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Corporate Censorship at Powell's Books

Michael Powell the owner of Powell's Books who was also known for his union busting strategies when his minimum wage employees tried to organize themselves for better working conditions; and whose desired goal is to put out of business as many independent bookstores as possible in the Portland area, is now commencing a policy of corporate censorship.
According to some workers (these workers maintain their anonymity due to their jobs at the bookstore) at Powell's Books, Michael Powell the owner of Powell's Books who was also known for his union busting strategies when his minimum wage employees tried to organize themselves for better working conditions; and whose desired goal is to put out of business as many independent bookstores as possible in the Portland area, is now commencing a policy of corporate censorship. Recently Boss Powell sent out a directive to the stores stating that books deemed "pornographic," which includes various books of erotica and art books containing nudity, must be kept within glass cases; hence customers wishing to look at the books have to ask permission from a sales person, so that the attendant can unlock the glass case. The directive states further that those same books under glass casement, if they do not sell within a month probabationary period, Powell's Books will no longer sell them.

This directive is obviously an attack on free literary and artistic expression. What is most hypocritical about this directive is that Michael Powell proclaims himself and "his bookstore" as defenders of free expression. This directive obviously contradicts his various public statements in the past on the importance of the 1st Ammendment of the US Constitution. What should concern writers, especially those writers who hold public readings at Powell's Books, is that the owner has serious fears of being harrassed by either some powerful politician who might want to take on the role of a "moral defender," or by certain "moral watchdog" groups that might enter a court action against his bookstore. Powell's Books, for all the owners self-proclaimation on the "defense of freedom," is really a corporate enterprise: legal insurance is more important than art. Still most puzzling is the silence of the employee's union concerning this new directive aimed at censoring some authors who sell their books in his bookstore.
Maybe it's something else? 09.Aug.2002 07:51

Weaver earth

I remember years ago hearing from a now former employee that someone was visiting Powell's and regularly cutting the nudes out of books and shelving them that way. Maybe this "censorship" is a way to handle this problem?

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Theft Probably is the Problem... 09.Aug.2002 09:07

Varro

My GF worked in a library at art school, and there was a constant problem of people ripping off the covers of erotica (which had magnetic anti-theft tape on them) and making off with the innards of the book.

The problem is probably the same at Powell's; evidently some people are too greedy/lazy to order off the Net if they don't want to buy a book in person.

Its his bookstore!!! 09.Aug.2002 10:28

The Eagle

While I think Powell's behavor is thick-headed and unfair, its his bookstore. He has the right to keep books where he wants, how he wants. We can complain and protest but little more - unless we approach the people who can really effect a change.

The people who can force Powell to take action are stakeholders in the bookstore - employees and more importantly other shareholders at Powell's books. So lets be more intelligent and target our efforts at bringing them to our side.

There are alternatives! 09.Aug.2002 11:01

bookie

Hey, I know of a good bookstore that doesn't do such things and that had an excellent and eclectic book selection during the Western States Organizing Conference, which was recently at Reed College. This bookstore is called Laughing Horse Books and it really is an indedependent bookstore located on 37th and SE Division.

Right to sell what he wants? 09.Aug.2002 11:56

Jasen

Errr... ummm... Why is a business owner exercising the right to sell whatever they want and display it however they want newsworthy? If Mr. Powell chose to specialize in music books or camping books should his establishment be criticized for not stocking enough cooking books?

Ummm... and if other bookstores in the area sell the books being "censored" by Powell's, and there is demand for those books then the competing bookstores will stay in business.

Hmmm... Would the outcry be just as loud if Mr Powell chose to stock a book detailing methods for torturing people? or on white supremacy?

I suspect there are thousands of books that Powell's chooses not to sell for many reasons. Why this fixation on picking on "pornographic" material? So the owner doesn't like pictures of naked people, go buy them from your locally owned and operated B&N.


Er... 10.Aug.2002 22:33

Consumer

Does Laughing Horse Books even sell porn?