Logo originated at the Cheryl's Mewsings blog
Darnit. I had just gotten my Amazon Affiliate account and was going to start posting links here (in fact, the book links I posted in my “browse” post yesterday were the first ones connected to my own account). And now I’m going to refuse to use the account, and may close it altogether. Want to know why? Brace yourself.
By now you may have encountered the news that Amazon.com’s ranking system has quite systematically been removing gay & lesbian-themed materials from their ranking system, classifying it as “adult.” (Excuse me? Heather Has Two Mommies is ADULT??) At the same time, identical types of materials that portray or discuss straight sex have not been deranked. If books had the Amazon-designated tag of “gay and lesbian,” BLAMMO. Gone.
What this means is that sales of these books go way, way down, because they don’t show up on searches, unless you know the ISBN or other very specific info — and if you’re searching for books on a general topic, are you going to know information that specific about all the books that could fall into the category? NO.
So…”adult” material discussing gay citizens can’t be found without a lot of specifically targetted searching, while “adult” material discussing straights shows up with little problem.
And by the way — right now, if you enter “homosexuality” in the search function at Amazon.com, you know what comes up at the top of the list? A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Then 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality, endorsed by FOCUS ON THE FAMILY.
On top of that, there are other types of books included in this purge. Some feminist books. Books discussing sex and the disabled. Rape prevention. Suicide prevention. All of them, frankly, favourite targets of a whole heckuva lot of neo-Con Wingnuts.
Amazon (no way am I going to link to them) tried to claim late last night that it was just a “glitch” that was being “fixed.”
A “glitch” that specific?? Right. Sure.
This is not, in fact, a glitch. Authors of books in these categories had begun noticing back in February that their books had been deranked (and how did they realize this? Because SALES WENT DOWN, so they started checking). Author Mark Probst made in inquiries in February, and received this response from a real person at Amazon:
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.
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.
And the same thing happened to author (and Associate Professor of Journalism at Northern Illinois University) Craig Seymour:
Like many authors, I frequently check my sales status on Amazon, so imagine my shock, back in early February when the “Amazon.com Sales Rank” completely disappeared from the Product Details of my book. The book also disappeared from the search listings, so that if a customer looked up “All I Could Bare by Craig Seymour” on the Amazon home page, nothing came up.
Of course, I immediately sent emails to Amazon asking about this situation. I also placed several phone calls. But I could never get a straight answer, until February 25, when I received an email stating that “the sales rank was not displayed for the following reasons: The ISBN #1416542051 was classified as an Adult product.” …
I brought this to the attention of my publisher, and they started looking into it. But, in the meantime, I also did some snooping around, and it turned out that the only books I could find without a “sales rank” had gay content like mine. …
This is not a glitch. It has been going on for weeks, growing in strength, until it finally hit the fan on Twitter over the weekend. I followed the upheaval for several hours last night. On one blog that was linked to, an actual Amazon employee kept trying to get people to “simmer down,” saying that it was a weekend, and all would be well, and repaired, on Monday when all the Amazon employees got back to work.
One woman replied, “I have a luxury that Amazon apparently doesn’t have — I work for an independent bookstore and we have people on call on weekends in case emergencies come up.”
This is not a glitch. Some have tried to claim that this happened because of a targetted attack by right-wingnuts going through and tagging a host of books as offensive, whereupon some automatic Amazon system kicked in, and removed the rankings.
Nope. Doesn’t fly. Not if this has been happening since February, and real Amazon people have been sending real letters of explanation to real authors.
Whether right-wingnuts were behind this in other ways remains to be discovered. (And trust me — now that this has happened, it will be discovered.)
And really — if it is the sort of glitch they’re trying to claim — and it could go so out of whack, literally affecting the livelihoods of many authors and restricting the reading choices of millions of adult citizens — do we want them to have our credit card and other information?? If their coding is that bad, and their controls on their own systems so flawed, can we trust that our info is safe and secure?
And by the way — did the publishers know that Amazon could so explicitly control the sales of their books? Was that in the contract? Can you say “Class Action Lawsuit??”
In the meantime, Amazon has broken the trust of millions of its users. This is outright censorship, even if it was some sort of glitch. And adult readers (and book-buyers!) don’t take kindly to Big Brother telling us what we can or can’t read, thank you very much.
They are going to be slammed in the pocketbook in a major way. I hope they’re left staggering for years. This is censorship, pure and simple.
This was not a “glitch.” As the Twitter tags put it: #amazonfail and #glitchmyass.