After multiple attempts to contact Amazon, I have at long last received the following reply from Patty Smith by email:
“This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.
“It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.
“Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.”
When I asked Ms. Smith about whether or not this problem represented a hack, she insisted that this was a “ham-fisted cataloging error” that had been caused by Amazon. Therefore, Amazon’s position seems to indicate that the cataloging problem came from its end. Ms. Smith did not, however, answer any questions I put forth to her about why much of this metadata was necessary in the first place.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon still hasn’t issued an apology.