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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

bkwyrm
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
The books and authors are not searchable from the main page. Most people use the main page to search. If searching "all departments" on the main page returns no results, why would someone think that searching the "Books" department would give a different result? It doesn't make any sense - unless Amazon really wants to make certain books on certain topics hard to find.
Amazon.com markets itself as "the world's biggest bookstore." They're used by many people as a sort of poor man's books in print - if a book isn't on Amazon, it's questionable as to whether or not it exists. They carry everything from baby board books to hard-core BDSM porn, so no, I don't buy the argument that there's books they don't carry. Sure, it's their right to decide what they do and don't sell, but they can't expect to change from "we carry everything" to "we carry everything except you can't search for some things because some people find those things icky" without it being noted - and pissing people off.
It's not Amazon's job to decide what my kids should and shouldn't see - and if they decide to start filtering search results based on book content and topic, they should state this fact and make it possible to opt out, the way Google does with "safe search."
If you're going to claim that this is done to protect minors, you're going to have to make a pretty good argument on why this is a topic that universally inappropriate for minors to even see mentioned. A difficult argument to make, especially when many people have a much bigger problem with their kids seeing books about dogfighting than looking at the cover of a book about homophobia.
The fact is that it's MY job to decide what is appropriate for my kids to see. Not Amazon's. And if they decide to take that job over from me, they'd damn well better check with me first.




davenatts
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Haha, it's not their job? I agree, but unfortunately most of society wouldn't. We are told time and time again that companies do have a social responsibility.

Things Amazon won't sell - just a few examples: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/4611161/Rapelay-virtual-rape-game-banned-by-Amazon.html
http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2008/11/why-amazon-banned-hoffmans-book-on-judaism.html

I think an unmoderated search would be a great idea and compromise - maybe *that* is what you should be campaigning for.
redshira
Apr. 13th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
And the only reason Amazon won't sell that game any more is because a journalist made a big fuss about it so Amazon had no choice but to pull it if they wanted to avoid a huge shitstorm. Your example is invalid and you keep evading the point.
davenatts
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
Who said the same thing hasn't happened here?

It was one of two examples and I'm not evading any points!
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.
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!
Re: You really need to open your eyes... - missbehavior - Apr. 14th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)

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