The online retailer Amazon touched off a firestorm this week when it defended its sale of an advice guide for pedophiles in its Kindle store. Then, in an about-face, the company removed the book after a public outcry. The book, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct, was written by Phillip Greaves II and became available for download through Amazon on October 28. Initially Amazon stood by its choice to sell the book, saying that it would be "censorship" to remove it, but after customers threatened a boycott, Greaves's title disappeared from the Kindle store. Here's what people are saying about the book and the issues of free speech it raises.

  • Amazon's Initial Statement: We Support Free Speech  On November 10, PC Magazine reprinted a message from an Amazon representative: "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

  • But Now the Book Is Gone  While The Pedophile's Guide still appears in Amazon search results, clicking the link leads to a 404 error. Various sources have reported that the book seems to be disappearing and reappearing; TechCrunch reader and former Amazon intern Sainath Mallidi speculates that while "the book is gone, some times it appears because your request might to go to one of the datacenters where the book is still there."

  • Author: I'm Trying to Help People  Greaves, a resident of Pueblo, Colorado, told the press:

They're accusing me of wanting to hurt children. They're accusing me of encouraging pedophilia and all these other things. But that's not why I wrote the book [...] I wrote the book to establish guidelines so that people would behave in a manner that is non-injurious to each other, for one, and, for two, to communicate the fact that these people who are so different in maturation, etc., that when they develop relationships, they use certain principles that regular people, adults, would be well to attend.

In the book's product description on Amazon, Greaves wrote, "This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain rules for these adults to follow."

  • Yes, It's a How-To Guide  The blogger SJ ponied up and bought the book. Here's her report: "There is discussion of 'appropriate' sexual activities between minors and adults, including discussion of contraceptives. There are pornographic accounts of sex between minors and adults. The plight of p*dophiles is compared to the plight of the Jews during World War II. There are made up words. It IS a how to, and a how-to-not-get-caught. It is Not Nice at All."

  • But It Probably Won't Convert Anyone  Gawker's Adrian Chen calls the book "sort of underwhelming. Sure, The Pedophile's Guide contains creepy instructions about how to use rubber gloves as condoms for little boys. And there's some muddled philosophical defense of pedophelia: 'The nectar of love has been given from the hand of compassion and grace.' But we can safely say this book will not convince a single regular person to become a child predator. Nor does it include a pull-out map of secret shops where already-existing pedophiles can buy underage sex-slaves or anything."

  • Amazon's Record on This Kind of Thing Is Inconsistent, points out Lauren Frayer at AOL News. "In 2002, a conservative group called the United States Justice Foundation threatened to sue the online bookseller over a title called 'Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers'--which is still available on Amazon.com." On the other hand, "last year, Amazon halted sales of a video game called 'RapeLay,' in which players stalk and rape a mother and her daughters. The company yanked the game from its site after citizens and interest groups complained."

  • What Else is for Sale at Amazon?  Brennon Slattery at PC World notes that "The Anarchist Cookbook, a how-to guide to making homemade bombs, among other dangerous and illegal material, is still for sale on Amazon.com. You can also purchase The Turner Diaries, a thinly-veiled novel written by a former member of the National Alliance that advocated a violent upheaval of the United States government. What exactly is the difference between The Pedophile's Guide and these books that blatantly and proudly 'may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity'?"

  • So What Precedent Does This Set? wonders James Plafke at Geekosystem. "The bigger story, which seems to be overshadowed by the e-book's title alone, is that after Amazon said it wouldn't pull the book due to its policy against censorship, it pulled the book anyway, an act that will surely make it more difficult for Amazon to decline halting the sale of future products and potentially impose on the company a greater burden of monitoring user content."

  • Purely a Symbolic Victory, judges Paul Carr at TechCrunch. Carr predicts that "Philip R Greaves II will return to his poverty; the only difference being that a few million people will know his name and the authorities will know to keep a very close eye on him, particularly when it comes to his proximity to schools. And that's exactly how things are supposed to work in a free society. Since the advent of the printing press... morons and criminals have used words to espouse their despicable views. Meanwhile, right thinking people have had the choice to either ignore those views or listen long enough to dismiss or demolish them in public forums." Carr adds that "what the ban most certainly is not is an anti-pedophile victory of any meaningful kind... Greaves' fetid little fantasies haven’t been destroyed, but rather will now be added to the countless other sick fictions and how-tos--not to mention the far more troubling, and illegal, images and videos of actual criminal acts--that lie in the darkest corners of the web, away from the glare of public derision."