On Thursday, Amazon.com pulled a controversial e-book from its Kindle store--and has kept mum about the decision ever since.
The self-published title, "The Pedophile's Guide to Love & Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct," authored by Phillip Greaves of Pueblo, Colo., sold hundreds of copies before Amazon yanked it from the site because of a deluge of complaints.
Greaves--who told FoxNews.com that "I do not advocate pedophilia. I just feel that I understand it"--claims that Amazon is "re-reviewing" its decision to sell the e-book, which establishes a set of guidelines for sexual encounters between children and adults. The website had listed the title for $4.79 before Amazon managers removed it from their digital shelves. Amazon has yet to issue a statement clarifying its position.
The situation raises several big questions for Amazon. Should the company be concerned that banning the e-book might open a Pandora's box of people calling for bans on any titles that detractors deem controversial? (Say, leftist critics demanding the removal of the largely discredited study correlating race with intelligence "The Bell Curve" for left-leaning critics--or diehard conservative conspiracy theorists asking that Barack Obama's memoir "Dreams From My Father" be de-listed?) What is its process for vetting self-published titles, electronic or otherwise, before listing them for sale? And how does it handle complaints about material that customers consider to be offensive?
Amazon, which is based in Seattle, did not return numerous calls seeking comment on these issues. But pressure was mounting late Friday afternoon for the company to take an official stance.
Twitter was flooded with messages incorporating the hashtag #amazonfail. "Your silence is being perceived as indifference," read one tweet that had picked up traction.
Meanwhile, an organization called the American Mothers Political Party set up a Facebook page titled "Boycott Amazon For Selling Pedophile Guide," and various advocacy groups have issued statements condemning the company.
"No reasonable person can dispute that there is probable cause that a crime may have been committed here where a man is explaining how to molest children in a book," said Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, a Christian public policy organization, in a statement. "Is it unreasonable to suspect that a man who is writing an instructional manual has in the past done the very thing about which he is writing? This is a crime; make no mistake about it."
Law enforcement officials dispute the putative criminal basis for the book's removal. "We have no indication that a crime has been committed," Pueblo Police Chief James Billings told FoxNews.com. "But we are looking at the situation to have a better understanding of what this book is all about and to see if there's something we should be concerned about." Greaves was under police protection after the book furor produced some anonymous threats.
The Amazon page for "The Pedophile's Guide to Love & Pleasure" was inactive as of the time of this posting. But a cached version of the page reveals the artwork, price, hundreds of angry reviews and a product description (including typos):
"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught."