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eBooks – The Latest Vector of Censorship

So, in the past couple of weeks, Amazon, curiously, stopped selling When Harry Became Sally – Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson. I say “curiously” because there’s other supposed “anti-trans” books for sale on Amazon. You can read about the banning of When Harry Became Sally here.

In fact, I purchased Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze That’s Seducing Our Daughters, of which was pulled from Target late last year (read about that here), due to complaints from one leftist activist. It was eventually reinstated after backlash from normal people. In fact, Irreversible Damage is still on sale at Amazon! Perhaps the banning of When Harry Became Sally is the proverbial canary in the coal mine? A test case to see how much damage banning a “right-wing” book might cause, and whether or not it would be worth it to Amazon to start enforcing their new blanket terms of service regarding the sale of books they deem containing “hate speech”? Otherwise, banning this one book while continuing to sell other books critical of the transgender movement is just strange.

I just wanted to point that out. I also want to point out what Abigail Shrier has said about the banning of When Harry Became Sally (or rather, Amazon’s decision to not sell the book anymore, which is what it really is – you know how I feel about the use of the term “banning” when it comes to books):

Author Abigail Shrier says we need to make a bigger deal about Amazon deleting books from its catalog

Twitchy reported something disturbing earlier this week: Amazon had decided to stop selling Ryan T. Anderson’s “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.” The disturbing part of the ban is that not even third-party sellers could list the book for sale on Amazon; it’s just gone, as are the e-book and the audiobook.

So I get that Amazon owns an enormous market share of the eBook space, which is unfortunate. I am an avid eBook reader, and I have four Kindles and one Kobo eReader, not to mention all the tablets I have, which include two iPads, a Samsung tablet and a Kindle Fire 10 HD. I remember the wars between booksellers like Amazon and the mainstream publishers regarding the price of eBooks. This Mashable post from 2010 details the earliest rumblings in the eBook space, what with the release of the first iPad, of which the author thought would shake up eBooks the way iTunes and the iPod shook up the music industry. Of course, that did not happen.

What did happen is that in 2012, a lawsuit was filed against Apple, charging that they “conspired to raise the price of e-books in violation of the Sherman Act.” You can read about it at Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UnitedStatesv.AppleInc.

Basically, since Amazon was the first to be really successful with eBooks via their Kindle device and service, they got to set the standards regarding pricing. Amazon wanted all books to be sold at $9.99. The publishers were not happy about that, and neither was Apple.

This Vox article has a good rundown of the lawsuit and how eBooks never quite replaced hardcovers and paperbacks, and since they’re usually such garbage, I have an archive link in case you don’t want to give them any traffic.

So you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with Amazon removing When Harry Became Sally from its catalog? According to many, including Abigail Shrier, as I linked above, this would effectively kill the book in terms of sales. And, yeah, as of right now, it probably would, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I can’t believe that Apple lawsuit was from so long ago. I remember being frustrated at the eventual outcome, which basically is that most publishers, particularly the big mainstream ones, retain control over the pricing of their eBooks. This meant that at retailers like Kobo, you couldn’t use coupon codes for eBooks from the main publishers, so you were stuck paying $14.99 for a recent release no matter where you went. Now, physical books aren’t priced like that, but eBooks are, and I have, and still feel, that that’s stupid. This basically meant that the first company to be truly successful in the arena of eBooks, Amazon, retained its crown and had no real competition. The Department of Justice, of whom filed that suit against Apple, actually won but the pricing scheme Apple cooked up with their fellow defendants ended up being the pricing scheme we are all subjected to today.

Which is why they have such overwhelming power when it comes to what’s being sold in their catalog. However, as I said earlier, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Of course, I’ve been saying that people need to ditch both Facebook and Twitter, as you clearly need neither of them, but of course, nobody listens and thousands of stubborn conservatives are still using those shitty sites.

But I will tell you that you can still buy When Harry Became Sally, just not at Amazon. It might be a bit more expensive and you might have to jump through hoops to get it onto your Kindle if you have one, but it’s still possible.

As of Feb 28, 2021, the book is still on sale at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Walmart. You can also purchase the hardcover edition directly from the publisher, Encounter Books. The eBook can be purchased from Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple.

So the unfortunate thing is that if you do purchase the digital version and have only a Kindle, you won’t be able to get the book on your Kindle unless you strip the book of its DRM protection and then convert it to the MOBI format, which is one of the formats Kindle supports (the Kindle does not support ePub, which is the format that most other eBooks are in).

I do this for almost all of the eBooks I purchase, because I don’t trust Amazon or any other retailer, especially since these files can (and often are, for quality control purposes) be edited.

  1. Download the Calibre eBook manager program – it is cross platform. Install it.
  2. Download the Apprentice Alf tools
  3. Install the deDRM plug-in. Restart Calibre.
  4. Download Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 (do NOT download the latest version, as you won’t be able to strip the DRM from any books downloaded with that one). If you have a Mac that has Catalina or Big Sur, you won’t be able to install the Mac version because it’s a 32-bit program. Install it on your computer.
  5. I recommend purchasing the digital edition from Kobo, as this retailer still allows you to download books using Adobe Digital Editions. Barnes & Noble’s Nook makes it very hard to download your books to your computer, and the DRM cannot be removed from Apple’s iBooks unless you have some old tools that are no longer maintained and kind of hard to find.
  6. You’ll need to find the book on your computer – for both macOS and Windows, it’s usually in your Documents folder, in a subfolder named My Digital Editions. Find the file and import it into Calibre.
  7. Once it’s imported, convert the file. For Adobe Digital Editions, once the deDRM plugin is installed, it should automatically find your ADE key.
  8. Connect your Kindle to your computer, and keep Calibre open. You can use Calibre to send the book to your device.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy. If there’s demand for it, I’ll make a video showing you how to do this. Calibre can be installed on Linux machines, but the deDRM plugin is not officially supported on Linux, and when I tried to install it on my Linux laptop, it did not work. You’ll likely need Windows to do this, unless you’ve got a Mac that does not have Catalina or Big Sur installed, because neither of those versions support 32-bit software anymore.

When you start this process, it is very important to read the info at the Apprentice Alf blog, depending on which version of the tools and Calibre you use, in order to get this to work.

Of course, it’s probably much easier to just purchase the paperback or hardcover, preferably directly from the publisher. I already did this for the copy I bought from Kobo, but I might go ahead and get the book from the publisher anyway, just to support them.

There are lots of other book retailers out there, and if you want to support them and this book, I’d suggest searching for it there. Not all retailers will carry the book, though, so your best bet is to get it directly from the publisher.

This is why I am so big on self-publishing, because then you can just sell your book directly on your website, and not have to worry about some whiny crybaby leftist getting your book “banned” from somewhere. Plus, you can sell it in a variety of formats in case someone’s got an old eReader that only accepts certain formats.

This is also why I am also so big on being able to strip a given file of its DRM so that you can copy it, archive it, and convert it to whatever you want.

Now, I don’t want to encourage piracy too much, for obvious reasons, but if all else fails, there are pirate sites that have a crap ton of eBooks, if you know where to look. I am not going to post links to any pirated books, or pirated anything else, but if you really want to find it, it’s probably not that hard (just don’t bother using Google, as they regularly purge piracy sites from their results). I don’t know if this particular book has showed up on any of the pirate sites I have in my bookmarks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did show up.

Despite this setback, they can’t stop the signal. That’s the glorious thing about this technology – it’s all too easy to upload a file that’s probably no bigger than 2 MB to a website, or to even email it to a friend. Even bigger files like movie files will spread like wildfire – the film studios and record labels have been fighting digital piracy for decades now. Streaming hasn’t stopped it. Lower prices hasn’t stopped it. Censorship won’t stop it either. Amazon removed the book from its catalog, but I still have a copy. All we have to do is shop somewhere else, and Amazon will, hopefully, get the message.

Photo by @felipepelaquim on Unsplash

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