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Amazon Japan Pulls Dr. Stone Science Consultant’s Book After Prefecture Designates It as ‘Harmful’

In February, Amazon Japan delisted two books in Yakuri Kyо̄shitsu’s Arienai Rika (Impossible Science) non-fiction series. Yakuri Kyо̄shitsu is a writer’s group of science writers; they are notable for acting as consultants for the Dr. Stone manga series from volume 10 onward. The series is well-regarded by the science fiction community, having won the 49th Seiun Award in the non-fiction category. Publisher Sansai Books’ 2022 catalogue was also removed in the purge.

Amazon Japan Pulls Dr. Stone Science Consultant's Book After Prefecture Designates It as 'Harmful'

The reason for the books’ removal? In response to Sansai Books’ query, Amazon Japan responded that the book was deemed “harmful to youths” according to Tottori Prefecture law. Amazon Japan therefore suspended all sales in order to prevent the book from being mail-ordered to Tottori.

When Sansai Books asked Amazon Japan to relist the books, Amazon Japan responded that it would only be possible if they filed them as adult (18+) books. The publisher disagreed that the books contained adult content, and the two sides were unable to reach a compromise. The books, including the e-book versions, are still unavailable via Amazon.

Sansai Books then contacted the Tottori prefectural government to inquire which part of the books were deemed “harmful” but only received a one-page summary of Tottori’s Youth Healthy Development Ordinance review conference in response. In later communications, the contact claimed that the decision was based on the “overall content” of the books, rather than specific sections.

Typically, “harmful publication” designations can only apply within the municipality, and therefore cannot extend to sales outside the prefecture. However, in October 2021 Tottori Prefecture revised its Youth Healthy Development Ordinance in the wake of the 2020 crossbow murder case in Hyogo Prefecture. This allowed the local government to forbid online sales of bladed toys and harmful literature to youths living within the prefecture.

In the past, works targeted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Youth Healthy Development Ordinance have been blocked from online sales in a way that affects their distribution across the entire country, but it is unusual for local laws in other prefectures to have such wide-reaching consequences. In an article last week recapping the saga so far, Sansai Books criticized the Tottori prefectural government’s lack of transparency and argued that the abuse of governmental powers has troubling implications for freedom of expression.

Sansai Books is still selling the publications through its own online store, but regrets the Amazon delistings, noting that “90%” of its sales are through the platform.

The Arienai Igaku Jiten and Arienai Kо̄saku Jiten books provide accessible instructions on creating “bombastic” inventions, such as medicines, electronics, and detonators, using commonly sold materials. The publisher stresses that the books do not endorse pseudoscience (and contain sections criticizing it) or any adult material.

Arienai Kо̄saku Jiten cover via Sansai Books

Source: Sansai Books via Nijimen

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