Book are disappearing. You rarely see them anymore. The libraries and bookstores are all gone. Soon books may only be available on Kindle, if at all. Videos, headlines, and memes shall bring people the philosophy of the future. Abe Books used to have a great catalog of rare books. Then Amazon bought them. Is there anything worth keeping in these unpopular old books? Or should we just move on?
I am fascinated by censorship. It is a dream one day to write a book that gets burned or banned, like Charles Darwin or Harper Lee. So far I have only succeeded in being censored on Twitter. It's a start. The episode inspired me to read Tropic of Cancer, a book that brought to light censorship laws in the US and was banned for decades. I really enjoyed it.
Book burnings are an important part of the rise of authoritarianism. Arguably the first authoritarian government in modern history, the Chinese empire of Qin Shi Huang, began by not only burning Confucian texts, but by burying Confucian scholars alive. Qin converted the philosophy of the empire from the nuanced harmony and curiosity of Confucianism to Legalism, a system of centralized rule and bureaucracy. It worked, in a sense. Qin was the first emperor to unify China.
The National Socialists were also infamous for burning books. Not only of competing political philosophies like Marx but also texts on spirituality, sex, and any Jewish author, including Albert Einstein. The books were removed from school curriculums and libraries. However, the conquering Allied Force then went about burning German texts. How they did not see the irony of this is beyond me.
To this day you cannot find The Myth of the Twentieth Century by Alfred Rosenburg on Amazon. However, you also cannot find Rathenau's Where is the World Going. Rathenau, an influential German Jewish industrialist and author, was one of the first writers suppressed by the Nazi party. Now we have neither. However, the German publisher that spread Hitler's propaganda, Bertelsmann, survives to this day and, unbelievably, is currently the world's largest publisher of books after acquiring Simon & Schuster this year following the death of Carolyn Reidy, and more unbelievably, is still run by the same family, Mohn, that ran it under National Socialism. What about their only competition? The other giant publishing empire Hotzbrinck, that controls not just books but scientific journals like Nature. Also founded by a nepotistic nazi. Does this not bother anyone?
I was interested to hear that this past September, California schools decided to ban classic texts such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. The rationale appeared to be that these important anti-racist texts were racist. Curious. I suppose it is only a matter of time until we are burning 1984 for its criticism of doublethink.
Does censorship exist in America? If it did, would it look like the censorship of the past, or would it be different? If you wanted to destroy a nation, would you take away their guns, or their books?
It may appear that Amazon is the remedy to this. They started by making more books available to more people. But surely they don't have every book. Is there a pattern to the books they do not sell?
I first noticed Amazon not having a book when a friend recommended a book on discernment, the art and practice of making good decisions both as a group and an individual. The book is spectacular. It is very relevant and enriching and filled with practical advice and wisdom, especially for a business or community leader.
Amazon does not have this book. I also could not easily find Introduction to Saint Thomas Aquinas, though it was available from third party sellers (for nearly $800). Well maybe these are pretty obscure books, even for Amazon. Though it made me wonder, does Amazon shy away from spiritual texts?
I did eventually find lots of Christian texts, though some were only available third party. Then I noticed that many books on Satanism, such as Awakening Lucifer were not only Amazon Prime, they were on Kindle Unlimited. In fact, the whole catalog of Draco Press, a Satanist publishing company founded in 2018, were on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. Strange. Amazon makes it very easy to learn how to bring demons in to the world. How about exorcisms? Are there books on getting rid of demons?
Oesterreich's book Possession and Exorcism came recommended. Did you know there are multiple full time exorcists working in Los Angeles? Anyways Amazon had only one copy for $800. I noticed this a lot. Are there books Amazon does not want me to read?
I also noticed the search function behaved strangely. Sometimes when searching for a book by name, it would not show up, even when it was on Amazon. For example, if you search Amazon for "books in the digital age" you will get results but you will not see the book by John Thompson with that exact name. When you search on DuckDuckGo it is the first result. Is this a bug? If not why wouldn't Amazon want me to read a book about books? I also realized autocomplete not doing me any favors when searching for these books.
Similarly, I noticed when searching for "the history of magic" there are many fictional books but again no link to the Kurt Seligmann book with that exact name. This book is also not carried.
I am skeptical of the algorithm. When searching for "psychedelics" I am practically hit over the head with Michael Pollan's How to Change your Mind but Stanislav Grof's far superior The Way of the Psychonaut does not appear at all. It also costs $500. Albert Hoffman's own book LSD: My Problem Child is also suspiciously absent, though it is carried. Why would Amazon want me to see psychedelics the way Michael Pollan does instead of Stanislav or Hoffman?
Are there other forms of censorship for the books that are on Amazon? Another friend recommended the famous Bill Cooper book on UFOs and conspiracies, Behold a Pale Horse.
Amazon doesn't seem to be hiding this one. In fact it is proudly listed as the #1 seller in the "UFO" category and is available on Kindle. But wait, when you read the comments you will notice that everybody is asking for the 1991 edition, that the only edition Amazon sells has had over 100 pages removed. The Kindle version has the pages removed as well. What was in those pages? I was eventually able to find a copy of the 1991 edition on eBay but it was listed for $25,000! Weird. Bill Cooper's text has not been banned or burned, it was simply quietly censored. Bill Cooper himself was censored, with a bullet to the head. Other UFO books like The Only Planet of Choice, The Nine, and Beyond the Four Dimensions are difficult to buy.
Besides removing pages, there may be other ways Amazon can subtly control information. For example when searching
Speaking of bullets to the head, I was interested to learn from another friend about the history of Freeway Rick Ross, and the allegations that the CIA had intentionally pushed crack cocaine on society to hurt certain communities and enrich certain people, potentially to help fund the CIA-run guerilla army in Nicaragua the Contras. It's a great story. Hollywood even two movies about it, American Made, with Tom Cruise, and Kill the Messenger, with Jeremy Rinner. These films may or may not be historically accurate.
Anyways the person that uncovered the story was Pulitzer prize winning journalist Gary Webb while he was working at the San Jose Mercury News. In what sounds like a tour de force of investigative journalism, Webb published the three part story "Dark Alliance", blowing the whistle on the whole thing. While the story received much public attention and acclaim, Webb was immediately attacked by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. They did not like his story. Soon after, Webb was found dead with multiple gun shot wounds to the head. It was ruled a suicide. I am not sure how somebody could shoot themselves in the head multiple times. I was also unable to find Webb's articles anywhere on the internet. However, he did publish a book. It is kind of on Amazon. It is listed but only available from third party sellers, and going for $50 for a used copy, a bit steep for a paperback.
Given the vast readership, impact, and response of the original articles, the fact that the author died suspiciously, and the fact that two films were made about the story (which likely changed some details), it seemed strange Amazon would not just sell the book. Then again, they are working with the CIA.
Other conspiracy related texts such as JFK and the Unspeakable were also only available from third party sellers when I searched, even though they seem quite popular. In fact, inflammatory texts like Thanks for the Memories, Satan's Underground, Three Boys Missing, Michelle Remembers, and The Franklin Cover-up, all had many positive reviews but were not carried. Maybe they avoid controversial subjects entirely? That is unclear. Amazon came under fire in 2010 for defending the carrying of multiple books encouraging a very controversial subject. But today the books seem to have been removed.
For the next book, I ran in to the CIA again, but in a very strange place, a Wikipedia article on Cataclysmic Pole Shift Hypothesis. I was speaking with a geophysicist about Antarctica and the South Pole and how there is evidence that the poles of Earth's magnetic field have shifted over time, and are currently moving. It is an interesting subject. Are we even sure what causes the Earth's magnetic field to begin with? It's mysterious. I wanted to read a book on it. Then I found that in the 1965, a man named Chan Thomas attempted to publish a book on the subject called The Adam and Eve Story. Strangely, the CIA immediately banned the book! Why on earth would they ban a book about the earth's magnetic field? After 50 years a "sanitized" 50 pages out of the original 240 were released. You can read these at cia.gov. The full book is obviously not on Amazon. It is not anywhere. WorldCat lists the book in a few libraries but only the "sanitized" version. Very strange.
After some digging I found the author again attempted to publish the book in 1993. A digital version is here. However I am not sure how legitimate this is. How did this one get past the CIA? Did they even mean to ban it in the first place? Graham Hancock seems to have had many similar theories in Fingerprints of the Gods but he was not censored. Why? It is all very strange.
Speaking of geophysics, I once stumbled across a fascinating book in a desert bookstore about water, one of my favorite topics. I have long wondered where the water on earth came from. Sure there is extraterrestrial water like on Enceladus. And evidence Venus once had as much water as Earth, but could it really all have been carried here by comets and asteroids? A 2014 experiment by the Rosetta spacecraft showed that water vapor from the Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet had a substantially different Deuterium ratio than earth's water.
This fascinating book, New Water for a Thirsty World describes the theory of Primary Water, and one man's multiple expeditions to find it and track underground rivers and sources of primary water as distinguished from regular aquifers. Primary Water advocates believe that most of earth's water is underground, and it can be and is in fact made in the mantle. At first it seemed strange, but then I remembered my discussions with oil and gas workers about abiotic oil, that perhaps oil was not made from dead dinosaurs, but synthesized under high heat and pressure in the mantle. It does make more sense. I have heard oil field workers complain about the vast quantities of water they must deal with when pumping the ground for oil. One even claimed they would on occasion bring up living clear-bodied fish. Did these live in the underground rivers? The book also talks about the practice of dowsing, which the internet claims is a pseudoscience, but everybody I met who dug or worked with wells professionally swore by.
All these theories are controversial, and have obvious political implications. One of my favorite Primary Water stories is Stephan Riess arguing against the California State Water Project, a massive project which would give the state government control over both cities and agriculture (and a ton of debt). He claimed there was ample water underground and that wells would suffice. He was ignored and suppressed. Today it is close to impossible to dig your own well in California. The book is out of print and while listed on Amazon, costs over $500 for a used copy.
It is possible entire fields of knowledge have been lost, or suppressed. There are very few books on hypnosis, which was at one point a very popular field and an active area of research. It pretty much all stopped and hundreds of books were forgotten. Even the bibliography is hard to find, much less the books within. Today hypnosis is beginning to experience a revival under the perhaps more accurate term "Subconscious Exposure Therapy", but I could not find any books on it.
Alchemy is similar. There are many popular books on the history of alchemy, so if people knew that it was still practiced to this day they would likely be interested. Joe Champion is a modern alchemist with some rather outlandish claims. Unfortunately, his book Twentieth Century Alchemy is nowhere to be found and there is very little information about him available online. I only know about him from a nuclear physicist friend who witnessed his experiments and could not explain them.
Sometimes a publisher will pop up that claims to have a long list of rare books but just like Kessinger, with their interesting catalog, they all but disappear. Almost none of those books could be found on Amazon, though I did find some on Abe Books.
There is of course a simple explanation for all this. Maybe Amazon is just low on stock for the holidays. That is simple, but is it a full explanation? Does it explain everything?
There was a time when I thought the internet had everything, that we lived in an age of information freedom. I am no longer sure how true that is. But, no matter what technology brings, I hope to retain enough curiosity and skepticism to look farther and deeper than what is immediately in front of me. At this point I feel like unless a video is banned from YouTube and a book banned from Amazon it is not worth watching or reading. Maybe it's not Amazon's fault though. Maybe some books are simply out of print. But why? Who controls the publishers?