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Amazon Follies

On Amazon.com two days ago, mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: “Transgressions” by Erastes and “False Colors” by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book “The Filly.” There was buzz, What’s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books? Is it just a major glitch in the system? 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

 

Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be “adult” material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of “adult” literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.

Now in fairness I should point out that Amazon has also stopped ranking many books in the "erotica" categories as well which includes straight erotica. But that's a whole other battle that I'll leave to the erotica writers to take on.

 

Now I could probably convince the automatons at Amazon that The Filly is YA and therefore not “adult” in the least, and I could probably even convince them to reinstate my ranking.  But if they are excluding books just on the basis of being “gay” then by all means exclude mine too because I don’t want them just to reinstate the “nice” gay books, they need to reinstate all the gay books and if they are really going to try and exclude so-called “adult” material, then how come this has an Amazon ranking?

 

Here is a screencap of the case log from Amazon. Keep clicking on the image to make it bigger

************For everyone who has commented on my blog - Thank you very much. and everyone who has asked if they can use my name and link back to me. YES please do. Spread the word. Amazon will be beside itself in the face of all this fury!

*******UPDATE**************
Publisher's Weekly now has a story here, that an Amazon spokesperson claims this is all a glitch and they have no such new policy.  My caselog is still active in my Advantage account with the response from customer service rep Ashlyn D. Also I'd like to point you to this blog of an author who received this same response from Amazon back in February. Amazon has some 'splainin' to do!

***********UPDATE #2******************
As of 8 AM this morning (April 13th) The Filly has had its ranking reinstated by Amazon.  I also noticed Alex Beecroft's False Colors was reinstated as well.  Many others are not, so they haven't fixed the "so-called" glitch as of yet.

*******FINAL UPDATE******************
Amazon has released a statement of apology stating that it was  an "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error" that pertained to 57,310 listings.  They also say that It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles.  So it's over.  Amazon admits they goofed, and I, for one, shall give them the benefit of the doubt and say I do not believe that there was any malicious intent. Case closed.

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Comments

kissmyassterisk
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I don't think you can say that. I know some parents who would not let their children search on any website on their own, and some who have no internet access for their children to use. That is a choice I dislike, but it is theirs to make as it does not endanger their childrens' lives.

Additionally, what about LGBTQIPA children and youth, or any questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity? Don't they have a right to quickly and easily find resources online? Who gets to decide that they can't read Heather Has Two Mommies, if they want to? You don't and Amazon doesn't.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I'm not a parent, but if I were, I'd also restrict the sites that I'd let my children access, and I can't think of any reason to let them go to Amazon until they have their own credit card or money to spend.

If people want to question their sexual orientation or gender identity, would they really be doing it on the Amazon home page?!

Amazon isn't deciding they can't read that book, they've just decided they don't want to promote it in their main site search. Massive difference.
kissmyassterisk
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
If people want to question their sexual orientation or gender identity, would they really be doing it on the Amazon home page?!

If that were the only place they could find resources, you bet that's where they'd go. in fact, I will expand my earlier description. Not only questioning children and youth, but also questioning adults might use Amazon to access books that might connect them with community, resources, information, etc. How is that your business or Amazon's?

Amazon isn't deciding they can't read that book, they've just decided they don't want to promote it in their main site search.

Promote but nothing! This is not them not promoting these books, this is them not allowing these books at all. Not the same thing.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
If people are using Amazon to do ANYTHING, then of course that it is Amazon's business.

No, those books are still on sale. Still findable if you search by specific product type (i.e. books). They've not taken anything off sale.
kissmyassterisk
Apr. 13th, 2009 08:29 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
If people are using Amazon to do ANYTHING, then of course that it is Amazon's business.

I will concede that it is Amazon's business to a certain extent, but arbitrary or obtuse rules excluding one group make it harder for me to believe they aren't abusing their customers.

No, those books are still on sale. Still findable if you search by specific product type (i.e. books). They've not taken anything off sale.

But they have hidden them. People unfamiliar with Amazon may not think to make a more specific search. Amazon will lose their business, because these people will spend that money elsewhere, at Borders or Barnes & Noble or even at friendlier small/local businesses/book shops.

Additionally, if they had given one cohesive reason for the change that was logical and reasonable, this would not have become the big issue that it has. they have been evasive and contradictory, and this leads me again to the conclusion that they are abusing the trust placed in them by the people who shop there. No, they are not burning books, but they may as well have for all the access they are allowing people. They are destroying the livelihoods of smaller specialized publishing companies and unestablished others, and it is wrong.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I'm sure if Amazon believed they would lose sales overall (you have to trade off the minority of people who buy them vs. the people who might be offended about seeing them in a a site-wide search), they wouldn't be doing it.

Evasive? No, they've issued a statement.

Contradictory? Kind of, but it's their prerogative.

Abusing trust placed in them? The only trust a customer can place in Amazon is that when they order something, it actually turns up.

Destroying livelihoods? What rubbish. THEY'RE STILL SELLING THE BOOKS.

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