Image via phheww.
Everyone and their mom is emailing and DMing me today about Amazon’s move to de-rank so-called “adult” books, including a national award winner. Basically they’re removing books for adult content from their sales ranks — not that they ever included any *actual* adult books in their official sales lists — but it’s a move that’s kicking LGBT books to the curb and removing books like “American Psycho” from the lists. This is a huge, lame WTF? and a slap in the face of readers, publishers, and writers everywhere. And yes, the Google bombing has begun because people are pissed off. Dan Savage, Carol Queen, Kate Bornstein< Susie Bright, Audacia Ray and Tristan Taormino are on the censored list; I'm still looking to see if they hit my titles as well. Here are two good pieces of coverage to get you up to speed:
Amazon.com decided, over the holiday weekend, to strip many titles they considered “adult” of sales rankings, making them impossible to find through Amazon’s search function. This is disproportionately affecting GLBT titles.
Books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Bastard Out Of Carolina have also been tagged as “adult” and removed from search rankings. They told Mark Probst it was to “protect” readers. Writers such as Maya Banks, Larissa Ione, and Jaci Burton have been affected. (Here’s Dear Author with updates. Meta Writer is also updating a list of writers affected.)
This is utter bullshit. In the first place, Amazon doesn’t have the right to try to police what we buy. Amazon seems to forget that we’re the people it’s supposed to be serving–and right now I’m speaking as a consumer, not an author.
As an author, the “this is utter bullshit” just gets more intense. For crying out loud. Brokeback Mountain, unsearchable and hence almost unbuyable through Amazon? The Well Of Loneliness? Come on. And for the sake of sweet Auntie Louise, you don’t need to f!cking protect me or anyone else from GLBT fiction.
Jeez. You can buy freaking sex toys on Amazon (though I prefer Babeland, personally), and they’re trying to dictate what we can buy to read?
I take a very dim view of anyone doing this, and Amazon’s status as the corporation most likely to shortchange small-press authors (oh, don’t even get me started about the POD thing not too long ago) and/or take over the world a la Skynet doesn’t help.
One of these books has been removed from Amazon’s sales rankings because of “adult” content; the other has not.
“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 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.
Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: “Running with Scissors” by Augusten Burroughs; “Rubyfruit Jungle” by Rita Mae Brown, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel, “The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1” by Michel Foucault, “Bastard Out of Carolina” by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), “Little Birds: Erotica” by Anais Nin, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), “Maurice” by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and “Becoming a Man” by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award. (…read more, latimesblogs.latimes.com, thanks VM!)
Update 04.13.09: Dude, where’s my sales rank? God, don’t you hate it when a “glitch” accidentally wipes 57,310 books that just happen to focus on LGBT and sexual health topics from the fucking map of the biggest book retailer in the world? Damn, what a BOO BOO. I want to be compassionate, and I will be when the pieces all add up because I do subscribe to the maxim that one should never assign malfeasance to apparent stupidity until all the facts are in place. However, today this hit AP and NYT, and here’s their take:
Amazon.com apologized Monday for an ”embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error” that led to the sales ranking being removed from tens of thousands of books.
The online retailer initially said Sunday that a ”glitch” had caused the problem and promised that the numbers would be restored. But Monday afternoon, sales numbers were still gone for such recent works as Chelsea Handler’s ”My Horizontal Life” and from such classics as Gore Vidal’s ”The City and the Pillar” and James Baldwin’s ”Giovanni’s Room.”
”What kind of a childish game is this?” Vidal said Monday. ”Why don’t they just burn the books? They’d be better off and it’s very visual on television.”
On Monday, Amazon spokesman Andrew Herdener called the deletions an ”embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.” He said that 57,310 books had been affected. (…read more, nytimes.com, via The Sex Carnival)
Update 04.14.09: The comment community here is updating the saga (and its rumors) with links at a fresh clip; I’ll do an official update when I’ve got something solid. Here’s to having a kickass comment community.