used to enjoy browsing in bookstores in my days studying in Toronto – often old homes on side streets, transformed, with stacks and shelves of this and that, and treasures to be found. How many are left, I wonder? Then again, the answer to that question might depress me. And now, if one giant store – insofar as one may call the behemoth that is Amazon a ‘store’ – effectively controls the entire stock and industry, just as Google now controls the flow of information, and FaceBook/Twitter human discourse – well, we reap what we have sown. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Hence, a thought came to me in a review session with some students last evening, to set up a sort of virtual library and bookstore, at least to let each other know of treasures we have read, perhaps how to access them, even to offer to buy, sell or loan. Who knows? One book can transform the world.