NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION

HOLT UNCENSORED #20
by Pat Holt

Friday, December 4, 1998

1. WHEREFORE ART THOU, AMAZON
2. AN INDEPENDENT('S) STORY
3. REMAINDERS OF THE DAY

1. WHEREFORE ART THOU, AMAZON

Goodness, those naughty managers at Amazon appear to be asleep at the Hey! We DO Stand for Something! wheel.

About a month ago, word was reported here that The Official Bob Enyart Live Web Site had become an Amazon "Associate," meaning that if you clicked to this Denver radio personality's website, you could order the books he recommends through a hyperlink to Amazon.com, which paid Enyart a percentage of the book price.

So far so good, except that Enyart's site is riddled with hate language, especially against gay people. Amazon received so many letters of protest that its representatives investigated, and voila: "Bob Enyart is no longer a part of our Associates Program," Rob Allen of Amazon.com wrote to Holt Uncensored on November 9. "It will take a few days for this process to be completed."

Well, that was nearly four weeks ago, and lo, as of last night, Enyart's site still carried the Amazon logo and the official "Note from Amazon.com" at the bottom of the page, which proclaims that "Amazon.com is pleased to have Bob Enyart Live in the family of Amazon.com associates" and says that "we encourage you to visit Enyart.com often to see what new items they've selected for you."

Great idea. Bob's Reading List includes "Cleansing the Fatherland : Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene," "Scientific Creationism" and "The German Euthanasia Program."

While you can't make a direct connection from some of Enyart's recommendations to the featured book on Amazon's database (a note says that "Bob Enyart Live does not exist in our catalog. Would you like to try your search again?"), the link from Enyart does get you on Amazon, where in most cases you can type in the name of the title and find the book on Amazon's database anyway.

Perhaps Amazon will say it can't stop Enyart from carrying its logo or welcome note, or Enyart is dragging his heels, but phooey: If you've terminated the relationship, for pete's sake do it cleanly. Otherwise, nobody will believe the declaration that "Amazon.com's policy on racism, sexism, homophobia and censorship is very clear" - it ain't clear until Amazon is completely off the terminated site.

Or perhaps this is the kind of oversight that happens when you pretend to carry 3 million titles but care about none of them. After all, Amazon has never said it cares one way or another about the books it "stocks" - that's why it can be so nonjudgmental about setting up webpages and excerpting chapters and collecting reviews from everyone.

Still, Amazon professes to care about SOME things: "The language on the [Enyart] site is disturbing," Rob Allen of Amazon wrote, " especially to those of us at whom it is directed (and especially in light of the recent Matthew Shephard tragedy."

What a nice touch: Bring up the current tragedy affecting the gay community to show how much Amazon does care. Then don't do anything to the website in question and remain associated with messages of hate that contributed to whatever killed - and keeps on killing - all the Matthew Shephards in our midst every day.

2. AN INDEPENDENT('S) STORY

Let's turn to one joyous seasonal story as recalled by Charlie Cockey of Fantasy Books in San Francisco (chasfant@ix.netcom.com). Charlie read last week's story about the "White Bread Theory," which ponders whether readers of romance or war novels can ever "upgrade" their reading to mid-level and literary fiction, and writes the following:

"One of my all-time favorite bookselling experiences came many summers ago, when a couple literally dragged their young teen son into my shop, saying, 'He *can* read, he just *won't* read.' I spent about 15 or 20 minutes talking to him, pulling one book after another off the shelves, and just leaving them stacked haphazardly in front of him, watching his reactions to them all the while, and trying to zero in on those that elicited some sort of reaction from him.

"Eventually we got him pondering over two books, and he ended up choosing, still with some reluctance, but also with more than a modicum of curiousity, Lloyd Alexander's 'The Book of Three,' the first in the Prydain Chronicles. Now, I'm not trying to put Alexander's wonderful series in the same basket with romance novels per se, but it *is* a relatively accessible, easy book to read for a teenager like this young fellow seemed to be.

"Well, the very next day - the very next day - they were back, only this time *the boy* was dragging his parents! He wanted the second book in the set, and he wanted it NOW! And he got it. He ripped through that set in about eight or ten days, and he and his parents were regular visitors for the rest of the summer, always approaching me for suggestions.

"The boy rapidly developed a clear sense of storytelling and a feel for style, and a rapid willingness to trust my suggestions and to take chances. By the end of the summer he was reading Ursula K LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and others I don't remember anymore, but he was reading, ravenously and omnivorously. Simply put, once he got hooked on the *act* of reading, he developed his own literary sensibilities, and he was off and running."