Chapters responds

Way back in August, I wrote here about how Chapters censors the Internet at their in-store public access terminals. I sent a letter to Heather Reisman, their Chief Executive Officer.

Today I received her response, through her President, Retail, Michael Gagnier. You can read the letter (35KB PDF); the most interesting sentence is:

We feel that there is a difference between Internet access and access to books, in that a computer monitor is an open forum where children can easily see what is on-screen, as opposed to books, where items inappropriate for children are between the books covers.
Is it just me, or does this seem insane?

My situation — not being able to read Doc Searls’ weblog because it had the word shit in it — is proof positive that these silly filtering schemes don’t work. They don’t protect children from anything (whatever that means).

I thought bookstores were supposed to support the idea that the free and unfettered flow of information in any form is a Good Thing.

I have a child. What lesson do I want him to learn from this? Certainly not that it’s okay for large corporations to decide what’s appropriate for him to read and what’s not. I’d far rather have him catch a view of a couple of errant penises — which I can explain to him — than to give up his — and everyone’s — fundamental right to freedom of information.


steve rukavina's picture
steve rukavina on October 16, 2001 - 23:07 Permalink

I have never read a letter so full of shit in my life.

Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on October 17, 2001 - 00:57 Permalink

I can remember the carefree days of my youth spent in bookstores, libraries etc. trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of the word ‘shit’ splashed across the open forum of a computer screen. Damn those books and their covers!

Jevon Macdonald's picture
Jevon Macdonald on October 17, 2001 - 15:49 Permalink

It could be said that these systems do in fact keep Children away from certain bad things. Although, as we all know, most web filtering systems will block some fine sites at the same time.

Kindof like a bomb dropping on a neighborhood. We just write it off as the cost of doing that kindof buisness…?

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on October 17, 2001 - 17:06 Permalink

I don’t know guys. If it were a public library, then I think you’d have a case. I know how poorly filtering software can work, but I have to sympathize with the Chapters management here. If I were in there shoes I would be much more worried about my $5/hour workers having to deal with jackass teenagers (you know how teenagers can be, right?) putting porn in the Favourites menu than I would be about the freedom of information of my customers.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 17, 2001 - 17:13 Permalink

There’s nothing to prevent Chapters from acting like this, of course. Stephen Garrity is correct that it’s probably simply a business decision: it’s easier to try and filter (and at least thus have the “we tried to filter” excuse) than to have to deal with parents who are afraid of their children catching something by being exposes to “controversial” images or ideas. Of course I’m free to make an equal and opposite business decision, which is not to shop at Chapters. I do, I think, have a responsibility to inform them that I think their decision was a bad one. Which I did. End result: lots more business for The Bookmark here in Charlottetown.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on October 17, 2001 - 17:48 Permalink

Fair enough Peter. But can I browse porn at The Bookmark? ;-)

Alan McLeod's picture
Alan McLeod on October 18, 2001 - 16:06 Permalink

Peter, at one level I am with you but at another I am agin ya [- so this is news?] You are a booster of the swell local business person who provides pleasing service and a quality product. I am considering your insurance posting above as a very good example of that and who can argue? I will probably call up Craig W. and ask him for quotes. [Not so fast, Craig, I am very lazy about change.] There are, however, plenty of examples of seemingly upstanding local business persons who do not follow employment standards, default on creditors while slipping assets into a family trust or tell you when you want a specific product (as I have been in PEI with a soy milk and five counties cheese) that the product is no longer made even thoughthis is a blantant, thin lie. I have been even told by an established PEI shop that a kegging process I described for homebrew was a creation of my fantasy and could not exist. I have one now bought in Halifax. These experiences are usually accompanied by a look that is the look whoever wrote that message to you from Indigo/Chapter had on his or her mug. For me, I want to treat the big box and the little box the same. I do not expect that either will tell me the truth or treat me as a friend when I am dealing with them on a customer matter — I expect them to deal with me in a service oriented manner but really I want them just to bust their arse to get me the thing I want. I am extremely loyal to the Store in South Rustico which has the best arse-busting service of any kind any where in any field. [If each of you reading this go get a tank of gas there you will see.] You are right that the answer from Indigo/Chapters was stupid but in the dance to get ones business a lot of foolishness can be said. I still think I will get the odd book — which is usually the one I want — more likely, more quickly and more cheaply through the big box — that has been my experience to date. Lately, I have fashioned my interests to avoid big and little boxes by using one of the most successful applications of e-commerce — direct selling from other individuals. I have bought first editions of children’s books, weird flags, lps of obscure bands, old salt and pepper shakers from my mother’s home town in Scotland for her birthday. I suppose, it is the degree to which the object of my consumer desire is rarified that I involve myself in consideration of the concurrent level of service. The old Fader’s drug store on Coburg Road in Halifax had a staff member so foul she was nicknamed “Ilsa the She-wolf” — her magnificently crap attitutude was enough to get my Saturday newspaper money. For me service is always second to the thing I want, unless there is entertainment/pleasure value in the service itself. You get pleasure through your letter to corporations efforts. That is fine and should even be fun. But they will not change for you and may still offer better things in a crappier way.