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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Deranks Gay Books

LA Times:

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.


But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it's a bit beside the point. It's the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can't be a good idea.

I'd urge people to go to Barnes and Noble and Borders instead. I've given Amazon alot of business in the past. I will no longer do so unless they change this policy - and apologise to the victimized authors.

More at: Pam's House Blend and Americablog.


Lori Heine said...

I absolutely agree. Even if Amazon did this because of pressure from anti-gay groups, they alone are responsible for how they choose to deal with that sort of pressure. Not everyone caves in to bigots. There is a certain form of moral cowardice, now more and more apparent in the corporate world, that jumps to do the bidding of every bully who makes demands. Amazon does NOT have to give equal respect to all sides of every issue out of some misguided notion of "fairness."