Amazon sets the blogosphere on fire

Thanks to Cheryl Morgan, I discovered that has done something ridiculously stupid and offensive– it has stripped the sales rankings from many books (fiction, nonfiction, and academic) with gay or lesbian subjects or characters, and it is excluding this “adult” material from some searches and bestseller lists.  People are posting lists of books affected online, and I did some quick author and title searches myself, so here are just a few of the books now missing their rankings:

  • Fiction:  E.M. Forster’s Maurice, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the Only Fruit, Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet, and books by Nicola Griffith, among others.
  • Biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs:  Randy Shilts’ The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, Dan Savage’s The Committment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family, Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant, and Gerald Clarke’s biography of Truman Capote.
  • History: David Carter’s Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet, Louis Crompton’s Homosexuality and Civilization, and Tin’s The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience.

Mark R. Probst raised the alarm in his blog and posted Amazon’s response to his inquiry about this:

On 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 Advantage

The Meta Writer blog has a link roundup and has starting compiling a list of notable books that have had their sales ranking removed. Strangely, the Kindle editions of GLBT books still have their rankings– for now.

News of this is raging across the blogosphere, and there are more blog posts about it than I can link to, but here are a few more from Booksquare and Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith. Amazon should quickly reverse itself or else this is going to grow to a public relations disaster of epic proportions.

Update:  Sunday evening news flash from Publisher’s Weekly:

A groundswell of outrage, concern and confusion sprang up over the weekend, largely via Twitter, in response to what authors and others believed was a decision by Amazon to remove adult titles from its sales ranking. On Sunday evening, however, an Amazon spokesperson said that a glitch had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process of being fixed. The spokesperson added that there was no new adult policy.

2 responses to “Amazon sets the blogosphere on fire

  1. Well, I signed the petition. 1 gets you 5 they backtrack almost immediately.

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