Saturday, July 08, 2006

Time to Boycott Indigo

I like Indigo. I like big book and magazine retailers. I like going into the Indigo, browsing their various offerings, and having everything in one place. It's convenient.

The same goes for Wal-Mart and Costco and, here in the U.S., Meijer's.

But, for the second time in six or so weeks, Indigo has gone ahead and censored a magazine. I just can't stand a retailer being so aggressive in determining what content is appropriate for me, and people like me. I can make my own decisions, Indigo, and I'm angry that you would take this opportunity away from me.

What did they ban this time? This time it's an issue of Free Inquiry, a secular humanist magazine catering to atheists, heathens, humanists, agnostics, and other non-religious folk. The reason? They haven't given a clear one yet, so we don't know, and that's part of what makes me so angry. If you are going to ban the sale of a magazine, you had better have a good story to tell. A good explanation. You shouldn't just ban something, and fail to alert your PR department, or news spokespeople why you are taking something off the shelves.

There is speculation about why, however. The first possible reasons is that Free Inquiry published four of the Danish cartoons in their April-May issue, and the ban on the June-July issue reflects Indigo's displeasure with having missed this fact in their craze to keep Danish cartoons off of their shelves. The second is an editorial by none other than philosopher Peter Singer in the current issue entitled "The Freedom to Ridicule Religion--and Deny the Holocaust." That editorial argues what the title implies.

The last time they banned a magazine was that issue of the Western Standard that published the Danish cartoons that sparked serious trouble in other parts of the world. I disagreed with that decision too. I had plenty to say about why publishing those cartoons was appropriate, and why news outlets in Canada made an error in news judgment in not publishing the cartoons.

I should make a few things plain. First, I don't mind that stores are legally permitted to determine what goes on their shelves. In fact, I think this is a good thing. So I'm not disputing Indigo's "right" to ban just whatever they'd like. Books with the colour purple on the cover, children's books, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and so on.

What I'm disputing is their decision in this case, and in cases similar to it. The response on my part, to show Indigo my displeasure, is to stop shopping at their stores. And to urge you, too, to just say no to Indigo.

Second, I don't dispute the banning or censoring, on the part of sellers, of certain materials that fall well outside of certain boundaries. In referring to the law (a separate issue), Peter Singer makes the following point (this is in that editorial in the Free Inquiry):
"Laws against incitement to racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, in circumstances where that incitement is intended to, or can reasonably be foreseen to, lead to violence or other criminal acts, are different, and are compatible with the freedom to express any views at all."

Third, I believe that a retailer with sufficient clout in a market has additional moral responsibilities. As it stands, Indigo is a giant. Supposing there were no other bookstores around, this bookstore's decision to censor would be as good as (as bad as) full legal censorship. It would amount to the same thing--the rest of us not getting access to a publication--even if the reasons for why this is bad would differ in the case of government versus private enterprise.

Indigo, of course, is not the only bookstore. There are others. But given Indigo's clout, they are, for very many of us, the sole, or a rare, venue for books. For this reason, I think they should feel additional pressure to be non-censorial. Pressure from customers (or, as in my case, former customers).

7 Comments:

Blogger SouthernTory said...

Forget about it Pete. I wouldn't want to read that junk, so they should censor it. Boycott? It's just a coincidence but I just ordered a book from them on Friday.

11:48 p.m.  
Anonymous RobC said...

Well southern tory I guess that closes this subject. I "YOU" don't want to read it I guess nobody should be allowed to either.

1:05 a.m.  
Blogger P. M. Jaworski said...

And that's part of my point, Robc: Indigo is so big, that their decision not to put some magazine in their stores means very many of us won't have an option. Which is what bothers me. I wouldn't think it such a big deal if Joe's Book Emporium, a store serving 50 customers, were to make this decision. But Indigo has added responsibility, and I just don't think it wise of the rest of us to let them get away with making decisions like this.

Southerntory: cool, you don't like the magazines, no problem. Support Indigo. Go shop there. Make a special effort to, to let them know you especially like them doing what they're doing. That's your business. But I've got my own business, and my own thoughts on this. I think it's terrible. So I'll boycott. You can double-shop. Maybe we'll cancel each other out...

(As an interesting sidenote, I took out a subscription to Free Inquiry magazine on account of the censoring. I hope it boosts their magazine sales in Canada).

3:53 a.m.  
Anonymous RobC said...

At one point I used to spend around a thousand $ a year there. I was informed one day the indago and chapters would no longer carry shooting books (Guns&Amo etc). I have not set foot in one of their stores since.

7:52 p.m.  
Blogger mostlyfree said...

I've been avoiding Chapters/Indigo like the plague more and more since Indigo acquired Chapters... mostly because Chapters is now a great place to get yoga mats, beach towels, birthday cards and CDs, but might not be such a hot place if you're looking for a specific book.

This is just one more reason to stick to Amazon for me.

11:16 p.m.  
Blogger Michael Cust said...

Call me old fashion, but when buying books at either Amazon.ca and Chapters, I go with whoever is cheaper.

11:17 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've actually made a conscious effort not to buy at Indigo/Chapters/Coles for the exact same reason.

The actual stores have a poor selection anyway unless you're into knick knacks.

Amazon is the way to go. They have everything.

8:03 p.m.  

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