"House of Bush," not for sale

Amazon.co.uk, the British version of Amazon.com, is refusing to stock Craig Unger's bestselling book about connections between George Bush's circle and rich Saudis. But why?

Published July 30, 2004 1:50PM (EDT)

Amazon.co.uk was last night criticised for refusing to stock a controversial book which examines the links between George Bush's circle and rich Saudis.

Major bookstores including Waterstone's and WH Smith are carrying "House of Bush, House of Saud," which was published in Britain yesterday after becoming a bestseller in the US.

But the book's publisher, Martin Rynja, expressed concern and bemusement that the work by Craig Unger, which inspired some of the more sensational allegations in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11," will not be available on the British version of Amazon, the online bookshop.

Mr Rynja, of Gibson Square Books, said: "I can only presume Amazon fears it will be sued, but the book will be available in stores across the country. Amazon is clearly not made of very stern stuff."

He added: "This is an important book which has created a lot of debate in the US -- it has done just what a book is supposed to do. I think booksellers have a duty to disseminate information. Amazon is withdrawing from that responsibility."

Mr Rynja said brief details about the book did appear on Amazon.co.uk earlier this month after the site automatically picked them up from a master database.

But after he contacted Amazon to try to update the details, references began to disappear from the site. "It was very disconcerting," he said.

This is the latest twist in the saga of the book's British publication. A subsidiary of Random House had originally planned to publish it but pulled out amid fears it could be sued for libel, and the independent publisher Gibson Square stepped in.

Another curious feature of the case is that "House of Bush, House of Saud" is available via Amazon.com, the US site of the internet bookshop.

Reviews carried on the US website describe the book as "exceptional", "incisive" and "required reading." One enthusiast said: "Read this and vote accordingly."

In theory if someone in Britain buys the book from the American site the company still could be taken to court in Britain, because a litigant could argue that it had effectively sold the book in the UK.

This is not the first time that Amazon.co.uk has refused to stock a book deemed controversial.

Last year the site stopped selling "Telling Lies About Hitler," an account of David Irving's libel battle.

A spokeswoman for Amazon.co.uk refused to explain why the site would not stock "House of Bush, House of Saud," saying only: "Due to legal reasons,we are currently not listing this title."

"House of Bush, House of Saud" focuses in part on alleged business links between people close to George Bush and the families of a Jeddah-based Saudi billionaire and other rich Saudis. The billionaire has issued a number of libel writs in the UK.

The author, Unger, has said his book explores issues beyond the "comfort zone" of the mainstream American media.

By Steven Morris

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