You thought banned books were a thing of the past?
Well, it may be time to reconsider – it emerged this week that Amazon is routinely hiding x-rated books from customers, effectively censoring them by stealth.
The bookseller has made certain titles almost impossible to find, condemning them to rot in what’s known on message boards as as their “Adult Dungeon”.
This designation limits what punters can browse as only those who know what’s in the dungeon are able to navigate it. A bit like the Maze in Westworld…
The dungeon came to light this week when it emerged that a newly-discovered book of erotica by Anaïs Nin, a bohemian author widely considered a classic, had been sent there.
The publisher of Auletris, a newly-discovered tome by Nin, who died in 1977, was told by five separate Amazon employees that he had to change the book to make it searchable:
It was suggested both the cover a (1930’s postcard drawing with bare nipples) or even the content would have to be altered to make the book visible to the vast majority of customers.
When this story broke, the dungeon masters apparently caved, and have put Auletris – which features incest, paedophilia, and autoerotic asphyxiation – back in the general search section.
But this is one high-profile example by an acknowledged master. What other works of literary brilliance have Amazon been keeping from us? And how do you navigate the dungeon?
All over the internet, writers of low-budget erotica have been lamenting the repression of their works, which tended to rack up some sales then abruptly stop.
Verity Vixxen, who writes “paranormal erotica, historical and sexy fantasy” found that even when she excised any nudity from the cover, and kept the title clean, her book Claimed by the Captain was buried.
But she noticed that the categorisation could seem pretty arbitrary: “Titles like Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt somehow manage to avoid the filter, while my gay erotic romance suffered the sting.”
K. Matthew, respected author of His Emo Servant and Touch of the Alpha described the results of Amazon’s censorship thus:
“Your book is taken out of public sight. It will not show up in regular searches. In fact, the only way anyone will ever find your book on Amazon again is if they search for it by its exact name or have a link pointing to it. Basically, Amazon does not want people to find your book.”
Heat Street asked Amazon to clarify the secretive designation process, but a spokesman declined to comment.
If a work has been deemed worthy of the dungeon, it won’t appear in searches under the “All Departments” filter, rendering it basically invisible and therefore, non-existent to potential buyers.
Only by refining searches to the “Books” or “Kindle Store” categories will you be able to locate a trace of the “banned” book, and then get hit with a warning sign.
I went through this rigmarole while trying to find Meg Harris’s tame-seeming Mastered by Desire.
It appears that, for now, the only way around Amazon’s sex dungeon is to know exactly what you’re looking for.
But until the platform becomes a more permissive market place, Hunter Fox’s Unicorn Forced Me Gay is thankfully available on all unfiltered searches.