Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon's disappearing act

I'm still not sure what to make of this, but so far, here are the details: Amazon.com appears to have removed many GLBT oriented books from their bestseller lists and removing their rankings. The e-mail sent to the self-published author who first noticed his missing ranking reads:
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.
Meanwhile, someone I know did send their own letter of complaint and received an automated message saying:
Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed.
There's something off on both sides of the story. On the one hand, it seems incredibly unlikely that Amazon.com would, after so many years, decide now to alienate a large reading community. And more bizarre is what has actually been done. It basically comes down to this: search for the popular "Running With Scissors" (hat tip Read Street), you sift through a number of unrelated titles (movie included) before finally reaching the book. Weirder still is the fact that "Running With Scissors" has retained its ranking, even while other GLBT oriented books have not. "Heather Has Two Mommies" strangely has no rating. And neither book is in any way officially tagged as "adult".

There's no ultimate conclusion from quick searches through Amazon's database. The LA Times' blog lists books that despite a much more "adult" approach, remain ranked even as many books are simply disappearing from the database. While this appears increasingly suspicious on Amazon's part, it seems strange that a website that sells Playboy books would suddenly decide that all GLBT oriented books (or books with a central GLBT character) are too "adult" to appear on bestseller lists. A list of the books with missing rankings can be found here.

Meanwhile, some suggest that perhaps this is all indeed a glitch that came as a result of numerous complaints and was automatically set by a group of people declaring all gay related books to "adult". It is, as of yet, entirely unclear as to what is going on. Amazon will obviously have to explain the situation better than the two-lined automated e-mails being sent around. In the meantime, angry customers refuse to use Amazon's services and will continue bombarding Amazon's help-center with e-mails, hoping that soon this bizarre mess will be rectified.

1 comment:

  1. That's ironic, considering something that happened to me a couple months ago.

    I was searching for a collection of literary essays called "Pure Pleasure." In the recommended products area, Amazon showed an extremely graphic picture of a.. an.. ahem... adult novelty item. This was pretty embarrassing as I was at work at the time. Since the book in question had nothing to do with any kind of sexual content, it would have been nice if Amazon's search criteria included subject matter, not just title.

    So I guess their prudery is only exhibited in certain scenarios. Sounds a bit fascist to me.

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