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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

redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Look, if you honestly can't see how there's blatant homophobia going on here, I don't know who can explain it to you in a way that will get you to see it.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I don't think anyone at Amazon is homophobic, they are just acting in what they perceive to be the best interests of their business - i.e. making money and continuing to exist and make money in the future.
redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
In which case, given how much outrage this has stirred up, they should soon be reversing this decision. Huge numbers of their customers are deciding they don't want to give money to a company who effectively announced that they would rather pander to bigots than accept business from LGBT people and their allies.

I still don't buy it as purely a business decision, though. As far as I'm concerned it's blatant homophobia and no matter what they do I will never buy from Amazon again, even though that will probably result in my having to pay more when I want to buy stuff that I would have got from them.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:39 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Maybe... I've only seen this post so far. Have the media picked up on yet? Have Amazon had a chance to respond?

Huge numbers deciding to boycott Amazon? Do you have any actual evidence of that?

No matter what they do you will never buy there again? Really? Even if they admit it was a massive mistake?
redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
So far, I've seen it all over LJ, all over Twitter, and on a lot of blogs, and I only heard of it yesterday (I don't know where you are but it's now Monday here). The Associated Press have picked up on it, along with the LA Times and a lot of other news websites. Amazon have indeed responded, saying it's "a glitch" and that more information will be available tomorrow. My husband actually worked on the relevant software for Amazon and he says they're lying, and that such a "glitch" acting in such a way is not possible.

No, I don't have any evidence of huge numbers deciding to boycott Amazon, but one can extrapolate, yes? I've read at least a hundred people saying they're not going to buy from Amazon any more - some have even cancelled current orders, and that's just in the last few hours, on the journals that I read regularly. If you imagine that level of response on a much larger scale - ie, everyone who's heard about this so far, whatever that number might be - I'd say it's pretty likely that Amazon will be losing a huge number of customers over this.

No, I will never buy from Amazon again. It is not a mistake and I don't believe their claims of a "glitch".
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
All over? I bet not. It's now Monday here (the UK) where I am.

What 'relevant software' are Amazon using, out of interest? You've been a bit vague about that. Does he know for sure?

I doubt Amazon will lose even 0.1% of its customers, especially if they're putting it down to a glitch. If it's corrected then virtually nobody will care.
redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 05:08 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Well if you're going to be bloody pedantic then you can make up whatever definition you like about what "all over" means, but I mean multiple references and links on my friendspages and seeing many people asking if they can link to posts about it, so it's being propagated. ohnotheydidnt has two posts about it, the first of which has currently got nearly 1400 comments and the second - regarding the backpedalling and supposed "glitch" - has about 250. The overall mood there is not one of support for Amazon, to put it mildly.

I have been vague because I'm not a programmer and I don't know. I am extremely irritated at your constant nitpicking and insinuations that I'm making shit up. I could ask my husband for more details when he's awake, if you like, but knowing the nature of explanations from software engineers it'll be long and involved and ultimately leave you none the wiser unless that's your field as well, and yes he does know for sure. He doesn't make definite statements without being sure.

Virtually no one will care - yeah, right, except all the LGBT and LGBT-ally customers who have a big problem with the idea of giving business to a company who've made it clear that such customers are not valued and not wanted.

Right, it's gone 6am, and I am going to bed. If you have any more nit-picking and bigotry-defending to do, I'm afraid it'll have to wait.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I'm not insinuating anything - just was curious as a web developer myself what data your partner thinks they might have been using. Calm down!

I'm sorry but I bet not even 5% of LGBTs will have even heard about this, and the vast majority never will if things don't go any further. It already seems like Amazon are trying to put it right, and sure, the overall mood is negative because only those who disapprove strongly will bother to say anything.

This is not bigotry, by the way - Amazon are perfectly tolerant as the ARE STILL SELLING ALL THE BOOKS. They're not in any way saying LGBT customers are not wanted, or else they would have taken them all off the site completely.

I am merely defending common (business) sense, and Amazon's right to run their store however they want to.
redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
what data your partner thinks they might have been using.

My husband says "It's pretty unprofessional to go describing a company's internal systems in public. It's not commercially available software so describing it won't be of use to you. It's not Drupal, PHP, Mambo or anything else you're likely to have worked with. The answer to 'what relevant software are Amazon using' is 'stuff that you've never heard of and never will unless you go to work for them, and which it is not appropriate to discuss on a public forum or indeed any forum'." I did try to get him to give me more details in order to forestall any accusations of evasiveness, but he insists that firstly, he won't discuss confidential details like that and secondly, even if he wanted to, he couldn't explain it in any way that would make any sense to anyone who hadn't worked on it.

I am pretty sure that you know that telling someone to calm down is also very irritating and guaranteed to have the opposite effect.
I have no idea how many LGBTs (of whom I am one, despite being married to a man) and their allies will have heard of this, but as my husband has pointed out, even if Amazon lose "only" 0.1% of their customers, that's still a pretty significant number.

Amazon are NOT perfectly tolerant because they have made it much MUCH harder to buy those books, and what they've done is the equivalent of hiding the books in the back room in a physical shop - only those who know the books exist and specifically want to buy them will be able to. Targeting LGBT books specifically, and branding as "adult" books which actually contain no adult material whatsoever, while other, non-LGBT books which contain explicitly sexual material have not been affected, IS blatant homophobia no matter how you dress it up. What you are defending is the indefensible and frankly unnecessary. We're clearly not going to agree on this because reading your comments to other people, you're being deliberately obtuse.

You claim that they're perfectly tolerant because they're still (technically) selling the books. Would you claim that a physical bookstore is still perfectly tolerant if they brought in a new policy of only serving LGBT customers if they enter the store by a different entrance, browse for books in a separate room and do without any advice or directions from sales assistants?

Amazon do indeed have the right to run their store however they want to. If that means alienating their LGBT and LGBT-ally customers, that is of course up to them. This does not, however, make it right.
sharon_masters
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Well you lost that bet. It's been 36 hours since this hit the 'net' of California, and 100% of the GLBT community here in the San Francisco area are pretty much up in arms over this issue. Turns out while you were defending Amazon, they were warned of this alleged glitch several MONTHS ago and ignored the gay authors at that time. They have since given out several conflicting statements and are backpedaling over their statements.
What i found most interesting is that you argued as if you were protecting and defending Amazon as a personal issue, rather than just a general post wondering about what MIGHT have been possible at Amazon under the "glitch".
You have consistently been unable to grasp the logic that 'separate but equal' is neither, and that GLBT books of any kind being pulled from ANY search engine without notice, without serious reason being given, and without differentiating between books of a sexual nature that might be offensive due to SEX vs. books that are only ABOUT being GLBT makes this an OBVIOUS censorship issue, abeit a sneaky one by just making it impossible for the average shopper to find anything from the GBLT writers without having to take extraordinary measures to find those items.
But i also suspect that you are probably a touch Aspergers, and as such, have been unable to see any viewpoint but your own in a while and spend a great deal of time defending what, to you, are absolutely fine statements and stauch opinions that never change under any kind of onslaught no matter how obvious the proofs brought to your attention. If that's the case, i do understand, as i know a few Aspies and most of them are always under the misconception that they know what's right even when they are patently wrong.

i am sorry for the other posters that felt a need to engage with you-- it has been a long time documented fact that anyone on the net that cannot grasp the obvious should not be jousted with repeatedly.

Do carry on!
davenatts
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
100%?! It's just not possible that every single person in your community already knows about it. Stop making stuff up.

For the last time, Amazon can do whatever they like. Call them censors if you like, though if they intended to make any kind of impact they would have just removed all the books from sale altogether.

Anyway, in case you've not heard, it was in fact a big mistake, and in no way was a homophobic thing, because in fact 57,310 books were taken out of the site-wide search, most of which weren't LGBT-themed at all.

http://blog.seattlepi.com/amazon/archives/166329.asp

The books are already back on the site, so you can stop now. And please, no need to label me with some kind of mental condition when you know nothing about me. Especially when it's incredibly hypocritical when you folks have all jumped to the conclusion that Amazon had taken a big stance on GLBT-related books when in fact it was just a mistake, and my attempts to get you to be fair about it all were ignored.

We can all move along now. Nothing to see.
kathrynt
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
CNET.com has the story; so do blog sites from jezebel.com to freerepublic.com. Google "amazonfail" and see what you get. Amazon has issued a stammering reply that it was a horrible programming glitch and completely unintentional, which directly contradicts the reply that markprobst got earlier.
missbehavior
Apr. 13th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
You really need to open your eyes...
Since mid-day Sunday this petition has had 3671 signatures (3672 when I finish my well-worded and scathing opinion of what I think of them telling me what is adult content or not).

Sure it's not a million people, but give it time.

Also, I sure as hell know that I will never purchase anything from Amazon ever again and I will be telling all of my family and friends about this. I already know that my parents will not be making another purchase either.
erastes
Apr. 13th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
Re: You really need to open your eyes...
nearly 10,000 now!
missbehavior
Apr. 14th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: You really need to open your eyes...
23,000+, and no comment from the OP...

...but I suppose that's not considered "actual" evidence of a huge Amazon boycott.

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