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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

ansatecross
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
You're free to be bored. None of this affects you. You've said you're straight, and English, and so presumably these aren't the sorts of books you'd buy, and you'd be buying them from amazon.co.uk. What happens here has no impact on you. On the other hand, for those of us within the community, and within the United States, it matters a great deal. And for your part, when you say something inflammatory and willfully ignorant, you should expect the cascade of negative responses you've gotten. Indeed, Amazon does have the right to do whatever they like with their sites, just as white business owners did in the South here in the States. The back of the bus went to the same destination as the front of the bus; the colored fountains dispensed the same water as the white fountains; but we in America decided that the mere practice of treating someone different based on some arbitrary feature, no matter who may object or how strenuously, is discrimination and wrong. Amazon's practices are discriminatory and wrong. And just as people have spoken out against discrimination of all sorts, to varying degrees of success, and varying degrees of consternation to John Q Public, we will speak out against this. There will be those who help, and there will be those, such as yourself, who hinder by saying "Oh, no, it's fine! Everybody likes it that way!" Clearly, that's not the case. Amazon's arguments have been specious at best. We have to guess at their motives, but what we can clearly see is a pattern of discrimination against the LGBT community, as evidenced by the obscuring of content relative to that community for no other reason than it represents that community. It's not a matter of prurience; otherwise the Playboy and porn star and general erotic content would be equally hidden, and non-sexual LGBT content would not. The reasons they give for blocking the content are vague and contradictory at best. So we are doing as you suggest. We are protesting and making our voices heard. You are a typical reaction: "Oh, grow up! What's the problem here? Everything's fine!"; and you don't even see it. And *that* is precisely why it is a problem. They have made it virtually impossible for anyone to find LGBT content whether they desire it or not. Even by your own logic it doesn't make sense: why be able to find an item on a site using a specific search that doesn't come up in a general search? If you're doing a search on "Mark Probst" there's no reason not to expect him to surface in a search on "authors" rather than "authors whose names begin with P." Most people, not having success with a broad search in a bookstore, won't bother making a specific search. If I call my local bookstore and ask, "Do you have any books by So-and-so?" and they tell me no, I won't go there anyway to look for myself in case they were wrong. I'll just go on to the next thing. Maybe you wouldn't; I don't know. But most people would do the same thing I do. And the sales of those books they have hidden under the counter "available" for sale to anyone persistent enough to stumble across them will be far lower than those, not displayed in a virtual window---that would be the equivalent of the "featured items"---but put on the same shelves as every other book in the store. This action by Amazon hurts consumers, it hurts authors, it hurts publishers, and it helps no one but---well, no one, actually. Now, none of this will convince you. For you, this argument ends with Amazon being within their right to do what they've done. But many, many people have done awful things that were within their right that did not serve people as a whole. People like you make that possible, by their insistence that things are fine, by apologising and rationalising for those doing harm. I sincerely hope you're right, that this is all a big misunderstanding and in a few days or weeks all will be well. But turn to any minority you see and ask him how long he's been waiting for other people to make his world all right. Ask him how long he's been waiting for things to be well. It just doesn't happen on its own. This is how it starts.
davenatts
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Dear oh dear.

Please, take a deep breath, and read this: http://blog.seattlepi.com/amazon/archives/166329.asp

LGBT content was not deliberately taken out of the site-wide search. In fact, 57,310 books were filtered out, on a wide variety of topics. It was a mistake, and apparently they're all back in now.

You all got the wrong end of stick, not at all helped by someone at Amazon customer services who put out the wrong statement.

Move along please.

P.S. It's irrelevant where I'm from, what my skin colour is or my sexuality. I would have thought you'd realise that!
ansatecross
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Actually, where you're from, your skin colour and your sexuality are exactly the point. When you're in the majority, everything's roses. Everything runs your way. When they don't, you say a word, and it changes. That's privilege. That's a status we in the LGBT community don't have. We've fought for what we have, and frequently have it taken away anyway...witness California, as you mentioned earlier. So I'm pleased that it was just a mistake. I'm skeptical that it really was, or was caused by a single man with a single stroke as the article you suggested seems to suggest. I'm dubious that any supervisor would allow an employee of his to issue a statement as inflammatory (and, if all else is true, just dead wrong) as the one the OP received when he asked a direct and specific question. CYA would seem to be the letters of the day. And oh...what's with the rude dismissal? If you don't want to have this discussion, stop having it.
davenatts
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
I dismissed you as you put it because you want on a long rant about things that just aren't relevant.

OK, I'm gladly stopping now. Though please, next time, don't be so quick to start a hate campaign against Amazon just because they made a mistake, without giving the chance for the truth to surface.
ansatecross
Apr. 14th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Irrelevant in what way? To point out how censorship and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender presentation is like any other type, such as racial discrimination; and how those who don't have to deal with it, such as those in countries largely unaffected by the present problem or whose sexual orientation and gender presentation align with the mainstream, generally assume that, since there is no problem to them, there is no problem to anyone? That sort of irrelevance? QED. Okay. Go.
davenatts
Apr. 14th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
But it wasn't censorship or prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender presentation. Amazon never ever claimed it was. They only ever said 'adult' material was at issue, and it now transpires that wasn't true and it was in fact a wide variety of topics that had been affected. See Mark's 'final update' above!

It was other people's assumption that the material being of GLBT nature was why it had been taken out of the site-wide search and sales rank. They were wrong!

Gone.

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