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12 April 2009 @ 07:45 pm
Amazon goes off the deep end  
Amazon's strange new policy to delist books that have "adult" content makes it impossible to look up some books under search words like "homosexuality" or "erotica" etc., and takes them out of best seller rankings as well. Pro-gay books seem to get blacklisted most often while anti-gay books are still listed.

Other links:

http://jezebel.com/5209088/why-is-amazon-removing-the-sales-rankings-from-gay-lesbian-books

Jezebel has a great list of ranked/unranked books and breakdown of all breaking news with this, including Amazon's claim of a "glitch."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/04/amazon-deranks-gayfriendly-books-the-twitterverse-notices.html?tsp=1

http://therumpus.net/2009/04/amazon-delisting-books/

The bigger the protest, the more likely they are to change this policy as it starts to sharply affect their sales. I won't pay them a penny until they abandon this practice.

This was their statement about the new policy, from Mark Probst's journal:

Many of us decided to write to Amazon questioning why our rankings had disappeared. Most received evasive replies from customer service reps not versed in what was happening. As I am a publisher and have an Amazon Advantage account through which I supply Amazon with my books, I had a special way to contact them. 24 hours later I had a response:



In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.



Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.



Best regards,



Ashlyn D

Member Services

Amazon.com Advantage


ETA: Amazon has tried this evening to say it was a glitch but the above message says otherwise quite clearly. Google Bombing has also been instituted. Try searching for "Amazon Rank" on Google or #amazonfail at Twitter.

Additional links:

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-rank/

http://ihavenoideawhatiamdoing.com/2009/04/12/amazon-delists-glbt-books-bloggers-respond-with-google-bombing-amazonfail-on-twitter/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38881834@N00/3436558792/sizes/o/

books on disability and sexuality are also removed from searches and rankings: http://lisybabe.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazonfail.html

Good idea:

Anon: Amazon.com users are using the tagging feature to mark items with 'amazonfail' and vote on affected items so people know where to find them. I've just added the books you mentioned to the list. I encourage anyone with an existing amazon.com account to go and vote on the tags, so they move up the list and more people become aware of them.

ETA2 Monday

http://www.minalhajratwala.com/blog/

In response to Amazon's efforts to fix what they call the "glitch":

But scrolling through page after page of de-ranked titles, I felt profoundly sad that all of this amazing work — the genius of our community, heartfelt stories of true experience, our deepest intellectual and emotional grapplings — had been deemed, not to mince words, obscene. Inappropriate. Wrong. Bad. Needing to be zapped out of existence.

And then, as I kept going, I noticed that the policy had… changed!

Suddenly, the books started showing up in searches again. Including mine.

But as of right now, the sales rankings are still missing. This means that titles tarred with the “Gay & Lesbian” brush can never show up in, for example, bestseller lists on Amazon — since bestsellers are defined by rankings. On a personal level it also means that a week ago, for example, I could see that my book was #22 of Biographies & Memoirs –> Ethnic, and #18 of Gay & Lesbian –> Biographies & Memoirs, and so on. Now, that information is simply gone. To me this was a narcissistic exercise; to a prospective book-buyer, the sales rankings might range from totally uninteresting to mildly influential.

In addition, the loss of categories means that you can’t get to my book from another book. If you’re looking at Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, and you click on > History > Asia > India to find similar books, you won’t find mine. Gayness, it seems, trumps all other categories; if you do manage to get to the page for my book, you won’t see any categories describing its content.

Bottom line: Gay books now have second-class citizen status on Amazon.

I’m grateful for the grassroots power of the Internet that caused Amazon to rescind the most punitive aspect of its new policy, less than twelve hours after Probst posted his blog entry.

I’m shocked by the fact that, in 2009, the mere presence of “Gay & Lesbian” content can deem a book inappropriate — not by some hick rightwing school board in Texas, but by the largest bookseller in the United States.

I’m saddened and angered by the continuing differential treatment.

And I’m firmer than ever in my support of independent bookstores, where books aren’t sold by algorithm but out of love and an unwavering commitment to authors, stories, and freedom of speech.
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