Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Institutes Anti-Gay Policy

by Dick Mac

On Saturday, writer and publisher Mark R. Probst, asked Amazon why his books had lost their sales rankings; and he received this 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.

Probst's books are "romance" novels, and are no more or less "adult" than those by smutstress Jackie Collins, and are a hell of a lot less "adult" than a collection of Playboy centerfolds, both of which retain their rankings, even as Amazon insists they are de-ranking adult material.

The LA Times has uncovered dramatic inconsistencies, including the same book by different publishers being de-ranked on the one hand and ranked on the other.

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.

Books that remain ranked include: "Naked" by David Sedaris, "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller, "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis, "Wifey" by Judy Blume, "The Kiss" by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks "Playboy: Helmut Newton" and "Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds," "Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs, "Incest: From 'A Journal of Love'" by Anais Nin, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition).

An article at CRAIG'S POP LIFE describes how that author's book about being a male stripper was de-ranked while many books by and/or about female strippers remain unscathed; and this began back in February.

Like many authors, I frequently check my sales status on Amazon, so imagine my shock, back in early February when the " 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 thought: An Adult product? What does that mean? Who knew that Amazon had such a category and why is it being applied to my book?

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. For instance, my gay stripper memoir had no sales ranking, but Diablo Cody's stripper memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, did.

So, authors lose their sales ranking, which means that they can never appear on the bestsellers list, even if they sell more copies than Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hefner, or Diablo Cody. Then, on top of that, you can't even find the books if you search for them by exact title and author.

Conservative apologists will say that Amazon has every right to conduct their business in any way they see fit, and I am inclined to agree with them. What's more important than Amazon's right to discriminate, is our right to refuse to do business with them.

Late Sunday night, AP published an article in which Amazon began its backpedaling: Amazon 'glitch' removes sales rank from gay books

Can you imagine the shit-throw the conservatives would start if Amazon refused to carry Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh?

I have removed all Amazon ads from this blog, and although links remain on archived articles, no new articles will link to Amazon products. Since they are now lying and saying that the de-ranking was a "glitch," I may never do business with them again.

I encourage you to purchase your books at which is a website dedicated to small booksellers. I will be purchasing my books there henceforth.

It will be interesting to see if the mainstream media touch this, and how Faux News, CNN, MSNBC, and that ilk will spin this to make Amazon appear to be the the victim.

Links as of Sunday night:

LA Times: Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner

Is Homophobic?

Twitter's amazonfail thread

Gawker's These Books Too Gay for Amazon

Gizmodo's Amazon Deems LGBT Books Too 'Adult' For Search, Best Seller Lists

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1 comment:

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