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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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Well, I'm having a bit of block (at the word-by-word sentence level) on the new Secret Life (and once we get to the entry after that one, you will understand why I've been trying to plow through), so let's discuss the big hot-button topic today: Amazon making an ass of itself (aka "#amazonfail" on Twitter, where much of the protest has been fomenting).

Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner.
"American Psycho" is Bret Easton Ellis' story of a sadistic murderer. "Unfriendly Fire" is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it's "Unfriendly Fire" that does not have a sales rank -- which means it would not show up in Amazon's bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the Twilight series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon's search results.

Amazon's policy of removing "adult" content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. On Saturday, self-published author Mark R. Probst [markprobst] noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon's customer service explained:

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.

Probst is the author of a novel for young adults with gay characters set in the old West; he was concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted. Amazon has not responded to the LA Times request for clarification.
The issue isn't that "adult" content is being deranked; it's that Amazon is pulling gay and lesbian content (and then feminist/general sexuality) that was not explicit (E.M. Forster's Maurice!) from sales ranks, greatly decreasing its visibility and sales potential, while letting explicit heterosexual content remain. (Moreover, Dear Author reports that, due to the derankings, "if you search 'homosexual' on Amazon.com, your first search result is 'A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.' ")

Among the targeted works:
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 [Brokeback Mountain], 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. (Dear Author)
(More thorough listings at meta_writer.)

Furthermore, Smart Bitches explains, "Craig Seymour['s] book All I Could Bare, a memoir of his job as a stripper, was stripped of sales rank back in February 2009, despite memoirs from prominent pornography actors remaining within the ranks. So this has been creeping up insidiously, it seems, until massive delisting occurred over the last few days."

Then Smart Bitches took it to the streets with the Google bomb Amazon Rank; they add that, "As of 7:54pm EST, Amazon has given out a host of explanations, which I’ve heard from Twitterers, along the lines of 'people complained' to 'we will have more information tomorrow.' I smell a giant meeting in PR at Amazon HQ bright and early tomorrow. We’ll see what the morning brings."

Of course, Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for "New" Adult Policy. Unfortunately, Dear Author foresaw that explanation: "Craig Seymour first complained about his book being adversely treated by Amazon back in February." Plus, you know--THE EMAIL TO MARK PROBST. So tomorrow should be interesting.

ETA: Traffic killed the Publisher's Weekly "glitch" article, but I managed to grab it here.

ETA 2: On Amazon Failure, Meta-Trolls, and Bantown. I don't know how that would take February and the Probst email into account, though.

Site Meter

I wondered if you would mention this. I'm at least glad that a lot of people will see this and know about it now, so thanks for that.

Well, I posted a lot of stuff on Twitter, but yeah, I was waiting for it to settle down for the night so I wouldn't have to constantly ETA the entry.

Have you got a cap of the "it's a glitch!" website? I can't get it to load at all, keeps coming up with empty page errors.

I think this is awesomely bad for Amazon's public image, yet I can't help but wonder how much this backlash is going to increase sales for LGBT authors when Amazon backs down? As I said in my post, it's good for the authors, but putting more money in Amazon's pockets for BEING homophobic, bigoted twats? I'm not to keen.

Aw, I saw it with my own eyes but I think traffic's borked it now. I'll see what I can find.

Hey hey! I was able to pull up the previous version I visited, gimme a sec to upload.

Edited at 2009-04-13 01:33 am (UTC)

This is all over my f-list (I posted about it too)

Glitch my ass. What kind of glitch targets GLBT/feminist/disabled content? A glitch would be targeting books with "The" in the title. This is not a glitch and I really hope the MSM doesn't let them get away with that explanation and disregard the online response as "Oh that crazy Internet."

and disregard the online response as "Oh that crazy Internet."

The "-fail" suffix and fighting it via Googlebomb are really not gonna help on that front. :/

I just searched the word "homosexual" on Amazon, clicked on books, and the first title that came up? Dark Obsession: The Tragedy and Threat of the Homosexual Lifestyle. LOL / sadface.

It boggles my mind that people think no one will notice these things.

Or that they thought Mark Probst wouldn't share his email with the world. They're displaying epic amounts of stupid throughout this.

I've been tracking this all day in a semi-obsessive, much edited fashion. I suspected they'd try the "glitch" explanation (as did most people from the looks of it), but... I remain impressed at the sheer level of fail here. The derankings were bad to begin with, but then to sit in utter silence and finally trot out a half-assed "the technology did it!" excuse? Not on, guys. The least they could have done would be to let us know early on that they were aware of the problem and were looking into it.

At least Mark Probst posted that email. He's got the proof that it's not a "glitch".

Shit. I order from Amazon all the time because my shopping time is severely limited by my toddler and they don't just sell books, but now I think I'm going to have to find an alternative. Bastards.

Computer glitch my ass. I think somebody got freaked out about the recent good news out of Iowa and Vermont. Does Glenn Beck also secretly work for Amazon? Did they really think that they could get away with this kind of discrimination?

Jezebel has been updating a list of ranked/unranked works all day, and having looked at it and the LA Times blog post that you linked to on your Twitter, not only am I angry, I'm confused. It's important to note that while the majority of the titles being un-ranked are of LGBT interest, there is a lot of unevenness (really, it's shockingly haphazard) in the choices of what is ok to be ranked and what is not. Lady Chatterley's Lover and Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl have both been unranked, while Lesbian Couples: A Guide to Creating Healthy Relationships and Fear of Flying are still ranked.

This is almost like a bad joke, an April Fool's prank that someone forgot to do until today and thought "well, better late than never!"

(Deleted comment)
But... but Maurice is so innovative in that it's the first book (or would have been, y'know, in 1913) to present a happy gay couple in early 20th century England! How can they call that adult? E. M. Forster is brilliant! HDU AMAZON.

Who owns Amazon? I wonder if this is one of those crazy-ass American Family Association coalition deals where the people with the purse strings are like "TEH GHEYS SUXX0RZ REMOVE OR DIE"... hence said epic failure.

Anyway, I've had issues with Amazon since that time they randomly charged me $80 saying I bought a subscription to Amazon Prime when I so totally didn't. I have no problem boycotting their sorry asses.

Jeff Bezos is the founder but it's a publicly traded company now. He appears on Jon Stewart a lot; the last time I saw him on there he was hyping the new version of the Kindle. I hope Stewart snags him for a guest in the next couple of days and rips him a new one as only Stewart can do.

The issue isn't that "adult" content is being deranked;

No, the issue is that ANY content is deranked or disappears from searches. If we can't rely upon Amazon.com to give us a list of ALL books fitting our search criteria, why should we use their site?

I don't care if it's GLBT, KKK, or Tammy Faye Bakker; I don't care if I find a book's contents reprehensible; censorship is evil, period.

This. This is what made me so mind-bendingly angry. The rest just made me afraid. What the hell?

I noticed this this morning, Neil Gaiman's twitter alerted me. I made a huge post about it to sf_drama
here and shot off e-mails to Jezebel and The Consumerist and Gawker. Gawker and Jezebel have made posts about it (Jezebel has made three, actually).

Thank you, by the way, for making that post. I and my friends would not have heard of it if it were not for that.

Censorship is censorship plain and simple. It starts with these books and goes forward like every other bad thing.
Hopefully the Twitter bombs and the emails and phones calls let them know that though they are a "private" company, they rely on the public to stay in business.
I wrote them an email and spammed my blog with it to get the word out.
Amazon is my go to place. I really hope they figure it out.


This is an interesting perspective on the whole thing, although even if this is close to the truth, it doesn't absolve Amazon. It's just a slightly different kind of fail.

That actually sounds rather plausible. Thanks for posting the link.


I got a Twitter 3 days ago. What happened to me.