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Thread: Amazon censors sales ranking of LGBT books

  1. #1
    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Default Amazon censors sales ranking of LGBT books

    Wasn't sure if this should go here or in the computers forums. Mods, move if need be.

    I've been seeing links on this all over the place, but the news outlets have picked it up yet. Here's the most comprehensive post I've found from an author's Livejournal:

    Amazon Follies

    • Apr. 12th, 2009 at 2:08 AM







    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 just 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!

    Mark R. Probst - Amazon Follies
    More links, if anyone's interested:

    Adult Content Notice
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

    "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." -Benjamin Franklin

  2. #2
    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    WTF??? Well, I'll be finding a new online shopping hub. How randomly bizarre

  3. #3
    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Among the books they pulled the sales ranks on is "Heather has two mommies" (yeah, that's a sexfest) and Vito Russo's The Celluloid closet (a very dry, very academic book on Hollywood's treatment of gay characters and invisibility-kind of ironic).
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

    "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." -Benjamin Franklin

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    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    Its not only affecting GLBT books - also erotica and even Bios from Stephen Fry and Ellen Degeneres. Apparently even Foucault's Theory of Sexuality has been deranked as well as Brokebank Mountain. What is hilarious romance is a huge popular genre and is one of the few that has a growth in sales compared to others.
    The SmartBitches and Dear Author blogs are organising a protest as well googlebombing a new definition of amazon rank ;D
    Smart Bitches, Trashy Books | Romance Novel Reviews | Come for the Dominican Bitches, Stay for the Man Titty | Amazon Rank

  5. #5
    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Also a guide book for sex and disability:

    Amazon.com: The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness: Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, Fran Odette: Books

    How dare those disabled people want to enjoy life and sexuality like everybody else!

    Amazon fails on every front.
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

    "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." -Benjamin Franklin

  6. #6
    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    It sounds like a small group of rightwing fundies have lobbied amazon to derank adult content from the main search engine. Because this really doesn't make any sense whatsoever and Amazon is pretty naive to think there wouldnt be a huge reaction against this as GLBT and Erotica/Romance is popular. What else is sick that Playboy stuff and books about dog fighting is okay as they are still suitable and have sales ranks.

  7. #7
    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Alan Moore's Lost Girls still has a sales rank:

    Amazon.com: Lost Girls: Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie: Books

    While I mostly rolled my eyes at the controversy surrounding this graphic novel (it's just a comic book, people! Chill!), I find it ironic that a book featuring explicit underage sex, pedophilia and incest (as well as at least one gay scene, but hey, I guess the rest of the het sex with the teen girls is distraction enough) is considered 'all audiences' while any gay-themed book, regardless of topic or genre isn't.
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

    "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." -Benjamin Franklin

  8. #8
    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    This definitely stinks of an agenda- amazon UK if you search homosexuality the first 3 hits are anti gay books.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss_...prefix=homosex

    And Sex and the City book is unranked but movie isnt LOL.

  9. #9
    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ana-mish-ana View Post
    This definitely stinks of an agenda- amazon UK if you search homosexuality the first 3 hits are anti gay books.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss_...prefix=homosex

    And Sex and the City book is unranked but movie isnt LOL.
    The Sex and the City trivia is amusing. The rest is more under the realm of 'rage-inducing'.

    I found this great open letter to Amazon:

    Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes

    April 12th, 2009 · 59 Comments
    by Kassia Krozser


    Dear Amazon,
    Happy Easter (or if it’s Monday morning, happy belated Easter!). It seems the Easter Bunny, while hopping down the bunny trail, left some rotten eggs all over the Amazon site while we were sleeping. Suddenly, many books lost their sales ranking and levels of searchability on the Amazon site.
    Somehow, the brain trust of your company has decided to protect the “entire” Amazon customer base by restricting access to content that someone (who?) decided was offensive. In your zeal to protect me from myself, of course, you managed to leave content that I find singularly repulsive online (really, exploring the human condition is bad, but Mein Kampf is just fine?).
    This loss of ranking, listing, search functionality seems to be largely, but not wholly!, limited to fiction and non-fiction with themes relating to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. Authors affected range from E.M. Forster to James Baldwin to John Barrowman, our beloved Captain Jack on Dr. Who and Torchwood and others, including a host of female authors who write erotic fiction.

    Gee, I can buy a book on training fighting dogs (something so offensive my stomach hurts just looking at the cover image), but specific types of human relationships are suddenly taboo? Gee, that this happened on Easter is the kind of symbolism an editor would find too heavy-handed if an author wrote it (though some say this has been happening for a few days)!
    As a heterosexual, happily married adult female, I am deeply offended by this decision. As a customer, I am angered enough to take my business elsewhere, and I’d like a refund on my Kindle since, despite reports that your database sweep was not complete, you have decided to limit my ability to purchase books — from literary classics like Lady Chatterley’s Lover to newesque titles like Tipping The Velvet and Running With Scissors. (Thank you Edward Champion, Sarah Weinman, and Carolyn Kellogg for noting some of these titles!)
    And wow, great work on the search butchering. A straight-on search of Bastard Out Of Carolina returns…wait for it…links to five books before the Dorothy Allison version ranks. Pretty Baby, the Brooke Shields movie, ranks higher. Neat. I mean, I’ve never loved your search, but this is really bad. It is amusing to me that The Handmaid’s Tale pops up higher in this search than the actual book I’m seeking.
    By the time you get to the corporate offices tomorrow, you will realize that the issue has been all over Twitter and that various news organizations have noted the issue. You’ll see blog posts and many comments. I hope you’ll take them seriously, and I hope you’ll do us — your customers — the courtesy of responding in the most public fashion possible!
    Kassia Krozser
    Update 12:02 p.m. for contact information: 800-201-7575 (demand to speak to someone who will take complaint). Mail: Amazon, PO Box 81226, Seattle, WA 98108

    http://digg.com/d1oYjg
    Really, I think they miscalculated. The corners of the Net I spend time in have exploded over this, I bet this will result in some very bad PR for them.
    "Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck." - Joss Whedon

    "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." -Benjamin Franklin

  10. #10
    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    Its hitting the mainstream already- LA Times have picked it up and just wait until the political bloggers pick this up. I cant understand why they have decided to do this.
    I bet they will reverse their decision but the PR fallout is hard to fix.

  11. #11
    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Did Walmart buy Amazon? They are a clearinghouse for product, they don't want to sell the inventory? It is bizarre.

  12. #12
    Elite Member ana-mish-ana's Avatar
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    I think Amazon is still owned by the orignal founder but its definitely odd- Jezebel has a list of books that have been deranked and those which have not. Very very interesting plus adult sex toys are still ranked but books are not?

    http://jezebel.com/5209088/why-is-am...-lesbian-books

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    Elite Member sparkly's Avatar
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    ^It's obvious they're being homophobic. Amazon is on my shit list, and I flat out refuse to buy anything from them until they change their ways and issue a public apology. First of all, they have NO right whatsoever to censor grown adults. There's such a thing as freedom of speech in this country, and if someone is so fucking offended to see a homosexually themed book for sale on Amazon, then maybe those people should go live in a cave where they fucking belong. Secondly, it's total bullshit that they still sell anti-gay themed books and rank those. I'm half tempted to write those bitches a letter and tell them off!
    Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Just wrote them a long letter about how I feel and informed them they will not be getting a single penny from me until it is reversed (and I used to spend a lot of money on Amazon). Pisses me off.

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    Gold Member frazzled's Avatar
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    ^ I just did the same. Even if they do "fix" it, the damage it done. They won't be getting a single penny from me ever again.
    I saw a film today, oh boy.

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