Amazon’s new “adult” policy doesn’t sound like “glitch” in the system

April 13, 2009

Update: A hacker known only as “Weev, now claims he was behind the Amazon.com “glitch,”” posting a confession of sorts within a LiveJournal discussion group Monday morning. The hacker is well known and gave details of how he did the deed, that make it seem probable he was responsible.

(ChattahBox) — While accusations fly of black listing, Amazon.com claims that sales ranking removed from gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual themed books was due to a technical glitch.

“There was a glitch in our systems and it’s being fixed,” Amazon’s director of corporate communications, Patty Smith, said in an e-mail Sunday.

Mark R. Probst, the author of a novel with gay characters in the Old West, called out the issue on Sunday with a blog post noting that Amazon had deleted the sales ranking from two newly-released gay romance books, a fate which he subsequently learned befell hundreds of gay and lesbian themed books. Probst queried Amazon and got a response back saying they were delisted because they’d been classified as “adult;” the response was signed by “Ashlyn D, Member Services, Amazon.com Advantage.”

Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be “adult” material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of “adult” literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.

Getting delisted from the rankings doesn’t stop a book from being sold, but it does prevent the title from showing up with a public sales ranking or in the best seller lists, often a factor in how shoppers make their purchases.  Classifying books with adult themes might seem like an acceptable practice but is a slippery slope of judgment.

An online petition organized by Care2, that already has more than 11,000 signatures, shows evidence that this policy appears to be biased against books with gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters. Here’s a sampling of books titles that the petition’s backers noted are still ranked in the Amazon listing system verbatim:

• “Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds” by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
• Rosemary Rogers’ “Sweet Savage Love” (explicit heterosexual romance)
• Kathleen Woodiwiss’ “The Wolf and the Dove” (explicit heterosexual romance)
• Bertrice Smal’s “Skye o’Malley,” (which are all explicit heterosexual romances)
• Alan Moore’s “Lost Girls” (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)

The petition supporters note that the following titles with gay and lesbian themes are no longer ranked on Amazon:

• Radclyffe Hill’s classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
• Mark R. Probst’s YA novel “The Filly” about a young man in the wild West discovering that he’s gay (gay romance, no sex);
• Charlie Cochrane’s “Lessons in Love” (gay romance with no sex)
• “The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience,” edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues)
• “Homophobia: A History” by Bryan Fone (nonfiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years)


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