Apr 12 2009
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: email@example.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:
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.