The wave of negativity on Facebook.com and Twitter was motivated by a mass de-listing of any book that dealt even vaguely with sexuality – especially GLBT sexuality. In some cases books that suddenly had no ranking including nothing more subversive than an openly gay author.
Although site visitors could easily find Ron Jeremy: The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz or A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, books by esteemed sexuality authors, educators and editors including Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tristan Taormino and Audacia Ray – as well as mainstream but gay names like Gore Vidal, Stephen Fry and Ellen DeGeneres -- required considerably more research to locate.
For reasons that are obvious, difficult to locate books are also more difficult to sell. This is bad news in nearly any time, but in economic times that squeeze everyone and have further injured sagging book sales, becoming invisible can be a literary death sentence.
Explanations from Amazon have been unconvincing, with the situation being blamed on a “glitch” by some representatives while a form letter from the company insists the action took place “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 be excluded from that feature.”
“Glitch or not, my erotica books still have no rankings,” Bussel complained via Twitter, adding the hash tags, #glitchmyass and #amazonfail to drive home her point.
Writer, editor and Signet Press publisher Cecilia Tan observed that, “Wow, I didn’t always think Amazon was *awesome* but now they are actively *evil,*” and promised to remove her associate links with the site. Later, she provided information to others keen to follow her lead.
Ironically, although visitors looking for books on recovering from rape will have a tough time finding appropriate titles due to the de-listing, they can easily locate anti-homosexual books, Playboy centerfold calendars and a wide variety of sex toys.
Although this is the first time that such a mass vanishing of even potentially homoerotic content has taken place on Amazon.com, a variety of writers, including gay memoir author Craig Seymour, took this opportunity to observe that it’s not the first time such works have been re-categorized as “adult,” thus making access to interested customers and accurate cross-promotion and accounting of sales problematic.
The move, whether “glitch” or free speech stifling business policy, has inspired protest petitions, threats of Google bombs and calls for a boycott of the website that currently ranks Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion but not Brokeback Mountain, Heather Has Two Mommies, Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Amazon representative Patty Smith has informed CNET News that in spite of the form letter’s insistence concerning protecting visitors from unsavory content, Essentially, there’s a glitch in our system and it’s being fixed.”
What circumstances brought about the “glitch” are unknown.
Meanwhile, four U.S. states have legalized same-sex marriage, others are exploring the possibility and Portland Oregon’s “city of books,” Powells.com is gaining subscribers.
(Originally published on YNOT.com)