April 12th, 2009
Amazon has reclassified LGBT themed books as “Adult” books, which also removes them from Amazon’s all-important sales ranking. The LA Times blog notes the capriciousness of this act:
“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.
De-ranking can have a devastating affect on customers ability to find books.The Amazon Gay and Lesbian best seller’s list has been decimated, with only Kindle titles showing up right now. Apparently, Amazon’s Kindle offerings haven’t been affected yet.
Craig Seymour began blogging about this in February, but it is just now getting widespread notice. He has some more examples of Amazon’s arbitrariness in reclassifying LGBT themed books while leaving comparable hetero books alone:
Memoirs by gay porn stars Blue Blake (Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star) and Bobby Blake (My Life in Porn: The Bobby Blake Story) didn’t have a sales ranking, but memoirs by straight porn stars Ron Jeremy (Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz) and Jenna Jameson (How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale) did. Clearly, there seemed to be a double-standard.
Mark Probst is a publisher with Amazon, and that gave him special access to Amazon to ask what’s up. This is the reply he got:
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.
But here’s the really crazy thing. This very adult material (NSFW) retains its sales ranking. As do these (NSFW), this (NSFW), and this clever thing (NSFW). In other words, sex toys aren’t “adult” according to Amazon, but a rational discussion of the policy implications of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is.
Among the books now considered “Adult” include the children’s book, Heather Has Two Mommies. All of Michelangelo Signorile’s books have been de-ranked as well, and none of them contain any eroticism whatsoever. Says Signorile, “In my case it is a clear suppression of political speech. It’s that simple.” Andrew Sullivan also notice that his books have been de-listed and he’s similarly puzzled:
“Virtually Normal” and “Love Undetectable” have been de-listed and stripped of customer sales rankings. Jackie Collins’ “Married Lovers” hasn’t. My books contain discussions of Aquinas and Freud and Foucault and Burke. I’m puzzled as to why those authors are more “adult” than Collins’ adulterous couplings.
Update: Publisher’s Weekly has another statement from Amazon. They’re calling it “a glitch”:
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.
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