Amazonfail: A Call to Boycott Amazon

It’s been called #amazonfail on Twitter, but it represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time. Amazon has decided to remove certain books that they deem “adult” from their ranking system. But the “adult” definitions include such books as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Amazon link) (screenshot), Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (Amazon link) (screenshot), Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (Amazon link) (screenshot), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (Amazon link) (screenshot), and numerous other titles. [NOTE: These titles have now been ranked again. But please see UPDATE 11 at the bottom of this post, which contains additional links and screenshots. Amazon is still deranking many titles, but only seems to be restoring the ones directly called out by multiple sources.] Books that, in some cases, have fought decades to gain literary respectability have become second-class overnight because of Amazon’s draconian deranking policy.

To add insult to injury, such anti-Semitic texts as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Amazon link) and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Amazon link) remain within the ranking system while the less offensive books named above are considered too “adult.” In other words, if you’re a writer who has written openly about sex, Amazon considers you worse than an anti-Semitic writer who helped initiate pogroms and concentration camps.

As Kassia Kroszer noted, this is an offensive and unacceptable gesture from Amazon to the many readers and writers who make the publishing industry what it is. This is retail maneuvering of the most spineless and despotic form. It amounts to a store treating adults, who are informed individuals who can make up their own minds about how “adult” something is, as if they are incapable of independent decision making. It is a betrayal of the community that keeps Amazon thriving with the customer reviews. It is an insult to any author or reader who has dared to take a chance.

This decision must be responded to by a complete and total boycott of Amazon’s services. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM AMAZON unless they restore the ranking system. Boycott Amazon and let them feel the sharp pincers of your wallet going somewhere else. Instead of supporting a corporate behemoth who wants to put up the equivalent of a beady curtain at a video store for many titles that don’t deserve it (including numerous GLBT and sex-positive books), go to an independent bookstore who will treat you with inclusive respect. Remove all links to Amazon from your websites. Let Amazon know precisely how you feel in these economically uncertain times, and then maybe they’ll think twice about treating you as if you are unthinking cattle.

We can make a difference in this. We made a difference back in February with the Facebook TOS snafu. We can make a difference with this needless and demeaning ranking system. Boycott Amazon. Because a retailer should never be in the position of determining what is “adult” or salable. As the old maxim says, the customer is always right.

UPDATE: See also thoughts from Mark Probst, a petition to protest the policy, and Google bomb efforts from Smart Bitches. Also, as many helpful people on Twitter have noted, the Amazon customer service line is 800-201-7575. Although we may want to see if we can track down the executives who enacted this ridiculous policy and hold them accountable instead.

UPDATE 2: Goddammit, that’s the last straw. Nobody deranks Jonathan Ames and gets away with it. Here are the numbers for the Amazon Board of Directors. Flood all these people with your complaints on Monday morning.

Thomas O. Ryder (914) 244-5782
William Gordon (650) 233-2750
Myrtle Potter (650) 225-1000
Alain Monie (206) 266-1000
L. John Doerr (650) 233-2750
Tom Alberg (206) 674-3000
Patricia Stonesifer (206) 709-3140

UPDATE 3: On Twitter, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles reports that Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener has told him that there was recently a glitch in the sales rank feature and that he is working to correct the problem. I am likewise pursuing investigations to get Amazon’s side of the story.

UPDATE 4: Of course, if the glitch was only just “recently” discovered, the big question here is why Amazon told Mark Probst two days ago that the company was now in the practice of excluding “adult” material in some searches. For that matter, why did Amazon offer the same answer to author Craig Seymour? Something is fishy. I have left voicemails and emails for Amazon spokespersons. What they do not realize is that I am a rather tenacious fellow. If they do not answer me tonight, starting tomorrow, I will be contacting them once every hour until they offer a reasonable answer to these many questions.

UPDATE 5: An Amazon search for homosexuality revealing anti-homosexual books in the top results is more than a “glitch.” In the comments, it has been reported that if you search for Olympia Press and Cleis Press through Amazon, the results have been diminished with this “glitch.” Meanwhile, here is coverage from Foreign Policy, The National Post, and The Associated Press. Tiara Shafiq has called for Amazon alternatives. There will doubtless be more news as Amazon tries to mop up this morass on Monday. And it would very much be in Amazon’s interests to “comment further” on the “glitch” that has been in effect since February.

UPDATE 6: Dear Author has dug up metadata that would suggest not so much a “glitch,” but a conscious effort on Amazon’s part to exclude books.

UPDATE 7: As of Monday afternoon, I have left eight voicemails for various contacts at Amazon and they will not return my calls. Also, the main Amazon corporate number — 206-622-2325 — appears to have been disconnected. We still have nothing from Amazon elaborating on the “glitch” that they are working on.

UPDATE 8: I have sent numerous emails and left repeated voicemails to Patty Smith (Director of Corporate Communications), Drew Herdener (Senior Public Relations Manager), and Dean Falvy (Amazon’s legal representative). These are all people who should really be going on the record and answering very specific questions about the “glitch.” But these spokespersons have refused to return my calls. And I have learned that they are not returning calls from other journalists.

UPDATE 9: Still no response from Amazon in my ongoing voicemail efforts. Some speculation that this was a hack has been debunked. Meanwhile, Mike Daisey claims inside info to The Stranger.

UPDATE 10: The metadata theory promulgated by Dear Author seems to me the most reasonable explanation (and Jane now has spreadsheets up of the books with metadata categories). See also Scrivener’s Error and this theory from an inside coder.

UPDATE 11: Amazon is now pretending as if the “glitch” appears has been rectified as of 5:30 PM EST. But here’s what’s interesting. The specific titles that I linked to offered direct links to have been ranked again. But many other books are still deranked, including such as Andrew Sean Greer’s The Story of a Marriage (Amazon link) (screenshot), James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (Amazon link) (screenshot), and Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger (Amazon link) (screenshot). So is Amazon only ranking those titles that people are singling out? In other words, if the “glitch” is being fixed, then why does it only apply to the titles specifically linked to on other sites, rather than an across-the-board metadata value?

UPDATE 12: Patty Smith responds to some of my inquiries.

UPDATE 13: Andrew Sean Greer writes in the comments: “Well all I know is the paperback of The Story of a Marriage came out last week but you can only see it by searching directly, not by looking at sales lists of literary fiction, etc. The equivalent of having it for sale only by asking the bookseller for something behind the counter. *sigh* Glitch, hacker, cataloging error, it still hits a writer where it hurts. Nobody likes their new book to be invisible except if you know where to look. Isn’t book buying all about browsing for unexpected treasures?”

UPDATE 14: James Marcus, author of Amazonia, offers a lengthy response at Propeller. Meanwhile, Sara Nelson offers a contrarian take, suggesting that Amazon has every right to determine what it wants to sell.

UPDATE 15: The New York Times‘s Motoko Rich investigates. Shockingly, I actually agree with the smug Daniel Mendelsohn for once. But more interesting than this is that all the publishers who Rich contacted failed to comment on the record. In other words, we should be reminded by this setback that Amazon holds a needless vise-like grip on the publishing industry. But are we willing to accept such a hold when Amazon’s data can be so easily manipulated or modified?

© 2009, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.

127 Comments

  1. I have dropped my Amazon affiliates account in response to #amazonfail. It will likely hurt me more than it hurts Amazon, but I refuse to provide advertising for a company I cannot trust.

  2. I have been selling books on Amazon as an individual.

    FYI there’s two things one can do to make sure Amazon doesn’t get any commissions on your sold books in protest: either close all your listings (most drastic) or, if you are optimistic that Amazon will get its act together, go to “Store Settings” under your account and edit your “Vacation Status.” While on Vacation, your inventory will not be viewable on Amazon.com. To reinstate your inventory for viewing, do the same thing.

  3. So, because customers of Amazon de-ranked things that they found offensive (Yeah, I agree that’s stupid), a bunch of people are going to boycott a company that provides great literature to thousands of people around the world?

    It must be nice to feel like you’re doing the world a favor when doing absolutely nothing…

    I’m going to go buy a few books off of Amazon today to offset this. If you want change, contact Amazon and wait the proper amount of time for things to change… instead of just whining like children and trying to hurt a large member of an economy that is already going downhill. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

  4. This is very silly of Amazon, of course. But what is the big deal about not knowing that Lady Chatterley’s Lover has a #456,912 Amazon ranking? The book is still for sale and easily accessible.

  5. Buy from others who do exactly the same thing Bandananon. Simple. i don’t think you realize the base root of their stupidity; their power to create stigma to that which does not deserve it. So your stance is to do exactly the same thing you’d do anyways in the face of straight-up banning books? Weak!

    … Thank you Jen S.

  6. So far I’ve seen no evidence that this involves any policy put in place by Amazon. The only thing presented is a screen-cap of a supposed email from customer service to Mark Probst. There’s been no statement, no mention of anything going on in the media. Hell, Facebook’s layout change got mainstream coverage. This? Nary a peep.

    And even IF something IS going on, this kind of hyperbole doesn’t do anything worthwhile: “it represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time.”

    By all means boycott Amazon, but it might be a good idea for everyone to take a deep breath and find out what’s going on (if anything) before having a spasm.

  7. this is a century of freedom and equalities for all!
    Don,t shoot yourself in the foot now!

  8. Ted:

    The main issue is that the books that have lost their sales ratings have also become that much harder to find, even in direct searches. It’s the online equivalent of hiding books in a back room.

    And quite a lot of books have been impacted–the vast majority of them books that deal with LGBTQ issues. All of these books have been classed as “adult” (according to the e-mail Mark Probst received) and had their sales rankings removed:

    http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html#cutid1

    Classic works of literature. Crime novels. Histories. Autobiographies. All have been deemed to be “adult”–that is, erotica–because the books deal, in varying degrees, with homosexuality. Take a look. The list is growing all the time.

    The books are now harder to find and harder to sell. This has an impact on publishers, who not unnaturally will want books that they can be certain will find an audience. Since Amazon is currently playing keep-away with LGBTQ works of fiction and non-fiction–God forbid that they trust their customers to make up their own minds about what’s too “adult” for them, or to monitor the purchases of their own children!–this will, if Amazon is not brought up short, have a negative impact on the authors who are trying to sell their books, and will cut down the already small number of publishers willing to take a chance on gay books that are not porn. Since Amazon regards all LGBTQ books as “adult” and “erotica” whatever their actual style and topic, and effectively shoves them in the back room where they are harder to find…well, why should the publishers bother if the booksellers aren’t going to do so?

    It’s ghettoization and discrimination of a very deliberated kind, plain and simple. And it’s odious. It hurts the authors, the publishers and the audience, all of whom deserve better than this.

  9. Of course, the hilarity here is that when you search for “boys men” (I was trying to see if my edited volume on gay boys was still searchable) #5 is the DVD for “Boys to Men,” a VERY gay movie with a cover with nekkid men on it. It still has a ranking. And so does my book “From Boys To Men: Gay Men Write About Growing Up.” The possibility of not finding things via search is very bad, while actual sales ranking isn’t really a big deal. But until we know what searches aren’t working, this is all kind of hysteria.

  10. When many many others have proved the exact opposite your proof is meaningless. The whole policy is haphazard, hamfisted and horrendous but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    It could also be a fluid situation at Amazon as we type …

  11. Also, it’s hardly meaningless. If I’m finding the exact opposite of what people are getting hysterical about, it’s pretty darn meaningful.

  12. Ted:
    Yes, you can still *search* for Lady Chatterly’s Lover. When I did that search, my results were:

    “Lady Chatterley” – DVD
    “Lady Chatterley” – another DVD
    “Young Lady Chatterley” – DVD
    “Women in Love” – book
    “Lady Chatterley” – DVD
    “Sons and Lovers” – book
    “Tropic of Cancer” – book

    *finally: “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” – oops, out of print edition of book.

    followed by: a VHS tape, another out-of-print edition, a DVD, more out-of-print editions…

    NOWHERE on the first page of search results am I able to buy a new version of the book, directly from Amazon.

  13. Um, I typed “lady chatterley’s lover” into the search box and the first result was the Penguin Classics version that came out six months ago.

  14. Don’t get the fuss. People wouldn’t be having these problems if they were using Powells or Alibris. Everyone wants to abandon the independent sellers and bookstores and then they get upset when they realize that means limiting their own choices.

  15. hmm..there seems to be a discrepancy between the different Amazon sites, I typed in “lady chatterley’s lover” in both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. On Amazon.com I got the same result as Vespolina, on the Amazon.co.uk site I got the same result as Ted.

    curiouser and curiouser

  16. That’s really sad. You would think in this day and age that corporations, as well as individuals, would be more intelligent regarding censorship and the arts.

  17. Ted & Niamh:

    Upon experimentation: after I found a link to the actual book, and visited that link, and then searched again, I also had a recent book edition come up as the first item in my search results. Amazon remembers your past searches and your recently viewed items, and includes them (along with ranking) as one of the factors in search results. If you log out, and clear your cookies, you will get the results I described above.

    So if you read & purchase lots of DH Lawrence, and have some other related books in your wishlist, maybe you’ll get a link to the book. If this is the first time you’ve checked out this type of literature, Amazon would prefer that you just watch the movie. I guess it has fewer dirty words.

  18. Vespolina, I DID get your results.

    I also got Ted’s.

    That’s what I’m saying. There seems to be something weird going on somewhere. I don’t know where either of you are from, so I was just pointing out that if you were looking at the American site (Amazon.com) compared to the UK site (Amazon.co.uk) there are completely different results for the same search.

    I’m from Europe and sometimes search Amazon.com to find US printed books as they are easier to find than on Amazon.co.uk. But there has never been such a massive difference between search results of classics (like Lady Chatterley’s Lover).

  19. also, I checked the UK site before the American one, but still found your results on the American site.

  20. To Ted and others– if you do a search in “Books” section of Amazon then yes, all books do show up.

    The issue is with the main “all departments” search section, which is where most people start out. It’s supposed to show everything that Amazon has with that title. Not just a certain format of it, like the DVD version or KINDLE version.

    I read lots of erotica, Black Lace books, as well as GBLT books. I typed in many of my favorite authors in the “all departments” section and what comes up are only old out of print versions of only a small portion of their books. Latest or newer versions don’t show up at all. Nor do all the listings that show up in the “Books” search section.

    This is because all the rankings have been stripped.

    That means that if I’m not familiar with the author and I go to Amazon’s home page and type their name, or book title, it’s not guaranteed now that I will see all that Amazon has to offer. I will think they just don’t have that book and leave. That hurts both the author and publisher.

    Yes, I know I can mess around and keep searching but why? Why is Amazon making it more work? What’s in it for them to do this? And why are they only targeting certain books considered “adult” in content? What is the criteria really?

    Also what’s very interesting is that for many GBLT themed books the KINDLE version with show up under general “all departments” search. Why is that? Looks like then if you want that book you can only get it in Kindle unless you do some more digging. And if they are censoring by not ranking erotica and GBLT for some political/social statement, then why are kindle versions up?

    There is no rhyme or reason. It’s dumb and it’s insulting to the consumer.

  21. Included in “unsearchable from main Amazon page” is the book “Heather Has Two Mommies.” (There’s a link to the 20th anniversary edition–it’s 11th in the results of a search for the full title. It’s not available for purchase yet.) Searching in “books” gets the 10th anniversary special edition; only 1 in stock. No sales rank listed.

    No non-special edition available, apparently.

    I’m somehow not seeing how this is an “adult” book.

  22. I agree, I won’t be buying anything else from Amazon unless I hear about this policy being reversed.

  23. Try searching “cock fighting” and note that Amazon doesn’t seem to have a problem advertising books that promote an activity that’s illegal in all 50 states.

  24. it also makes a difference whether or not you use quotation marks. Searching for Yes Means Yes won’t bring me the book I want (though it brings me stuff by the same author and the kindle version) but searching for “Yes Means Yes” brings the desired book to the top of the search results.

    The issue here, to my mind, is that even if this change didn’t materially damage sales, it is unhelpful to classify LGBT literature as “adult” simply because it deals with homosexuality. It’s absurd. The sex in “The Well of Loneliness,” for example, is nothing but “And that night they were not divided.” Yet the book is unranked. The Advocate’s college guide for LGBT students is also unranked. But those gays, you know, they’re so “adult.” Even when they’re not having sex.

    When you add in the possibility, however slight (or not), that this will harm gay folks’ livelihoods, it goes from unhelpful to truly abhorrent.

  25. THIS IS WHAT SALES RANKING MEANS TO SMALL PRESSES–something that affects a large number of glbt writers and publishers.

    I’m quoting from http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/12478.html

    To a bookseller, the Amazon.com sales rank is quite often correlated to how quickly a particular title might sell. A book with a very low number Amazon.com sales rank might be expected to sell within minutes or hours of listing, and a book with a sales rank of 4,000,000 might take several years to sell. The analogy is frequently used by booksellers when they are scouting for books to add to their inventory. If a bookseller finds a book that has an online value of $10, an Amazon.com sales rank of 2,105,878, and he/she is faced with buying it for $4, they are apt to pass, but if the sales rank were 45,017, it might suddenly be a book worth adding to their inventory.

    Why else?

    Self-published writers often give such huge discounts to Amazon (in its various forms) that they hardly make any money at all. Amazon forces self-publishing authors and small pressed to aggressively discount their own books. The least the small presses and self-published authors can expect for giving up most of their royalties is fair representation. Amazon was revolutionary for the “small guys” for providing a level playing field. Stripping the sales ranks out and making it impossible to “stumble across” a small press/self-published author means a severe impediment to anybody’s sales. In short, this measure hits small presses and self-published authors in their bank account on a huge scale.

  26. Ted, I see you writing words but not understanding their meanings. Just because *you* can see these results using your “tricks”, does not in fact mean just anyone will find those results. That’s akin to you posting about how you have trouble installing Windows on your computer and I simply say “well I just press F8, insert a floppy and it works”. The problem with both situations is:

    “you” does not equal “everyone else”.

    Just because you personally don’t happen to be having a problem doesn’t mean there is no problem so offering more and more contrived “proof” that you can get all the books listed isn’t really going to be indicative of what the average person might experience. Some people, like myself, use a toolbar search which just so happens to mimic the behavior described by the others and does NOT in fact offer any suggestions as you suggested but it works with plenty of other authors/titles. Let’s clarify this so you’re not confused. I can type “lady c…” “”lady ch…” “lady chatter”…and I get absolutely nothing suggested and the book doesn’t show up on the list. A search for “grape..” gives me Grapes of Wrath about the time I hit the “p”.

    So I’m sure you’re getting results but please stop acting as if NOBODY is really experiencing this because it’s quite obvious that we are and you seem silly for suggesting otherwise.

    Thanks

  27. And hey!

    …all you book collectors out there.

    Let’s not forget that Amazon now owns ABE Books. Get your rare stuff from eBay or Biblio or some other venue.

    Thanx

  28. I just ran a search for Running with Scissors, and it is in fact NOT buried… neither are the other books in that same series by Augusten Burroughs…. none of it is buried… not even the movie, which has a gay sex scene in it…

    This is so ridiculous. How many books from Amazon do I need to offset this bullshit? How many idiots are there willing to eat this garbage up just because they stumbled onto a blog and failed to do any research themselves?

  29. Well, goddammit! This is censorship, which is sort of “communist”. How come they talk of universal health care and people go “No! That’s communism! You can’t do that!” But then Amazon can pull certain books—your basic censorship—and somehow that seems OK. What are the real values in this country? I sometimes don’t understand what America values…

  30. […] I am happy to report that I closed my account with Amazon today. Here is my note to them:Amazon’s decision to disenfranchise millions of Americans by removing the rankings and search listings of books that deal with the LGBT community is a morally reprehensible act. Through your cowardly behavior you have lost my business. Cancel my account.Why would I stop using a business that I was very happy to use to help me get access to cheap college books? I am not willing to help a business that treats my friends as second-class human beings.More information:http://markprobst.livejournal.com/15293.htmlhttp://www.edrants.com/amazonfail-a-call-to-boycott-amazon/http://mediamemo.allthingsd.com/20090412/did-amazon-really-fail-this-weekend-the-twittersphere-says-yes/http://www.fictioncircus.com/news.php?id=346&mode=oneHere is the Amazon board of directors:Thomas O. Ryder (914) 244-5782William Gordon (650) 233-2750Myrtle Potter (650) 225-1000Alain Monie (206) 266-1000L. John Doerr (650) 233-2750Tom Alberg (206) 674-3000Patricia Stonesifer (206) 709-3140You can let them know what you think of their behavior. Don’t let them tell you they are not responsible. […]

  31. My favorite book of all time by my favorite authors hasn’t only been deranked but it’s no longer offered for sale. A book that I’m told by the publisher that should still be available there.

    So even if a reader does a SPECIFIC search for it, youi can’t even buy it. Freakin jerks.

  32. Simpletons cannot always be helped. Seeing the entire picture requires people to open their eyes; they cannot be forced to open them. Bandananon you continue to seriously miss the array of points and the context to this. Feel free to do so, but garbage is more worthy than that which you might call your brains.

    Open your eyes to more than the mechanics of one small facet of your tactile experience with your keyboard. Others’ comments should provide greater context should you read them and are capable of understanding more than the need to think yourself right.

    Temple

  33. What’s also happened is that Amazon is banishing entire presses from homepage searches. Mine (Olympia Press) and Cleis Press can be searched for in the Kindle store, with good results (350 for me)… from the homepage, I get one book about the press; Cleis none, but a few books that reference it.

    Both Cleis and myself do literature, some of it classics of GLBT (also Chateaubriand, de Bergerac, etc. from me). A total banishment from homepage searches is highly inappropriate and suspect. Same thing’s happening to Seal Press, Feminist Press, etc. Apparently been going on a while. Sales ranks aren’t the only issue.

    Stranger still, GLBT books kept their ranks in the Kindle store, but not in the main Amazon store, so the glitch explanation could explain sales ranks, but not the deletion from search results.

    Heads. Must. Roll.

  34. Bandananon, this isn’t simply about not being able to find books when you do a search. It’s about those books not having an Amazon.com Sales Rank. In their FAQ’s, Amazon states, “As an added service for customers, authors, publishers, artists, labels, and studios, we show how items in our catalog are selling… The calculation is based on Amazon.com sales and is updated each hour to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.com.”

    Every item sold. That includes cameras, light bulbs, even underpants (the 2xist Men’s Carbon trunk ranks 35,799 in Apparel). Every item they sell is ranked based on how many times it has sold on the site. That is, until now. Now, books that Amazon deems to have “adult content” no longer have a sales rank. (Check your first search result for Running With Scissors).

    Can you still find them on the site if you do a search? Absolutely. But they don’t show up on any of Amazon.com’s bestseller lists. Does it keep you from buying the book? Of course not. And the same book in a different edition (hardback, Kindle, etc) may still be ranked, but that’s beside the point.

    The point is that Amazon has made a policy change that overwhelmingly affects a specific category of books and unfairly and inaccurately labels them “adult content” based simply on the fact that they may contain gay themes. That is the problem.

  35. As of Monday morning, 6:00AM central time, Amazon is still claiming this is a glitch. It’s as if they think this is merely an image issue, and if they repeat the branding tagline of “just a glitch” enough, it will sink in and people will ‘buy’ the glitch theory. It’s a shame that the people who run one of the larger information distribution systems in the world just don’t get that, yes, information is important to society, and how, when, and where you regulate access to that information makes a difference. I look forward to the days when alternatives to companies like Amazon are more widespread so that the dissemination of information doesn’t have to be trusted to these boobs.

    transcript of e-mail from Amazon:

    http://www.yudc.com/amazonfail.html

  36. As of Monday morning, 6:00AM central time, Amazon is still claiming this is a glitch. It’s as if they think this is merely an image issue, and if they repeat the branding tagline of “just a glitch” enough, it will sink in and people will ‘buy’ the glitch theory.

    It’s a shame that the people who run one of the larger information distribution systems in the world just don’t get that, yes, information is important to society, and how, when, and where you regulate access to that information makes a difference.

    Amazon is more than being flippant when they call this a ‘glitch.’ Amazon is talking down to the public as if we’re a bunch of pre-schoolers who couldn’t possibly begin to understand how a database or a computer works. The terminology of ‘glitch’ is as technical as Amazon dares to get with us neophytes. Not surprisingly, being condescended to in this manner is pissing people off as much as if not more than the original misguided policy that started this whole mess in the first place.

    I look forward to the days when alternatives to companies like Amazon are more widespread so that the dissemination of information doesn’t have to be trusted to corporate boobs.

    transcript of e-mail from Amazon:

    http://www.yudc.com/amazonfail.html

  37. […] Amazonfail: A Call to Boycott Amazon : Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits "As Kassia Kroszer noted, this is an offensive and unacceptable gesture from Amazon to the many readers and writers who make the publishing industry what it is. This is retail maneuvering of the most spineless and despotic form. It amounts to a store treating adults, who are informed individuals who can make up their own minds about how “adult” something is, as if they are incapable of independent decision making. It is a betrayal of the community that keeps Amazon thriving with the customer reviews. It is an insult to any author or reader who has dared to take a chance." (tags: amazonfail amazon bullshit wft boycott homophobia bigotry sales web books adult) […]

  38. If Amazon finds certain books and other media offensive they should simply stop selling those items. That would be less objectionable than pushing these books into the basement as if they were unfit for the eyes of the public.

  39. This is the World according to Christian Conservatives; where homosexuality and sex education doesn’t exist. It might be interesting to compare the list of books that have been removed from the rankings to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

  40. This is a great reason to start patronizing your local independent bookseller! Go to http://www.indiebound.org to find great stores in your area. This way, you can keep money in your community and support your neighbors rather than a huge, homophobic corporation.

  41. Eric, thanks for the snide remarks referring to things I never wrote. I know that words mean something to do — or so you claim — so you should try actually reading mine before insulting my and everyone else’s intelligence. I showed that when logged out of Amazon that certain searched showed up for me. I didn’t say it wasn’t happening to anyone else, though I questioned Vespolina’s inability to find the Penguin version of Lady Chatterley quickly. And to her credit, she responded by actually checking the search, not treating me as the Enemy of the People. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the heck you’re bleating about. I didn’t do any tricks. I simply went to Amazon and typed in searches and took screengrabs. Really, you should take a deep breath before you write comments like that. Learn some manners. But you’re an anonymous commenter, so I guess you can say anything you want. Ah, Internet cowardice.

  42. […] Amazonfail: A Call to Boycott Amazon : Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits "It’s been called #amazonfail on Twitter, but it represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time. Amazon has decided to remove certain books that they deem “adult” from their ranking system. But the “adult” definitions include such books as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Amazon link) (screenshot), Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (Amazon link) (screenshot), Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (Amazon link) (screenshot), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (Amazon link) (screenshot), and numerous other titles. Books that, in some cases, have fought decades to gain literary respectability have become second-class overnight because of Amazon’s draconian deranking policy. " […]

  43. I called the first three numbers you have listed and couldn’t reach anyone by those names at those numbers.

  44. […] So…Amazonfail. You’ve heard of it by now, of course. Or why would you be here? But on the off chance that you don’t know what I’m on about, try this as a starting point, with a summary of subsequent events here. And if that makes you angry, you might want to follow the call to boycott Amazon. […]

  45. Well all I know is the paperback of The Story of a Marriage came out last week but you can only see it by searching directly, not by looking at sales lists of literary fiction, etc. The equivalent of having it for sale only by asking the bookseller for something behind the counter. *sigh* Glitch, hacker, cataloging error, it still hits a writer where it hurts. Nobody likes their new book to be invisible except if you know where to look. Isn’t book buying all about browsing for unexpected treasures?

  46. If you want to effectively Google Bomb them, you have to set up the same sort of hit with the keywords “Amazon Sales Rankings.” Otherwise, people can still access their services through that route.

  47. I’ve had no problems searching or accessing the adult content listed and then some. No problems finding de Sade, homoerotic, erotica, Lady Chatterly or anything else on the list really.

    I was able to go all the way through to checkout where you have to input your card information. I wonder if people using comcast are using this service. Apparently comcast has been doing quite a bit of filtering of things anyway from what I read in the news. I wonder if that has an effect.

  48. Has anyone even been able to name one of the books that was de-ranked that WASN’T adult content? If you sit back and rest on the laurels of “well other books are adult and are still ranked”, it just makes you look like a child begging for their sibling to be reprimanded for the same crime they committed.

    I mentioned Running With Scissors before, and someone has already taken to try to speak back to me regarding the fact that OMG IT HAS NO RANK! Yes, that’s appropriate since it contains sexual content. There are a number of books that have absolutely nothing to do with GLBT and have been de-ranked as well. Big surprise though, no one is mentioning them because they have to make this one big bullshit festival in the name of gay rights. For once, can something not be about you?

    Give Amazon a week to decide it’s official stance and then choose what to do. Acting this early will just make a large company lose money, good people will lose their jobs, and you’ll all pretend you did a good thing when really you just made a company pretend they’re sorry for something they didn’t even do…

  49. Dude it was a hacker. He bragged about it on reddit, remarkably easy…or so he says. Go to reddit and search for “troll ten lines of code”. He was trolling…and everyone fell for it. Epic win.

  50. You know what would *really* be radical?

    I it’s feasible, get off your fat, lazy ass, get in your car (or public transportation if you city’s big enough), and go patronize your local independent bookstore!

    You’d be helping out your *local* economy instead of patronizing a corporate giant whose becoming increasingly anti-TLBG (do a search on “homosexuality” on Amazon and look what comes up!)!

    The US economy’s bad enough, but when you patronize your *local* independent bookstore, you’re saving *local* jobs!

  51. I’d join you, Ed, but you said something really shitty about my book, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, and then took down your remarks after a few hours. What’s a matter? No balls? Guess you’re a Champion of free expression when it’s a cause célèbre, but not when you’re going to have to deal with the consequences.

  52. I bounced around Amazon for a while when I heard the news. Here’s some things I found:

    1) While one edition of Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” had lost its ranking, a Baldwin Omnibut that included GR retained its ranking. Also, other editions being sold thru Marketplace retained their rankings.

    2) “10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives” had lost its rank, but “10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Find Real Love,” by the same author, had retained its ranking.

    3) “The Joy of Sex” had lost its ranking, as well as many other straight-oriented books dealing with sex.

    4) One edition of “Fanny Hill” had lost its ranking, while other editions had retained their ranking.

    5) Sarah Waters’ famously lesbian-oriented novel “Tipping the Velvet” had retained its ranking.

    6) The Victorian porn classic “My Secret Life,” that has many gay and bi scenes, had retained its ranking.

    7) Gay-oriented DVDs, ranging from “Milk” to “Brokeback Mountain” to “Queer as Folk” to “Psycho Beach Party,” were unaffected and all retained rankings.

    Which makes me wonder…Why only books? Why only certain editions of books? Why not DVDs? Why so many straight-oriented books?

    I’m not convinced that this is some corporate policy; if it is, it would strike me as more anti-sex than anti-gay. I’m sorry but I do feel that too many people are jumping the gun and falling all over themselves to condemn and castigate Amazon, without doing any investigating or even stopping to consider all the possibilities. This is the sort of reactionary cluster-bleep that we liberals criticize the right-wingnuts for doing. We need to be careful, cautious, and reasoned, and to think things through before taking appropriate action.

  53. Do you take this that seriously? I agree in what you are firghting for and why. I gt it and agree. Look thru the smoke my brother. Remember the Classic Coke debacle? Think of how many hits this is generating for AMZN and the bottom line. It is a sham designed to increase web traffic and searches. Wake up. They will get the ship back in order when they have produced an enormous amount of web traffic thru this sham.

  54. Remember Monty Python: “She’s a witch! If she drowns, she’s innocent!” You all remind me of nothing so much as the unthinking mob mentality. I know it’s already been said several times, but really, you need to hear it again:

    Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

    I worked for Amazon for years (left long enough ago to be out of my NDA). Knowing Amazon as I do (and having dealt with many problems when there), I have to say this smells like an internal mistake through & through. The anonymous developer who was quoted in the Seattle press sounds like he’s speaking truth to me – because that’s exactly how Amazon’s systems are built.

    Besides which, why would a liberal Seattle company that is pretty LGBT-friendly (plenty of gay employees there, probably way more than born-again christians, especially in headquarters) do this deliberately? There’s no reason for it.

    As for the poor CSRs – they undoubtedly just pasted the “porn” pre-written blurb, not recognising this as a catalog error. Pretty common, unfortunately, for Amazon CSRs to get the wrong blurb in their answers, especially when it’s an emerging problem & they haven’t yet been told what to say.

    Get over yourselves already.

  55. Charles Shields: What the fuck are you talking about? I’ve got plenty of balls, and I have no problem taking on asshattery. You, by contrast, appear to have expressed little in the way of brains or referential acumen in your comment. Unless you can cite a specific example, I have only cited your name in two entries here: one pointing to some promotional effort of yours and one in which I skewered your solipsistic Barnum-like efforts to become one with the bloggers to promote your book, MOCKINGBIRD.

    http://www.edrants.com/return-of-the-reluctant-charles-shields-version/

    Incidentally, that entry had nothing whatsoever to do with your book. And that was years ago (Christ, don’t you have a life?), and I haven’t thought about you since. Frankly, I find you to be more of a corporate shill than a writer.

    Even if I did what you claim that I say, guess what, asshole? This is my blog and if I write something and decide not to include it, this is my choice. You’re acting as if I’ve taken any comment here from a GLBT writer and removed it.

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