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What is Amazon Doing to LGBT, Sexuality Titles and Search?

April 12, 2009
tags: , ,

Apparently Amazon.com has been pulling the sales rank data and removing from search results a number of gay and lesbian and sexuality/sex ed books, seemingly claiming that:

“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.”

Y’all know I’m not for anything that gets between people and their books. This seems to deliberately try to get between people and discovering books on LGBT and sex topics. Heather Corinna notes the disparities in how books have been deranked (emphasis added):

The trouble with that reply is that there is PLENTY of very explicilty “adult” material which has NOT been deranked, and we don’t need to guess much about if it is or isn’t adult when we simply look at some of the titles: Girls Gone Wild: Girls on Girls, Surrender the Booty 3: The Search for More Arse, Jenna Jameson: Ultimate Collection, Girls Kissing: Volume One, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz, Candy Girl: A Year In The Life Of An Unlikely Stripper, Hot Babes…

My book is intended for young adults, and is GLBT-inclusive, and penned by me, a queer author. It is not salacious, it is not pornography: it is a sexuality, sexual health and relationships reference book. Heather Has Two Mommies is a supportive and classic children’s book about gay families. Hello, Cruel World is a suicide prevention book (which just happens to be written by a transgender author). That’s a short list, but the point is, many of the books that have been deranked are not adult books at all, nor adult or salacious material, but what nearly all of them, so far, do seem to be are tagged or labeled in some way as GLBT, or as books addressing sexuality in a non-heteronormative or gendernormative way.”


For more:

-Twitter search #amazonfail
-Heather Corinna: Is this book (or its author) too gay for an Amazon?
-Kassia Krozser at Booksquare: Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes
-Hortense at Jezebel: Why Is Amazon Removing The Sales Rankings From Gay, Lesbian Books?
-Mark R Probst: Amazon Follies
-Meta Writer: Amazon Censorship – Who is affected?
-Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: Amazon Rank
-Craig’s Pop Life: Is Amazon.com Homophobic?

Update: Amazon says it’s a “glitch” that they’re in the process of fixing, although I wonder how that squares with what Mark Probst was told. One misinformed customer service rep? Or something else entirely? Another author writes of why she doesn’t buy the “glitch” response.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. midsleic permalink
    April 12, 2009 5:43 pm

    Yea – if you read the comments with the post however, you quickly realise that this is a non-issue and not everyone appears to be affected by this non-issue.

    Someone trying to get a name for themselves me thinks.

    p.s. I’m gay and can see all these books – most of them come up number one on the list. Perhaps I have gay eyes that see better?

  2. April 12, 2009 7:36 pm

    Editions of books that do not have “gay” as a tag or category have not been stripped. So some books have sales ranks for the hardcover edition but not the paperback, or the Kindle edition shows up in a search but not the print book. That Amazon is applying their censorship unevenly does not in any way make it a non-issue.

    One of the LA Times blogs is also now covering the issue:
    Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner

  3. April 12, 2009 9:01 pm

    Lyrl, thanks for providing that link. midsleic, I’d agree with Lyrl and say that the uneven nature of what’s happening makes it more of a question and an issue than you suggest when you dismiss the concern (even as you call it “censorship”). Additionally, as 8 separate posts were linked, it would help if were specific in suggesting reading comments attached to one of them.

  4. April 15, 2009 5:28 am

    ABC News ran a column on this yesterday: ‘Glitch’ or Hacker? Gay Titles Deep-Sixed at Amazon

    What I got out of the ABC article is that Amazon had a button on the page of every book that said “report as inappropriate”. If a small number of people clicked on this button, the book would automatically and without human review be put on a list of “adult material” and have its sales rank stripped.

    Someone thought it would be funny to create a bot script to click on the “report as inappropriate button” for all books in GLBT categories. When authors complained, Amazon staff check their books, see they are on the (remember, automatically generated) “adult” list, and don’t look into the matter any further.

    According to the ABC article, Amazon has now removed the “report as inappropriate” button.

    I don’t know that the button itself was a bad idea, but that they would use it to censor books without any kind of staff oversight just set them up for this kind of abuse.

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