In April 2009, while we all slept, over 57,000 books were secretly re-catalogued by Amazon.com as X-rated and subsequently de-ranked and removed from their bestselling lists and browse tree. Most, if not all, were by or about homosexuals.
This massive obliteration represents one of the single largest "bookburnings" in the history of censorship, and the outcry over it was, understandably, instantaneous and global.
In the earliest hours of this startling event, Amazon representatives informed concerned publishers and authors that the delisting of gay and lesbian literature on their site was consistent with "our policy regarding adult content." But, as the uproar grew over that response and a boycott loomed on the horizon, Amazon leadership quickly changed their explanation, restoring sales ranks to the affected titles, and allocating blame instead on human "error" or a technical "glitch."
And that seemed to quell the fury.
The Glitch Myth Debunked
by Francine Saint Marie
(Republished with permission from the author)
I am the author of the LAMBDA Notable Book, The Secret Keeping, as well as The Secret Trilogy, Girl Trouble and several other popular LGBT paperbacks sold on Amazon.com.
All of my novels have been aggressively censored by Amazon since (at least) January of 2008, when they were first released as Kindle editions and promptly rigged in the Kindle store so as not to register any sales ranks and bestselling categories, or to show up properly in Amazon search results. I have also experienced mysterious "sourcing fees" applied by Amazon to the list prices of my LGBT paperbacks, as well as the deletion of five-star customer reviews of them, the removal of their "in stock" status, and a host of other handicapping techniques which are still in effect today.
Since the first quarter of 2008 to the date hereof, I (and my team) have, in vain, relentlessly pursued Amazon about their insidious censorship of my titles. Through telephone calls, e-mails and forum posts, we have repeatedly demanded that they cease and desist burying my novels in their browse tree and otherwise hindering my sales. We have also urged them to provide all authors with "equal access" to their site features and a "level playing field" upon which to compete. As Amazon can confirm, the cry "missing sales ranks" and "discrimination" was Team Saint Marie's mantra in 2008, and it was even the title of a widely read "thread" we posted in the Kindle publishers' forum, which Amazon hastily deleted. Indeed, missing sales ranks and discrimination was the subject of many circular (and recorded) phone conversations with Amazon's representatives, not to mention an awesome number of e-mails!
For example, in April 2008, we sent them this one with the rather bland but direct subject heading, "Standard features missing from our Kindle detail pages." It said simply:
"Hello. We publish numerous titles for your Kindle wireless. We need:
1. 'Sample chapter now' buttons on all of our titles (and)
2. their Amazon sales ranks cited on their respective detail pages.
That will help a lot. Thanks in advance."
Amazon cryptically replied, "This can't be done manually by us at this time."
Which only made it necessary to write to them again:
"Most of our Kindle titles have been in the Amazon Kindle store since Jan/Feb and selling, so their ASIN's are evidently missing from your database since they have no sales rankings listed. Please add these ASIN's to your sales ranking database so that they can get ranked and listed in their popular categories: B0012J44QY, BOO129IFY6, B0017Q1EKQ, B00169QIQQ (also just listed - B0018JZWYQ). Thanks in advance."
Amazon restated, "We do not have the ability to manually add content into the Amazon sales ranking system."