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Amazon Rank

Amazon Rank

UPDATE: Just in case Amazon argues that this was a technical glitch, consider these facts: (Oh, and here is Amazon saying that it is a glitch). Also, see why I think that Amazon is deranking based on category metadata provided by publishers.

1. Craig Seymour first complained about his book being adversely treated by Amazon back in February.

2. Mark Probst got a response two days ago that his book was being adversely treated by Amazon because it was deemed “adult content.”

3. If you search “homosexual” on Amazon.com, your first search result is “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.” This is because other books with the term homosexual have had their sales rank stripped.   The previous algorithm is supposed to show the top selling books in the search result.   If the book has no sales rank then it won’t appear in the search results.   Or, as a better example:

But the fact that Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi’s A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality is still ranked when Heather Has Two Mommies isn’t, says it all.

4. If you write exclusively books with erotic content (or content tagged erotic regardless of actual content), you may not exist in a front page search. See screen cap here (Lucinda Betts) and here (Jackie Barbosa) and here (Amie Stuart).

What’s going on?

For those who don’t know, Amazon has decided to derank and then remove from front page searches books labeled “erotic” and GLBT. For example, books that are about Lesbian parenting have been identified as “adult content” and deranked. Patti O’Shea’s book that is listed “erotic horror” despite having only one sex scene has been deranked and removed from front page search results. Amazon has deranked Annie Proulx, E.M. Forster, but not American Psycho. Mein Kampf and books about dog fighting are ranked and can be searched from the front page, but not books about gay love or books with erotic content.

You can track more of the deranked books on twitter.

Why is this is a big deal?

It’s not because customers put any stock into the Amazon Ranking number. It’s that the Amazon Rank affects a books’ visibility on the bestseller list, on the “If you Like ___, you might like __ feature” and so forth. It is akin to the bookstore removing the books from the shelves and requiring you to go to the Customer Service desk and ask for the book or author specifically. Visibility is a huge factor in sales and anyone who doesn’t believe that is kidding themselves.

WHAT TO DO?

Amazon executive customer service email is: ecr@amazon.com and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575. I’ve called and sent emails. (I even called the cell phone of an Amazon PR person). There is also a petition. The louder the noise you can make collectively, the more likely action will be taken. You can use Robin’s template:

Dear Amazon,

It has come to my attention that you are de-ranking books, supposedly on the basis of "adult content." Apparently, according to the Amazon Dictionary, this is defined as books that have anything at all to do with GLBT characters, authors, issues, or references, with some general erotica being roped in, as well. In the meantime, however, books on the illegal, inhumane, and horrifyingly violent sport of dog fighting remain ranked and appear on a first page search under "dog fighting": http://bit.ly/18l70B. Further, a search under "playboy" yields as the first return "Playboy: Wet and Wild Complete Collection," followed by "Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds," and so on. At what point did "adult content" exclude nude women and dogs killing other dogs for sport?

This is nothing short of discrimination; this is nothing short of censorship. This is nothing a business that claims commercial integrity at even the most basic level would do. Consequently, as a longtime Amazon customer, I look forward to an immediate reversal of this ridiculous policy. Otherwise, I will purchase elsewhere and encourage everyone else I know to do the same.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

126 Comments

  1. Robin
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 14:42:44

    The irony in the signature of Amazon’s customer service reps is priceless:

    Amazon.com
    We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

    ReplyReply

  2. Amazon Alert - De-Ranking some erotic romance « Tour’s Books Blog
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 14:49:22

    [...] why this subject is so important to authors, publishers and folks like us who are readers.  Click here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)HuhA 40 Question MemeGroup protests Kindle [...]

  3. DS
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 14:50:21

    Anyone who gets Amazon’s boiler plate response to their first email should resend their email as a reply with a request that this be reviewed by a supervisor. The first response I suspect is from a robot which searches for certain key words.

    ReplyReply

  4. Maya Banks
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 14:54:30

    thank you thank you thank you for addressing the whole issue of rankings not mattering. On the surface, no. It’s just a number. But Amazon has many many lists by category and even a book with an absurdly high ranking would show up on one of the bestseller lists by genre or category. It’s ALL about visibility. It’s all about being able to find all books by an author when doing a search by author name. If an author doesn’t think this issue matters, they’re seriously deluded.

    ReplyReply

  5. J L Wilson
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:16:33

    Thanks for explaining this so succinctly. I can point peope here for an explanation, people who don’t read erotica but would still be offended by this action of Amazon’s.

    ReplyReply

  6. bethkery
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:22:13

    Why is this is a big deal?

    It's not because customers put any stock into the Amazon Ranking number. It's that the Amazon Rank affects a books' visibility on the bestseller list, on the “If you Like ___, you might like __ feature” and so forth. It is akin to the bookstore removing the books from the shelves and requiring you to go to the Customer Service desk and ask for the book or author specifically. Visibility is a huge factor in sales and anyone who doesn't believe that is kidding themselves.

    This is a really concise analogy of the situation, Jane. Suddenly Amazon has decided that certain books should be hidden in the back room instead of the front shelves. Are they going to start delivering them in an innocuous, brown paper wrapper?

    You are right–Amazon works like an online store. Literally. The more you sell, the more people ‘see’ you on those front shelves, or on other authors’ pages. To stick erotica or GLBT on some ‘secret’ shelf is making a huge statement, whether they realize it or not. I’m thinking they must not, or they wouldn’t have done it. But maybe I’m just naive.

    ReplyReply

  7. Larissa Ione - Blog
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:24:06

    [...] Amazon Rank by Dear Author [...]

  8. Michelle
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:34:39

    So what do you think triggered this? Was there some behind the scene campaign? You would think with Romance being such a hot seller they would realize they would alienate more people than they would please. I just can’t understand this from a business sense. They had to realize boycotts would be organized. This will have to affect sales of the kindle.

    ReplyReply

  9. Erastes
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:42:01

    Thanks, Jane. You say it true. It’s just a number and that number matters more to authors than it ever will do to readers – who will care (other than me) that my book is 5000 in “books”? but that could mean I’m no 1 in gay fiction – and when someone searches the bestseller list, there I should be. If I’m a best seller, however humble, I deserve to be there, and just because my subject matter isn’t tasteful to Amazon’s PTB, i shouldn’t be hidden under the counter, and be the seekrit book that’s selling “well”

    ReplyReply

  10. AQ
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:42:12

    I searched for The Red Queen. A book by by Matt Ridley subtitled Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. That book wasn’t listed on the search results page of all departments but I did manage to get seamless fishnet stockings and crotchless fishnet stockings as search results on the first page. I guess a book about the theory of human sexuality is more risque than crotchless stockings.

    Of course I realize that the stockings came up based on the keyword queen. Still it’s kind of funny and sad at the same time.

    ReplyReply

  11. Charlene Teglia
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:43:42

    Thank you! This is not about losing ranking (although that does cut visibility, too, by eliminating books from bestseller lists), but excluding the books from searches.

    And I’m highly offended that my romances are considered more offensive than dog killing or a serial killer how-to by Amazon. Violence is okay, but expressions of love must be kept off the shelf?

    ReplyReply

  12. Cheryl Anne Gardner
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:45:36

    This is just ridiculous … Annie Proulx … for crying out loud, Brokeback only had one sex scene in it, and Prouxl’s writing is spare, at best. American Psycho, loved it, but some parts of it, I had to put the book down so I could vomit. Graphic was not even the word to describe what I was reading. I have read bona fide “literature” that was much more graphic and disturbing in nature to many of the so called adult books they are de-ranking. What about Georges Bataille and The Story of The Eye. Or what about Henry Miller or DeSade????

    I felt the need to classify my latest release “adult” because of the implications and not the content. (I don’t write graphic sex.) I was being morally upstanding and now what? If I had classified it “literature” that would be ok?

    This is tantamount to bookburning in its censorship. You have to be a credit card holder to have an Amazon account. To post a review, 14 years or older??? So if the adults with the credit cards are buying the books, it makes no sense and violates a writer’s, an artist’s, freedom of expression and speach to, in effect, ban such content. And that’s what it is folks, banning a book. Have we digressed back the middle-ages or what?

    ReplyReply

  13. Kathy
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:46:15

    As a person who is currently in the middle of dealing with public comments on a government project (not the same as a commercial entity, but the process is similar) – I would like to remind everyone that while form letters (like the above) are a great starting point, it really is best to write a unique letter. Use the form all you like, but paraphrase and restate. Unique letters are taken much more seriously than forms – believe me.

    Otherwise you will, most likely, get lumped into a giant pile for “12,380 people responded with this form letter, which voices their displeasure with the current policy”

    The more you know…

    ReplyReply

  14. she reads
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 15:58:16

    I just want to chime in with the fact that this week dozens of books that were in my suggested section (something I rely on a LOT when purchasing) disappeared. poof. gone.

    Now (I think) I know where and why and I’m pissed off. If they’re going to do the ‘adult’ thing then I’m going to have to find a new home base for finding books. I *TOTALLY* rely on those ‘if you like ____’ and search features and I have no doubt tons of others do as well.

    Here’s hoping they pull their heads out of their asses.

    ReplyReply

  15. B
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:14:22

    Generally I don’t rely on their “If you like …” function much, because it generalizes too much. But um…if they’re going to cut out books with adult content, A LOT of their bestsellers are gonna drop off the map pretty quick.

    ReplyReply

  16. Marianne McA
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:22:50

    Is this Amazon as a whole? That is – I shop with Amazon.co.uk rather than Amazon.com, so does this apply there? Because if so, I’ll happily complain.

    I’m wondering if it is, because when I ordered False Colors after SarahF’s review the book just didn’t show up as available on their internal search, though a google search found me the correct Amazon page. At the time I thought it was just one of their many blips, but this suggests not. (And what’s the point of doing that, stocking a book, but not letting customers who are looking for it know that it’s there?)

    I’ve just checked and The Charioteer and Tipping the Velvet are still searchable, though the Beecroft definitely isn’t. Brokeback mountain still has a Amazon.co.uk sales rank as well.

    Anyone know if this is just the US?

    ReplyReply

  17. ReacherFan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:25:28

    I still want to know why a sociopathic serial killer is not de-ranked while a book like Brokeback Mountain is.

    The Dexter books, TV series – for all I know tee-shirts, are right there. Just type in Dexter.

    Is there a single literary expert claim ‘Dexter’ has more redeeming social and literary value than Brokeback Mountain? I mean – seriously people. Amazon must be taking stupid pills.

    ReplyReply

  18. Cheryl Anne Gardner
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:27:40

    I have to amend my post, they did, in fact, remove the Story of The Eye by Georges Bataille and the writtings of deSade from the rankings, which are some of the finest pieces of literature ever written. Sad really. But American Psycho is still ranked. This makes no sense to me. I rely heavily on amazon’s recommendations, but if they are going to start censoring that, then what????

    ReplyReply

  19. Diana DeRicci » Blog Archive » More on Amazon
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:28:56

  20. Vicky Woodard
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:45:13

    I am not familiar with Amazon’s ranking lists or “if you like” lists, but I was wondering if Amazon’s BookSurge publishes any erotic/ GLBT novels? If so, are they ranked?

    ReplyReply

  21. Lee Rowan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:47:44

    @Marianne McA:

    Marianne, I have only searched my own books on Amazon, but folks are reporting in that it’s also happened on Amazon.uk and on the German site (amazon.de, I think).

    The easiest way to find out is to look at an author’s profile. If the books don’t show a sales ranking – they’ve been stripped.

    Wasn’t it lovely of Amazon to lay a rotten Easter egg on us?

    ReplyReply

  22. Lee Rowan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:49:44

    @Vicky Woodard:

    Vicky – yes, Amazon has a number of m/m through Booksurge. And yes, they’re stripped, too.

    Amazon has always been secretive about its actual sales numbers … I hope a publisher or three pulls an audit on them. I make no accusations, but this would be a grand opportunity to ‘misplace’ sales info.

    ReplyReply

  23. Aileen Fish
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 16:59:05

    Has anyone mentioned to them the number of potential sales they are losing? Erotica and GBLT are popular, growing markets. When readers discover they can’t find their favorite authors at Amazon they’ll shop elsewhere.

    ReplyReply

  24. Marianne McA
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:09:08

    Thanks, Lee. You would think it should be illegal to do that. Must be. If not with the fiction, why isn’t it illegal with the autobiographies? If a company treats one autobiography differently than another because of the sexuality of the author, that must be discrimination, surely?
    (I’m not saying it shouldn’t be illegal with the fiction, but I can imagine they didn’t draft discrimination laws with fictional characters in mind.)

    ReplyReply

  25. joanne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:09:57

    Barnes and Noble has pages and pages and pages of GBLT & erotic romance & erotica & anything else a pissed-off Amazon shopper might want to buy.

    All ranked.

    The most pro-active thing to do is to shop elsewhere.

    ReplyReply

  26. Lucinda Betts
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:23:39

    It’s even worse than deranking the books. If you put in Lucinda Betts last month, you found a page with a list of my nine books. Now, it’s like I don’t exist! It’s like I’ve been blacklisted. And I don’t write erotica–I write erotic romance. All erotic romance authors who write for Aphrodisia have been similarly blacklisted.

    ReplyReply

  27. Amazon « Joely Skye
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:42:52

    [...] more information, Dear Author is a good source. If you’re on twitter you can follow [...]

  28. rebyj
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:43:05

    Thanks for staying on top of this Jane. I don’t know how to do trackback but am posting a link to this article at my blog.

    ReplyReply

  29. Marianne McA
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:57:17

    3. If you search “homosexual” on Amazon.com, your first search result is “A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.”

    If you search on Amazon.co.uk the first search result is ‘How to be a happy homosexual: A guide for gay men.’ And that has a sales rank.
    I’ve googled a bit, but I’m still not clear as to what Amazon.co.uk is doing, and if I’m going to complain, I’d like to have my facts straight first. (Lucinda, your books aren’t searchable from the front page at .co.uk, but they do show if you search in books. No sales rank, though.)

    If anyone finds a link as to what exactly is happening at .co.uk, could you point me towards it? And I’ll write a proper complaint in the morning… Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  30. Cristiane
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:58:05

    Damn. I did a big order (for me) on Amazon last week, and would definitely have gone with Barnes & Noble if I’d known about this.

    ReplyReply

  31. Jonquil
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:01:08

    Marianne, no, it isn’t US-only. Amazon seem to be rolling back the changes, but earlier in the day you couldn’t find Stephen Fry’s MOAB IS MY WASHPOT. If you do a search on “homosexuality” in “All Departments” on amazon.co.uk right now, you’ll see all the results are anti-homosexual.

    ReplyReply

  32. John
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:05:38

    It’s not just amazon.com. It is also amazon.co.uk. A biography of Harvey Milk, for example, now has no sales rank shown at amazon.co.uk.

    ReplyReply

  33. Aerliss
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:05:40

    Try searching for gay or lesbian on Amazon. You may be surprised by what you find. Certainly the lesbian search! 101 Sexual Positions for Lesbian Lovers, or something.

    What on Earth IS going on over there?!

    ReplyReply

  34. Mike Cane
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:11:34

    I stay offline for most of two days and another part of the book/eBook landscape explodes when I’m not looking.

    I should have smelled this coming. Dammit, I smelled *part* of it here:

    Print: Dying. And The Net: No Future?

    I’m sick of other people putting themselves between myself and all possible “content” (I hate that term!).

    As John Galt said in Atlas Shrugged: “Get the hell out of my way!”

    ReplyReply

  35. rickydee
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:12:53

    All talk and no action. I have closed my Amazon.com account and placed an order from iTunes. Easy, quick and effective, DO IT!

    ReplyReply

  36. #Amazonfail | Random Musings
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:22:26

  37. Juliana Stone
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:28:06

    as far as I can tell it hasn’t affected the Canadian amazon website….interesting…

    ReplyReply

  38. Marianne McA
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:28:38

    Jonquil – I can see the top results for ‘homosexuality’ are anti-homosexual, but that may reflect what people buy.
    Just looking at the book results, while two most popular are anti-homosexuality, the next two seem to be pro-homosexuality. And that’s from a front page search, and they both have sales rank.

    ReplyReply

  39. Miranda Thomas
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:32:31

    This is such an awful state of affairs…. I couldn’t find a Facebook group about it, so I’ve set one up. Join and spread the word!

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=88867530476

    (I’ve linked to this website, hope that’s okay)

    ReplyReply

  40. angelakorrati.com · Here, have a heaping helping of #amazonfail
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:39:55

  41. Red
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:43:15

    I’m totally irked here. For two days I have searched for Lauren Dane and Megan Hart’s new Spice release while I’ve also searched for Lilli Feisty’s upcoming May release BOUND TO PLEASE, and Amazon gave me NO results though I searched them specifically by name. I couldn’t imagine what was going on! I was able to find them at Barnes and Noble online however NOT finding them at amazon, when I used to do most of my book shopping, AND after searching for them continually for two days thinking it was some sort of glitch, is frustratring and infuriating. De-ranking adult books?! Come on!! I suppose then that whoever usually BUYS on amazon and has a credit card on file is anything but an adult? THANK YOU FOR THE TEMPLATE, JANE! I’m definitely sending a letter.

    ReplyReply

  42. Alisha Rai
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:52:09

    3. If you search “homosexual” on Amazon.com, your first search result is “A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.”

    That’s just nonsense. Are we going to discover something crazy, like Amazon funded prop 8?

    My book isn’t on Amazon yet, so I haven’t been affected other than as a pissed off reader. However, if this is their new policy, I doubt they’ll rank a menage when my time comes. Or really, any book I ever publish, since they all have the sex.

    What are authors supposed to tell readers, no, don’t search in all categories, go search in books and MAYBE the titles will pop up? So glad I let my amazon prime membership cancel.

    ReplyReply

  43. Lisa Hendrix
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:52:10

    Lucinda — I just searched your name and your books came up okay that way. However, I clicked on Running Wild and it’s still not ranked. Same for Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain. Comes up in a search (they even have an Annie Proulx “store”), but no ranking — and thus no bestseller list potential. Stunning.

    I’m sure if we could be privy to the boardroom discussions, we’d find this decision was triggered by some parent or religious group up in arms because some kid was searching Amazon and had books pop up that the parents didn’t like. As a parent, I know there are excerpts and/or discussions posted I might not want my younger child to see. But it’s far scarier to me that someone else is deciding what those should be — and that it’s being decided on the basis of some pretty specious ideas of what’s “adult” or “appropriate.” I’d rather catch my kids reading Lesbian Sex Tips than The Dog Pit – Or, How To Select, Breed, Train And Manage Fighting Dogs any day (both of which, btw, are still ranked–though I’ll make odds on which one is de-ranked first).

    As an Amazon Associate and Author, I’ve put the company on notice that if their discriminatory policy is not reversed immediately, I’m removing sales links and directing my business elsewhere. I hope other authors will follow suit.

    ReplyReply

  44. ReacherFan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:53:28

    This is from the Publishers Weekly site today

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6651080.html?desc=topstory

    Notice it’s the top story!

    ReplyReply

  45. In Which Amazon tries to protect Adults from Adult stuff | Seressia Glass: Blog Me
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:57:04

    [...] what this is about, what it means to authors of adult content, I urge you to read the post over on Dear Author, (and this one) as well as the post made by Mark R Probst. There is even an #amazonfail Twitter [...]

  46. Lisa Hendrix
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:57:25

    @Red — I didn’t have any trouble finding any of those books, simply searching by author name (tho they aren’t ranked). Perhaps there was some other issue with Amazon’s search engine that is now solved.

    ReplyReply

  47. Alisha Rai
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 18:57:26

    Lucinda -’ I just searched your name and your books came up okay that way.

    Lisa, I found Lucinda too, but only if I searched for her name in Books; she didn’t come up in All Categories. Honestly, I never thing to click on Books to search for something. If I don’t find it in All Categories, I move on. I think a lot of shoppers are that way. Why would you look in a specific category if it doesn’t show up in something that supposedly searches that category?

    ReplyReply

  48. Taylor
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:03:16

    For those talking about switching to B&N, they have a partnership with Amazon.

    Support your local bookstore. If you must buy on-line, go to Powells.com, a superb bookstore both on-line and B&M.

    ReplyReply

  49. Lisa Hendrix
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:03:43

    @Alisha Rai

    You’re right. I just double checked, and I was already in books. But I usually click books first, to eliminate detritus in the search.

    Smart Bitches is addressing the problem in their own inimitable way — by Google-Bombing the term Amazon Rank (in the same spirit as the helped out Bill Napoli //g//). To help rake this idiocy over the coals, please help make their definition the top Google result by linking your website or blog to:

    http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/amazonrank/

    ReplyReply

  50. Jessica G.
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:14:35

    @Taylor – That’s incorrect, they do not have a partnership with Amazon. Border’s used to, now they have their own website. B&N, as far as I know, was never affiliated with amazon.

    ReplyReply

  51. LoreleiJames.com » Blog Archive » Protest amazon.com deranking of “adult content” novels
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:14:38

    [...] is what I’ve cribbed from Dear Author [...]

  52. Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes | Booksquare
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:20:32

    [...] don’t know (nor care to know) the nuances of Amazon search. As noted in this comment, authors are invisible to many readers. As I noted earlier, there are quirk in the Amazon database that have lead to [...]

  53. Ronald
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:22:42

    To Whom it May Concern:

    I have found out about the new policy from Amazon ranking normal LGBT books as “adult content”.

    As a frequent Amazon shopper with many wonderful LGBT friends this is
    very disturbing. Amazon will feel the pinch of this policy in their
    pocketbook, and with the economy in the state it is, this is no time to
    lose business. I will also inform my friends, who also purchase many books from Amazon that they should take their purchases elsewhere.
    I also find myself wondering, who is pulling the strings in your company. It's a shame that you've sold yourselves and company to the RR.

    Until this policy is changed, my money will not be going to Amazon either.

    Thank you,

    Ronald Parker

    ReplyReply

  54. Elizabeth Burton
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:23:11

    Considering how many times I’ve had to contact Amazon because their computer system arbitrarily decided to jump the cover prices on half our books by four to seven dollars, I have to disagree that there’s no way this could be a technical error. I mean that in the sense that if Amazon is attempting to redesign their search parameters so there’s less chance young people will be confronted with adult material, it’s entirely possible something such as what has happened could occur.

    One or two people (out of how many?) reported their books were meddled with as far back as two months ago. Our Boundless GLBT books have been selling steadily, and I’ve never had an issue with them not turning up on searches, including the one I did just now for Island Song, which is referred to as “erotic” in several of its reviews. To me, this suggests the desaparecidos are related to tags and keywords applied.

    We should also bear in mind that we are not a majority, we free-speech, anti-censorship types. A great percentage of the population, both here and abroad, are firm believers that what offends them they should not have to confront. Bear in mind that books about homosexuality and erotica would both be highly offensive to devout Muslims.

    Show of hands: when was the last time you bought a book of erotica or a gay romance at Wal-Mart. And next time you’re in B&N, take a moment to actually look at where the erotica is placed in reference to the rest of the stock.

    Whoever it was said only adults have credit cards is sadly out of date. With the growing popularity of pre-paid debit cards it’s quite possible for someone under the age of 18 to be shopping with Mom or Dad paying the bill.

    And let us not forget that there are federal laws that require online sites with adult content to ensure there are barriers to having non-adults access that content. The fines are…not pretty.

    The problem with making major changes to a complex computer system is that you either have to do it on the fly and pray the inevitable hiccups won’t cause any major damage or shut the entire system down. Clearly, that second isn’t an option with a huge online retailer like Amazon.

    If this was done in response to a complaint, it seems like a serious over-reaction unless the complaint came from an organized movement. If that were the case, though, I’m sure they would have been falling all over themselves trying to get media attention. If it was some stupid decision made by Amazon corporate, a sufficiently loud hue-and-cry will likely see it adjusted.

    ReplyReply

  55. Anon
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:25:43

    Can anyone copy/paste the article? Publishersweekly is down now and Google hasn’t had time to cache it.

    ReplyReply

  56. #amazonfail » Disdainful-Soul.net
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:37:16

    [...] DearAuthor.com – Amazon Rank [...]

  57. DS
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:44:57

    Searching the term “Amazon Rank” shows the Bitches page is now No 1. Yay for that. I’m willing accept it might be a glitch but it is sort of glitch that tells me they are doing something suspicious with their ranking.

    ReplyReply

  58. Selina Fire
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:56:54

    I am perfectly happy shopping elsewhere, and from now on i will do so. They don’t own the book world! We can fight back.

    ReplyReply

  59. debauchette | amazon’s rank.
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 20:07:19

    [...] a post with a good summary of the situation and suggestions on what to [...]

  60. Hydecat
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 20:12:18

    Support your local book stores! Mine is The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, where I just special-ordered the Smart Bitches book. They’ll even ship my books to me if I’m too lazy to go pick them up!

    ReplyReply

  61. Jane
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 20:27:37

    The PW site is still down but the mobile one is still up. You can read the text here.

    ReplyReply

  62. Hydecat
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 20:46:24

    Hmmm. Was Amazon the victim of a trolling attack as this guy claims? (to which they were vulnerable through shitty programming?)

    If so, they should ‘fess up and not call it a “glitch” but rather a poorly-thought-out and poorly-implemented idea that backfired horribly, for which they owe lots of people an apology.

    ReplyReply

  63. Jane
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 20:48:01

    @Hydecat: There was a commenter in that thread that said that a live person gets a list of books w/ objectionable content suggesting that objectionable content is automatically filtered.

    ReplyReply

  64. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:05:31

    The Greenwood Press biography of Ellen DeGeneres was de-ranked.

    Yes, folks, a scholarly-press biography in a series of biographies of influential entertainment figures was de-ranked because said entertainer is a happily married lesbian.

    There is no “adult content” in the book, which is a fairly scholarly discussion of DeGeneres’s public career and her impact on the entertainment world.

    The mind, it boggles. #glitchmyass, as the twitter hashtag has it.

    ReplyReply

  65. Amazon delists GLBT books, bloggers respond with Google bombing, #amazonfail on Twitter « I Have No Idea What I am Doing
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:08:15

    [...] can also search for anything else of interest, such as #iPhone.) I like this Amazon Fail logo and Dear Author post on how to contact [...]

  66. Courtney Milan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:12:04

    I also don’t buy that bantown theory, either, because for that to be true, the system has to be entirely automated. But where, oh where, on Amazon is the button for “this product is adult so please hide it” that enough people would push to get an item put in the “adult” category?

    I’m not seeing it. You’d have to send an e-mail, and if customer service has a skeleton crew, they won’t be pushing through any of those individual e-mail’s contents.

    ReplyReply

  67. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:12:31

    The “objectionable content” glitch excuse doesn’t fly–Mein Kampf and Protocols of the Elders of Zion are both still ranked, and more people must have complained about those books than about the Ellen DeGeneres biography.

    (At one point, Bezos said in an interview that Mein Kampf was the most-complained-about book on Amazon.com, and I can’t believe it’s changed that much.)

    ReplyReply

  68. Andrea
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:13:50

    Your link to where Amazon says it isn’t a glitch seems to be broken. Have they taken down that page already, or … ?

    ReplyReply

  69. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:14:33

    But where, oh where, on Amazon is the button for “this product is adult so please hide it” that enough people would push to get an item put in the “adult” category?

    And that doesn’t fly in any case. Porn star Ron Jeremy’s autobiog is less “adult” than a scholarly biog of Ellen? Mein Kampf is less “adult” than Heather Has Two Mommies?

    ReplyReply

  70. wtf amazon « Gracetopia
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:15:24

  71. hapax
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:15:57

    I have just sent a complaint to Amazon.com. More importantly, I have just cancelled all my outstanding preorders with Amazon (about a hundred dollars worth) and ordered them through Powells. (This will cost me about a twenty five bucks in shipping, so yeah, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.) I specified this policy in my reason for cancellation.

    I am also spreading the word through the various librarian lists I belong too. Librarians do not, in general, approve of censorship, and are *bad* people to piss off.

    FWIW. however, I have looked up a number of authors of gay fantasy fiction — Lynn Flewelling, Ginn Hale, Jaida Jones, Astrid Amara — and note that they retain their sales rankings. Possibly whoever created Amazon’s “little list” of Evil Books didn’t know about this genre. (I hope I haven’t just doomed them, thereby…)

    ReplyReply

  72. The Smitten Kitten
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:16:35

    [...] This story has been blowing up on Twitter.  Amazon.com made the decision to remove “adult” content from their rankings and best seller lists. This decision affected the entire category of Gay and Lesbian, while retaining the rankings of most heterosexual fiction with erotic content, and even things like Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds. For an excellent summary argument of the situation, with links to a petition against this action click here. [...]

  73. Lisa
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:31:24

    It’s not just LGBT books! http://lisybabe.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazonfail.html

    ReplyReply

  74. Andrea
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 21:41:57

    More on the disability angle of this situation in a great post by Kateryna Fury, which also has links to places where disability advocates can learn more. This includes a link to Lisa’s blog post, which is important reading also:

    http://is.gd/s5Xr

    ReplyReply

  75. Julie James
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 22:14:48

    I just wanted to add my thanks for bringing this issue to my attention. I will be very curious to see how this all plays out at Amazon. Like Beth Kery, I agree that comparing this situation to a requirement that shoppers request titles at the Customer Service desk in book stores is dead-on. I can only hope the overwhelming negative reaction will result in a reversal of Amazon’s policy.

    ReplyReply

  76. Lisa Spangenberg
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:05:31

    Here’s part of the weirdness:

    Some editions are omitted, but not all.

    Some editions of The Joy of Sex have had their sales rank Fingersmith by Sarah Waters have had sales rank removed (this one: http://www.amazon.com/Fingersmith-Sarah-Waters/dp/1573229725/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239598692&sr=1-2) but not all; this one hasn’t, yet, had sales rank data removed: http://www.amazon.com/Fingersmith-Sarah-Waters/dp/B0001PBYRW/ref=ed_oe_h_bargain.

    As far as I can see, the descriptive metadata is the same for both. So I’m confused.

    But really very little of this idiocy makes any sense at all.

    ReplyReply

  77. Amazon Rank « mmm. . .brain
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:08:55

    [...] explanation here and here and here and here. This is not just a glitch. Petitation at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/119673661. Massive massive FAIL Amazon! [...]

  78. Elizabeth Burton
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:11:31

    Let us be clear about something. The only source for the statement that this was an Amazon policy was ONE customer service rep. No one else associated with Amazon said there was such a policy. In fact, out of all the responses from Amazon that are cited that is the only one that declares said “policy” exists.

    Try, please, to consider the labyrinthine complexity of the Amazon search engine. Then consider what is required should one which to establish new filters to try to ensure that adult material doesn’t appear before minors…and that GLBT material doesn’t turn up for people who prefer not to deal with it. Now add in another several layers of complexity to include the various rankings categories, which are another labyrinth all by themselves.

    Is it not just remotely possible that what started out as a minor hiccup became exponentially more widespread over time and resulted in the current mess? Amazon never said there was nothing wrong. They said they were fiddling with their system and things went haywire.

    Of course, if everyone is happier being paranoid, far be it from me to spoil the fun. ;-)

    ReplyReply

  79. Camille’s Conversations » Amazon Rank, Amazon Fail
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:12:03

    [...] More explanation here and here and here and here. This is not just a glitch. Petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/119673661. Massive massive FAIL Amazon! [...]

  80. What the hay, amazon? : Sensual
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:14:17

    [...] romances and GLBT fiction out of it’s amazon ranking. Find out why amazon rank is a big deal here. And if that wasn’t bad enough, these books are no longer found via amazon [...]

  81. Jinni
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 23:26:27

    I’ve been checking the books of my chapter mates (local RWA) and can’t believe how many have been de-listed. It’s taking an extra search on my part to locate their books – when, previously they’ve always been front and center. Just unbelievable.

    But I did just sign the petition. I’m definitely posting this on my FB page to make my friends and fellow readers aware of this.

    ReplyReply

  82. DeMoy
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 00:42:55

    I just checked on amazon.com under bestsellers > gay & lesbian or romance dept, and there’re hundreds of entries. Any kind of novels or other books and even the ‘Joy of gay sex’ bible, incl. customer reviews and all – Most are Kindles but all’s there or as new and used books otherwise. I put in gay horror writer Rick R Reed under authors or bestseller and all his stuff comes up as normal paperbacks just fine. If ‘adult' (to Amazon or anyone else) means any belletristique with even merely one sex scene graphic or not – why this overreaction suddenly? It IS adult literature – fiction or otherwise. Sex IS adult – fact. That any porn star biography or other genres aren't rated as ‘adult' lies in the fact that anything sexual in fiction simply outranks anything else as ‘adult content' outright. Fact.

    If you put in homosexuality (which IS a ‘technical' term) over six thousand entries come up of pro and contra books in equal measures, and of course for the search word would mainly list non-fiction publications. If you put in bestsellers under that heading, over six thousand entries come up incl. fiction by the mile. Put in erotica and nearly thirty thousand entries come up on top. Bestselling erotica has a fiction book as first entry. If you put in any other books which should be considered as ‘adult' for violent or other objectionable content, but come up under history or whatever header, it's simply down to the fact that ‘sex' is considered more ‘adult' than illegal dog fighting, and has nothing to do with the site's labelling them – the public does.

    If your beef is over this adult label, or the greatest selling gay fiction book e.g. not appearing on the first greatest bestsellers search page, then it's simply NOT the greatest bestseller ‘per se', as only in the GLBT dept, which is right there even as a special entry. As long as it's all ‘there', why would the genre need more ‘visibility' than it has already or has to appear on the first page, when it's NOT the most popular in general? The customers decide that – NOT the authors or sites. People who look for a specific book or author of that genre will find it anyway, first or last page. It's ALL there. Just type in the author or title – voila.

    That other books should rightly be considered ‘adult' too – well, as I said, as long as the public majority consider ‘fictional sex' as the most adult of categories and don't buy much sexy stuff, that sexy stuff has to be labelled somehow. As for ranking, if no one buys it, no ranking. I don't think Amazon discriminate against any genre or hide GLBT on their backshelves suddenly, withhold ranking or censor search results. As for ‘The Red Queen' or Lucinda Betts, Lauren Dane or any others mentioned, it's all right there ranking and all, so I have to go with post #54. And mind you, I'm a writer of gay fiction. Happy Easter everyone!

    ReplyReply

  83. Amazon rank (v.) : The Bookkeeper
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 03:50:11

    [...] Dear Author you will find the email address of amazon’ executive customer sevice and a template you can [...]

  84. vanessa jaye
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 05:09:44

    Regarding the ‘glitch’, it made the morning news here in Toronto, Canada. CP24/Breakfast Television just did a little bite on it, but I realized what they were talking about a little too late (I was checking my email and only half listening to the news) so didn’t catch all the details.

    But, wow, this thing has really blown up in Amazon’s face, hasn’t it? Good. They were arrogant ass hats thinking they’d get away regulating a large segment of authors as second-class.

    ReplyReply

  85. Homoseksualiteit in het verdomhoekje bij Amazon « Om ter saaist
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 05:25:00

    [...] holebiboeken (inclusief bv Brokeback Mountain of Ellen Degeneres' biografie) is op zich al een ernstige vorm van censuur natuurlijk.  Een woordvoerder van Amazon zei onder het paasweekend dat het over een [...]

  86. Tremaine
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 05:36:44

    For those who may want to carry through on the threat and shop elsewhere:

    https://www.abebooks.com/

    http://www.johntaylorbooks.com/

    http://www.alibris.com/

    ReplyReply

  87. Works In Progress: Dawn Brown’s Blog » Such An Ugly Word
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 06:55:42

    [...] you haven’t heard about any of this,  Dear Author explains in detail what’s happened, and what you can do about [...]

  88. Hydecat
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 07:21:12

    Try, please, to consider the labyrinthine complexity of the Amazon search engine. Then consider what is required should one which to establish new filters to try to ensure that adult material doesn't appear before minors…and that GLBT material doesn't turn up for people who prefer not to deal with it. Now add in another several layers of complexity to include the various rankings categories, which are another labyrinth all by themselves.

    But why put such filters in place to start with? What if I don’t want to “deal with” anti-homosexuality books? Will Amazon put a filter in place for me? What if someone else doesn’t want to “deal with” books about serial killers? Will Amazon put a filter in place for them? As far as I’m concerned, parents are responsible for monitoring their minors’ actions on the internet, not Amazon. And people who don’t want to “deal with” or see the titles of books on subjects that they find offensive, should learn to self-filter, and not make Amazon do it for them. Because unless Amazon puts other such filters in place (see my examples above), they’re discriminating against one group to cater to another. People who are offended by GLBTQ books deserve no more preferential treatment than people who are offended by the Bible, and I doubt Amazon wants to filter out all of the books about the Bible because someone finds them offensive.

    ReplyReply

  89. Andrea
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 07:30:04

    For people looking for other places to buy books, there is a longer list of suggestions in one of the Discussion threads in the Facebook group, Amazon fail:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=70927484220

    (You don’t have to be a member to read it. I think you might not even need a facebook account. But you do need to be a member if you want to add suggestions to that thread.)

    ReplyReply

  90. #amazonfail timeline of wtf « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 07:36:46

    [...] Chatterley’s Lover. Other “adult” literature and products were left alone, like Playboy and these anal plugs. They were also blocking books from search results, bestseller lists, and so [...]

  91. Red
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 07:47:32

    to Lisa – thank you. Oddly they still didn’t appear to me. I searched directly from the homepage and nothing – then I heard you had to go to the ‘books’ department in order for the deranked books to show. I just did this and viola!

    If you search by name, they come up, however I had to go to the ‘books’ department when I never do.

    CURIOUSLY, though, when I searched the word DILDO from the homepage, I got an entire list of them with all kinds of assortments. So I can find a dildo on Amazon but I can’t find a book?

    ReplyReply

  92. Katie
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 07:59:50

    @Lee Rowan: I know firsthand about Amazon’s secrecy with their sales numbers. I contacted them a few weeks ago to see if I could get some demographic data on sales of the Kindle 2, and not only did it take 3 e-mails and a phone call to get a response, the response was something to the effect of “It is a longstanding company policy not to divulge any sales information, not even demographically.” I was livid but didn’t push the issue any further, not wanting to anger anyone.

    Now it seems like Amazon is alienating a huge customer base. Whoever came up with this idea ought to be strung up by their thumbs.

    ReplyReply

  93. Roger Benson
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 08:30:32

    While Amazon’s new policy isn’t illegal, it is incredibly ill-informed and ill-timed. What is now happening (if they haven’t noticed yet) is a grassroots movement to show Amazon that not only have they angered and alienated a large portion of their customers; Amazon has angered a much larger and more potent opponent, their Clients. Whenever there is censorship, writers and authors band together and tell their readers, “Look at what company A, B, and C are doing! They’re suppressing your abilities to read what you want!” Which is happening RIGHT NOW.

    C’mon guys, did someone over there wake up one morning and say, “Hey! I have a great idea! Let’s PO our customers and clients in one fell swoop during a recession!”?

    ReplyReply

  94. Roger Benson
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 08:33:53

    And “Brokeback Mountain” is showing up in searches, but the novel isn’t showing for at least 4 pages when you search “Annie Prolux”. Not sure if that’s a glitch or not.

    ReplyReply

  95. mp
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 08:47:42

    Spread this one far and wide:

    Oh, I think there’s something even MORE insidious going on here: it looks like it’s partly what everyone fears (censorship by a private company) AND Amazon trying to boost Kindle sales:

    Why do i believe this:

    Running with Scissors: a Memoir in paperback, NO SALES RANK.

    Running with Scissors: a Memoir in Kindle, WITH SALES RANK.

    hat tip to lj user “storm_grant”

    see which books which don’t have sales rankings in their hard copy, still do in their kindle versions.

    ReplyReply

  96. Jackson Pearce
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:02:39

    Great article– and very well summarized. I was late to find out about amazonfail and it was hell to figure out what the EXACT issue was amidst all the fury.
    I called Amazon’s customer service hotline to see what they had to say– video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-bm0QKFDU8

    ReplyReply

  97. Andrea
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:18:59

    I’ve now posted the following text as a tweet. Others may please feel free to copy/paste this text as their own tweets also. It links to two blog posts on the disability angle of this mess. The hashtags are to help ensure that your tweet will show up more easily under certain keyword searches in twitter.com.

    #amazonfail on #disability too. Please RT both http://is.gd/s5I6 and http://is.gd/s5Xr #glitchmyass #glbt #disabled

    ReplyReply

  98. Starkpages Blog » Amazon still sucks…UPDATE
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 09:27:25

    [...] at Dear Author has provided not only an excellent concise breakdown of the events so far, but also a phone number, [...]

  99. lilitu93
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 10:26:57

    AbeBooks isn’t an alternative to Amazon anymore – they bought it maybe a year ago. They also own Audible and Mobipocket.

    Wikipedia has a list of every company Amazon owns.

    ReplyReply

  100. Kymberlyn
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 10:38:46

    What has been interesting are the comments from those people who don’t seem to have an issue with this. There are quite a few who have bought into the “glitch” excuse (which is absolute b.s. and any newb IT professional or even hobbiest will tell you that). These folks claim Amazon’s just doing “business” and trying to target the largest market possible while alienating no one. These are the same people whom more than likely would have turned a blind eye to the deportation of Jews, saying “it’s just good government”.

    I guess these idiots don’t understand the meaning of the word CENSORSHIP.

    I’m still amazed that healthy, egalitarian and consensual expressions of love are somehow “bad”, but graphic and oftentimes unecessary depictions of violence are “good”.

    ReplyReply

  101. Fiona
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 11:11:17

    It’s very simple. Vote with your dollars and chose another provider such as Thrift Books if they refuse to reverse their censorship.

    ReplyReply

  102. Elizabeth Burton
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 11:32:39

    1. Any IT professional knows that the larger and more complex a system, the greater chance that one small error will have a cascading effect that can wreak havoc.

    2. Those of us who have “bought into” the “glitch excuse” know from past experience that with a system as complex as Amazon’s incidents occur precisely as described in item #1, and can take several days to correct.

    3. There are state and federal laws that require retailers both online and off to prevent minors from having direct access to adult material. In the real world, that’s easily achieved by using (a) wrappers and/or (b) placing adult material where minors can’t get it. Any IT professional knows that creating that same effect in the virtual world is exponentially more difficult if one also has to ensure that adults do have access to it. The penalties for failing to adequately protect minor from adult material are severe and expensive.

    4. If the situation continues and/or Amazon states publicly that they will continue to marginalize GLBT and erotic material specifically while allowing other adult content to continue to be ranked, then will be the time to protest.

    5. There has been no evidence presented so far, other than a single statement from a customer service agent, to indicate there is now or has ever been any intention to censor the material in question. Someone as far down the corporate food chain as a CSA is hardly an expert on corporate policy. They are, in fact, only prepared to deal with standard questions and complaints. Therefore, that single statement is unreliable.

    6. In not a single one of my posts regarding this issue have I ever stated that Amazon is “trying to target the largest market possible while alienating no one” or that they are “just doing business.” Nor, at least in those counter-arguments I’ve read, has anyone else. Those who haven’t bought into the hysteria have simply said what I have: that there isn’t enough known about the whys and wherefores of the situation to make any decision about it.

    7. Finally, some of us find it interesting how quickly any alternative explanation for the situation that in any way absolves Amazon is rejected in favor of the “greedy fascist bastards” option. We also find it extremely difficult to believe any corporation as revenue-conscious as Amazon would do something that incredibly stupid. Not that they haven’t done stupid stuff in the past, but those usually involved suppliers, not customers. Blocking customers from the goods is precisely what the “censorship” everyone is claiming is their intent would do.

    To conclude, some of us prefer to have enough information to make a rational decision rather than to begin throwing out defamatory accusations based not on facts but on conclusions derived by one or two individuals on the basis of their individual experience. We’ve been around long enough to know that all too often that basis never materializes, and the explanation is simply what the “felon” said it was–an error. If this one turns out to have been an error in judgment rather than a technical error that arose from an effort to streamline their search process, I’ll be more than happy to say so.

    Meantime, in the immortal words of Sgt. Joe Friday, I need “just the facts, ma’am.” If that offends people, so be it. It’s the way I’m made, and I’m just old enough not to feel like I need to change it.

    ReplyReply

  103. Support Amazonfail « DragonKat
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 12:48:20

    [...] Here is a history of the [...]

  104. Kymberlyn
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 13:33:16

    I’m sorry Elizabeth, but as someone in a committed relationship with an IT professional, and someone who knows many in the IT profession, few of them are buying the “glitch” excuse. Maybe you should check out CNET, Slashdot and PC Magazine for their take on the subject.

    If there was a problem with Amazon’s ranking system, don’t you think they would have been made aware of it long before this? Doesn’t speak very well to whoever’s running their IT department. How long has Amazon been in business? Suddenly their systems are “deciding” what is “mature content” and what is not? When did a machine figure out that Ron Jeremy’s life as a porn star was less ‘dangerous’ than Heather Has Two Mommies?

    Say what you will, but people are obviously appalled at what seems like censorship on the part of Amazon.com, and I think that’s a GOOD thing. People obviously still care about that pesky First Amendment (amazing that you don’t). Yes, it seems rather insane that a business that calls itself “Earth’s biggest bookstore” would shoot itself in the foot. However, until I see for myself that the company is taking the concerns of thousands of its readers and authors seriously, then I will simply withhold my funds and shop elsewhere. It’s really that simple.

    ReplyReply

  105. Kymberlyn
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 13:51:01

    By the way Elizabeth–if I were Amazon.com and I was having a “problem” like this, not only would I have my IT people on it like ASAP or yesterday, but I would be bombarding the airwaves and blogsphere with apologies and a willingness to rectify the situation IMMEDIATELY. Apparently, this has been going on since FEBRUARY. One cannot help but to be suspicious at the lack of urgency on their part.

    And that is precisely what I am basing my ire with this company on. I’ve done enough PR to know that it’s important to put out any fire as quickly as possible. Again, you’re not just dealing with books here, but the notion of censorship. We’ve seen way too many examples of that in this country. Why are you so surprised that people are reacting the way they are? And not because they hate “corporate drones” either.

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  106. Elizabeth Burton
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 15:20:31

    Kymberlyn,

    Amazon is notoriously bad with PR. Because Jeff Bezos seems to hate communicating–his recent outing on behalf of Kindle 2 was notable more for the fact he did it than for what he said. The wording of that “policy statement,” which I’m sure you and I will agree was likely written so CSRs like the woman quoted could just rattle it off whenever applicable, are a case in point. It reads like it was written by lawyers, which it probably was. Welcome to Amazon PR. It sucks. I’ve telling them that for years.

    They have no idea how to explain something. If they’ve screwed up, they absolutely have no idea how to explain it. The huge fracas last year over their insisting POD books be printed by Booksurge is a case in point–had they explained why they were requiring it instead of trying to bully people I suspect the outcome would have been different. From their viewpoint, it was an excellent business decision that likely saved them millions. They aren’t, after all, a non-profit.

    But no, they crept around quietly calling and emailing people and coming off like a bunch of bullies. And I suppose those suppliers who were short-discounting them would have raised a fuss in any case, but really–should Amazon be required to lose money just because it would be a nice gesture on behalf of self-published authors and small presses? Not.

    The point I’m trying to make is that everything said to date is based on limited factual evidence and a boatload of speculation, yet all of that speculation is being made to appear as if it’s fact. It may well turn out that what everyone is saying is absolutely true. Well, not the business about deliberate censorship–that’s absurd no matter how you look at it. Amazon is currently being sued by the Humane Society and others over those dog-fighting materials people keep mentioning.

    As for the IT issue, this is a more technical statement of what I mentioned: http://sbisson.livejournal.com/927640.html.

    Three or four months ago one of my authors emailed me that she’d been fiddling around on Amazon and discovered her book’s cover price was listed as $22. The actual price is $15. Hieing myself off to the Evil Empire, I checked discovered at least a quarter of our titles had incorrect prices–they were overpriced $3-$7. It took a week for them to fix it, and a month or so later the problem popped up again.

    The repair process required that our service rep at Booksurge compare the Booksurge database to the Amazon one and send me a copy of the spreadsheet so I could then check all the prices against my database. Then send it back. It wasn’t as simple as going in and pushing a button. And we’re talking a mere 30 titles.

    If my thought processes followed the path of this rank issue, I would immediately have decided Amazon had changed all those prices so they could make lots more money off those books, since the payment at our end is based on the listed cover price. However, since I assume Amazon is in the business of making money and would know that overpricing small press paperbacks was not the way to achieve that, especially since some of the titles had been selling quite briskly up until the price glitch, I just took it for granted the computer gremlins had struck and took care of the problem.

    That the rank issue started out with what seems to be only a handful of titles and then grew exponentially just reinforces for me that it was something that seemed like a good idea at the time and than, as lots of good ideas do, failed miserably–and exponentially. In an effort to further narrow their search parameters to lessen the likelihood people would get results they might consider inappropriate, they picked the wrong key words, or didn’t use enough qualifiers or both. The paranoia that they deliberately chose to “launch their censorship” on a holiday weekend because they figured no one would notice doesn’t really stand up, either. When are people more likely to go online shopping than on a weekend, holiday or not?

    I don’t support censorship in any way shape or form. However, I also don’t support mob mentality and throwing around accusations based on emotion and supposition and one or two facts that don’t provide any real information. It seems anymore that where companies like Amazon and Google are concerned, anything they do is inevitably interpreted in the worst possible light, and then that interpretation is repeated until it’s accepted as fact when it may not be.

    ReplyReply

  107. Convictus
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 15:37:52

    Hey,

    Before we jump to conclusions there may be a chance that this is not directly Amazon’s fault. One tech site is suggesting that this is the result of a renowned Troll abusing the flagging system on Amazon via scripts.

    Gizmodo for the read

    ReplyReply

  108. DeMoy
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 16:45:56

    This is in response to #100, saying:

    >>> “What has been interesting are the comments from those people who don’t seem to have an issue with this. There are quite a few who have bought into the “glitch” excuse (which is absolute b.s. and any newb IT professional or even hobbiest will tell you that). These folks claim Amazon’s just doing “business” and trying to target the largest market possible while alienating no one. These are the same people whom more than likely would have turned a blind eye to the deportation of Jews, saying “it’s just good government”.

    I guess these idiots don’t understand the meaning of the word CENSORSHIP.

    I’m still amazed that healthy, egalitarian and consensual expressions of love are somehow “bad”, but graphic and oftentimes unecessary depictions of violence are “good”.” <<<

    I BEG YOUR PARDON!? What has this Amazon issue to do with the Jews, and how dare you bring their past treatment into a discussion about current censorship, accusing those who apparently don’t have an issues with ‘Amazon's (unproven) censorship' would condone something like their deportation!? How dare you bring in old politics into this!?

    Get with the issues here, and don’t insult those who still can get their books, gay or otherwise, by simply typing in author or title and forget all the tags and departments and labels – and voila, it’s right there! ALL OF IT! And don’t say ‘we claim Amazon’s just doing ‘business'', of course they are, I believe that's what they're there for! Or accuse those same ‘people' would also think violence is ‘good’ and love ‘bad’ – HOW DARE YOU!?

    I for one said that the adult label is applied to everything sexual outright, gay or otherwise, fact – and that other adult themes are not labelled adult, fact. No matter they should be, but simply aren't because the sites have to adhere to some ‘rules' and sorting the stuff and is bloody difficult for a giant like Amazon with hundreds of thousands of items, and ‘tech issues' DO arise frequently. FACT!

    I perfectly understand CENSORSHIP, pal, (and I'm not for it per se when it's up to individuals to ‘protect their own interests', but not by saying A is bad when B is not just because they don't like it) – but I’m not an ‘idiot’, just because I don’t ‘see’ it in Amazon’s case. If they show ‘anti-gay' books first than that's simply because obviously more people buy them and reflects the customer numbers, NOT site policies. As long as I can get any book I like from them, I will NOT boycott them, no matter on what page my search will come up or has any ranking, since we in fact STILL don't have any REAL proof they really censored any GLBT books ‘I' highly doubt and can find just fine! Speak for yourself #100!

    So in that case, I'm with #102 and #106 this time in addition to #54, since this issue has been completely blown out of proportion by now and looks more like a witchhunt in FACT, with ignorant people throwing insults on top now at NO clear FACTS having been established at all, and the majority is NOT always ‘right', don't forget that.

    ReplyReply

  109. DeMoy
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 16:52:35

    Oh yeah – and I agree with #107 in addition cutting in before me while I finished my last post. This is madness, Amazon would be insane to ‘censor’ anything – get real.

    ReplyReply

  110. Erastes
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 16:53:37

    Amazon admit the wrongness:

    “hamfisted” and “embarrasing”

    You are right, Amazon.

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

    ReplyReply

  111. Kymberlyn
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 17:41:17

    Amazon is a first and foremost a BUSINESS and and such they need to learn the fine art of public relations. How they manage to stay at the top when they pull stupid and idiotic crap like this is amazing. I don’t give a damn whether Jeff Bezos is good or bad with dealing with the public. He needs to get with the program and in the immortal words of Barney Fife, “nip it, nip it in the bud”.

    This entire brouhaha could have been avoided when it was first brought to Amazon’s attention back in FEBRUARY. They could have avoided all this unpleasantness (and lost revenue I’m sure) had they taken the complaints seriously and had they informed the public of a “glitch” in the system. Personally, I have no sympathies for them whatsoever.

    On the other hand, the seeming targeting of GLBTQ books smelled of censorship and in case people are living under a rock, books with these themes remain on the ALA’s list of most challenged books. One simply cannot help being concerned about this, and like I said before, I am glad that so many people cared enough to take action and flood the blogosphere. If they hadn’t, dollars to doughnuts Amazon would have done nothing to rectify the situation.

    It’s kind of backwards to attack those–such as authors–whose very livelihood depends on their books being made available and calling them “alarmist” or a mob. In my view, the fact that people took action and called a giant like Amazon into account–glitch or not–gives me a little hope that the public isn’t totally brainwashed.

    So there!

    ReplyReply

  112. Amazon=FAIL? « YGG’noise
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 18:44:28

    [...] example, this blog post explains how the search string “homosexual” on Amazon returns an interesting first result [...]

  113. DeMoy
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 19:16:33

    That’s in response to #111.

    Now you suddenly say, the ‘seeming targeting of GLBT books’ – which means, you’re not even sure that they have, nor can in fact prove they had, after you posted enough to make it seem a fact. Plus, now you state that Amazon have ‘rectified the situation’, when in fact nothing needed rectifying in the first place, or Amazon definetely would have given a public apology had they really suddenly ‘attacked’ GLBT books, and if Amazon were to ‘pull crap like that', they’d neither been able to stay at the top for so long, correct. But I have no problems in finding what was said had been removed or censored – none of it.

    (Besides, you still haven’t apologised to those not sharing your very aggressive sentiment, over accusing them of condoning Jews deportations in the same breath with censorship, or to be idiots – watch your choice of words here.)

    As long as GLBT books are available under whatever ‘ALA’ list, we don’t need censorship scaremongerers like you clutching at straws by now. If you believe what you say Amazon did, YOU can go somewhere else – but don’t force others to do the same or insult them for staying.

    As long as there's no real proof, you're alone in this no matter how many share your STILL unproven ‘opinion', not ‘fact'. I boycott a lot of anti-gay or lesbian this or that, and if it were to be proven I'm the first to leave Amazon too – but only ‘then'.

    ReplyReply

  114. duncan heights » Irregular Roundup #2
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 19:47:38

    [...] #amazonfailed yesterday when it pulled a bunch of books about LGBT issues, disability, and erotica from its virtual shelves by taking them off the Amazon ranking list, and I’m supremely disappointed. I’ve always liked Amazon, and it makes me sad that I have to boycott them for being asses now, of all times. They say it’s a glitch, but that seems unlikely to me because other “adult books” like Ron Jeremy’s autobiography were not stripped of their rankings. Booo. It’s a pretty sad day when Iowa > Amazon. (Er, no offense meant, Iowa.) [...]

  115. Seneca
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 06:56:40

    I’ve been sidetracked by thte fact that there is actually a book called.
    “A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.”

    That is one of the most horrible things I have ever heard of.

    ReplyReply

  116. Amazon Fail- or Why I’m Still Pissed Off « ELEANOR’S TROUSERS
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 10:34:10

    [...] insights on what happened, and didn’t happen quickly enough here, here, here, here, here, and here, new definitions of Amazon Rank, and calls to arms here, here, here, and [...]

  117. The Amazon situation « DragonKat
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 08:30:05

    [...] history (a few days old but still [...]

  118. Amazon situation « Kat’s Passions
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 15:27:13

    [...] history (a few days old but still [...]

  119. Chi
    Apr 16, 2009 @ 21:14:10

    It doesn’t look like its a recent human error when its been going on for MONTHS now.

    http://www.afterellen.com/node/48877

    It just totally blew off this week.

    ReplyReply

  120. Book Bizzo #14 The post-petition edition - Book Thingo
    Apr 17, 2009 @ 23:23:23

    [...] weekend, Twitter exploded with news that Amazon has been deranking and removing from search broad categories of books they consider to be of an “adult” [...]

  121. Oh Amazon, what is this fuckery? « Sam laPena
    Apr 27, 2009 @ 13:13:51

    [...] Dear Author blog has fantastic coverage of this shenanigans, as well as stuff you can do to let Amazon know they’re failing left and right. [...]

  122. Lisa Hendrix » Blog Archive » Can we say prejudiced?
    May 09, 2009 @ 13:09:05

    [...] Amazon Rankings don’t really mean anything to customers…but they mean everything to Amazon itself, which uses them to generate things like front page searches, bestseller lists, “If you like x then you’ll like y” recommendations, and everything else that effects the visibility and sales potential of books.  In other words, if your book is de-ranked, it WILL NOT appear on a front page search, even if the reader searches by your name or title. Heaven help you if they search by topic. Here are a couple of more thorough explanations Dear Author  [...]

  123. The Book Pushers » Blog Archive » Amazon Rank
    Oct 29, 2009 @ 15:37:53

    [...] More information about Amazons censorship: Dear Author [...]

  124. Lindsey Darren
    Feb 24, 2010 @ 13:57:06

    I have just cancelled all my outstanding preorders with Amazon (about a hundred dollars worth) and ordered them through Powells. (This will cost me about a twenty five bucks in shipping, so yeah, I'm putting my money where my mouth is.) I specified this policy in my reason for cancellation/stopping.

    Thank You!!

    ReplyReply

  125. sponsor
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 16:32:19

    Oh! This is awesome! Thank you for countering many
    confusion I had seen about this as of late.

    ReplyReply

  126. Censorship = More Yummy "Banned Books"? | It's All a Matter of Perspective
    Jun 03, 2010 @ 07:42:35

    [...] it from public view. For a straightforward explanation of why sales rank matters on Amazon, see this article. First, someone at Amazon explained to author Mark Probst that the company was doing this on [...]

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