Peace in our Time?

January 24, 2007

Amazon.com Customers’ Campaign Wins Fairer Treatment for Carter’s book

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:33 pm

Berkeley, CA – Ten days after shoppers began a campaign to protest Amazon.com’s extraordinarily hostile presentation of former President Jimmy Carter’s book on Palestine, and a day after a petition with more than 16,000 signatures was delivered to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the company has responded by revamping the page in a way that puts the book in a completely different light.

The petition, posted at www.petitiononline.com/Amazon07, complained that Amazon had abandoned its usual evenhandedness in the presentation of controversial books by posting the full text of a lengthy attack on Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid in its “Editorial Reviews” section – and repeatedly refusing customer requests that it add a more positive review in the same location for balance. In signing the petition, customers pledged to stop shopping at Amazon and close their accounts there if the retailer did not come up with a more balanced version of the page by Jan. 22. To back up the petition, hundreds if not thousands of customers also wrote directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos < jeff@amazon.com> to express their concerns.

A copy of the petition, some 16,200 signatures, and supporting materials were sent to Bezos and his staff on Friday, Jan. 19. The following morning, the “Editorial Reviews” section of the page listing Carter’s book was completely overhauled for first time in almost a month: It now begins with a glowing tribute from Amazon to the former president’s achievements and an interview with him about the book, plus a photo of him and graphic links to some of his other books – all new material, and all of it posted ahead of the negative review.

“This is a huge victory,” said Henry Norr, the Berkeley, CA-based former journalist who initiated the petition. “The whole tone of the page is different now. Instead of saying, in effect, ‘Stay away from this vile book,’ what it now conveys is the truth: that this is an important and fair-minded, even if controversial, book by a distinguished American who has unique qualifications to address the issue of Palestine.”

Added Paul Larudee, an El Cerrito, CA, piano technician and activist who helped organize the protest campaign, “Of course Amazon deserves credit for responding after initially refusing to make a change. However, the real credit goes to the thousands of petition signers who exercised their power – in this case the nonviolent power to take their business elsewhere. It gives hope that boycotts and other nonviolent efforts can help to end the larger injustices that Carter addresses in his book.”

“I’m sorry Amazon continues to display the review by Jeffrey Goldberg, because I think it’s horribly unfair and misleading, and I still wish they would add one of the other reviews we suggested,” said Norr. “Some people who signed the petition have let me know that they still intend to close their accounts if Amazon doesn’t make more changes, and I understand their feelings. But what the petition was really demanding was fair and balanced treatment for the book, and on the whole I think we’ve come pretty close to that objective.”

The change was the second involving Carter’s book that Amazon has made in response to the campaign. Last week, its version of the latest New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list initially omitted Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid altogether, even though the book actually ranked fifth on the list – Amazon’s version jumped directly from number 4 to number 6! This extraordinary “mistake” persisted for days, until two hours after an earlier version of this press release was delivered to scores of reporters and publications.

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