Amazon stripping sales ranking from gay & lesbian books

Writers of gay romance noticed, over the past few days, that books in the "Gay Romance" category have disappeared from the best-seller list in that category. Publisher and author Mark Probst, whose book, "The Filly" is a gay young-adult book without explicit content, queried Amazon. This is what they said to him:

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 also be excluded from that feature.
Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.
Best regards,
Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage

The Livejournal community http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11369.html
is tracking this and accumulating data, some of which follows.

At present, amazon.de ist unaffected, and people from Germany who acess .co.uk and .com seem to be unaffected, too.

Collection: Books that had their sales ranks removed:

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain
Jeanette Winterson's OrangesAre Not The Only Fruit
Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness.

None of which can be called "erotica" by any stretch of the imagination.
(the only "sex scene" in The Well of Loneliness consists in its entirety of the words "And that night they were not divided.")

Alex Beecroft: False Colours, m/m historical romance, just broken through and ranking in top 10 historical novels-- i.e. non-romance, non-gay-- and then it suddenly disappeared entirely from the rankings. The novel is NOT erotica, contains only one non-explicit sex scene, but the central premise features two male characters falling in love.

Erastes Transgressions - similar case to False Colours, screen cap here: http://erastes.livejournal.com/371921.html
Erastes Standish
Erastes Speak Its Name
Erastes Frost Fair
(on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk)

Storm Grant - GYM DANDY
Level of explicitness/genre: a RomCom with a heat level of 2 out of 5.
GLTB content?: boy meets boy
Censored on which amazon website: .com, .uk, and .ca*
Proof of sales rank: http://pics.livejournal.com/storm_grant/pic/0002ydd8/

Also without sales ranks:

http://www.amazon.com/Stone-Butch-Blues-Leslie-Feinberg/dp/1555838537
http://www.amazon.com/Rubyfruit-Jungle-Rita-Mae-Brown/dp/055327886X
http://www.amazon.com/Zami-Spelling-Crossing-Press-Feminist/dp/0895941228
http://www.amazon.com/Gender-Outlaw-Men-Women-Rest/dp/0679757015
http://www.amazon.com/Shes-Not-There-Life-Genders/dp/0767914295
http://www.amazon.com/Conundrum-York-Review-Books-Classics/dp/1590171896

Apparently even autobiographies about being transgender constitute "adult material".

No sales rank, either:

Charlie Cochrane: Lessons in Love
http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Love-Charlie-Cochrane/dp/1602021481/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books...
(no sex in the book)

Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man
http://www.amazon.com/Single-Man-Christopher-Isherwood/dp/0816638624/
Gay protagonist. I don't recall any explicit sex.

Edmund White's The Beautiful Room Is Empty
http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Room-Empty-Novel/dp/0679755403/
Haven't read, however, it's certainly critically acclaimed (as is A Single Man)

Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story
Both of the Edmund White novels do contain explicit sex scenes, but they're far from not "erotica", and they're acclaimed as literary classics.

The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students
http://www.amazon.com/Advocate-College-Guide-LGBT-Students/dp/155583857X/
No protagonist, but intended for LGBT college-bound students. Haven't read, but I expect is non-explicit.

Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance
http://www.amazon.com/Dancer-Dance-Novel-Andrew-Holleran/dp/0060937068/
Gay protagonist. Non-explicit, though much is implied. Harold Robbins is steamier and retains his sales rank.

JL Langley's Tin Star (Amazon.ca)

Robert Adrich Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History (amazon.ca)

Louis-Georges Tin (Editor), Marek Redburn (Translator): The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience (Paperback)
(Amazon.ca)

James Buchanan: The Good Thief, Twice the Cowboy, Twice the Ride, Cheating Chance
(Only his print editions have had their sales rank stripped) Amazon.com
Screencap for Good Thief here: http://www.james-buchanan.com/GT.pdf
More proof: http://www.james-buchanan.com/amazonfail.pdf

Mark Probst The Filly
http://www.amazon.ca/Filly-Mark-R-Probst/dp/0979777305/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8 &s=books&qid=1239547211&sr=8-1 (amazon.ca)

Sarah Waters Tipping The Velvet now has no sales rank in one of its editions ...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tipping-Velvet-Virago-Sarah-Waters/dp/1860495249
http://www.amazon.com/Tipping-Velvet-Novel-Sarah-Waters/dp/1573227889/ref=pd_sim_b_2

It still does in another edition:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tipping-Velvet-Sarah-Waters/dp/1844080110

The only difference seems to be that this one doesn't have the word "lesbian" anywhere in its "Look for similar items by subject".

E M Forster - Maurice
http://www.amazon.com/Maurice-Novel-E-M-Forster/dp/0393310329/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239550630&sr=1-1
(Amazon.com - "Heat level" - neglegible)

Alex Sanchez Rainbow Boys (YA)
http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Boys-Alex-Sanchez/dp/0689857705/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid...

Rainbow Road (YA)
http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Road-Alex-Sanchez/dp/141691191X/ref=pd_sim_b_1_img

Rainbow High (YA)
http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-High-Alex-Sanchez/dp/0689854781/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid...

(None of Alex Sanchez's other books have lost their rankings though they all contain m/m content)

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Time for a Breakdown

1) Do they have the right to? Yes. Private business is like that. They can chose not to sell, shelve, or rank whatever they feel like however they choose for whatever business or personal preference they and their shareholders see fit. If they want to stay in business, they will measure those concerns against public demand - which is what's going to happen now.

2) Is what they did a smart thing to do? Probably not, or at least not the way they went about it. Look, I'm sure someone thought this would be a smart thing to do based on complaints from the Bible Belt or something. The problem is when you are as big as Amazon and you try to be all things to all people you shoot yourself in the foot eventually. Case in point.

3) Will they lose business? Well, I think I can hold off buying my private things until the "system glitch" gets fixed. I wouldn't want my order to suffer from "system glitches" - even when I know full well it's a different department, software, etc. I'm a customer and therefore allowed just a wee bit of sarcasm before I hand them some money again. Library collection development may or may not shift depending on the purchasing policies and/or how quickly the "system glitch" is fixed.

4) Will they get protested? I live in Seattle. Amazon is within walking distance of a very prominent gay neighborhood. This could be interesting. Otherwise, they're already getting talked about on blogs so I can imagine they're getting lots of e-mail right now.

5) Just a final thought. Before my MLS I used to work for small retailers and publishers who did business with Amazon. (I still do in limited ways.) Every single one of them liked PayPal's systems more. Why? Other then the fact PayPal takes less off the top, it is because Amazon's software systems...You know that phrase "When you have only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?" Amazon's upgrades where almost always convenient for them, not the businesses they worked with. "System upgrades" (I use the term loosely.) required overhaul on the part of the small business just to keep up with clunky, often over-bearing interfaces and a customer support system that tried to prevent you from speaking with a live representative to help you fix the damn thing. All this does keep Amazon's overhead down and its sheer size keeps it a good option to get a small business' stuff sold to a wider market. It's just...well, annoying. Eventually, when some better option comes along this type of thing will make or break Amazon.

"Electricity is really just organized lightning." - George Carlin

Amazon should NOT be in the business of censorship

Amazon is in the business to sell BOOKS. That is their bread and butter and why Jeff Bezos enjoys his $81 million dollar salary. They are NOT in the business to regulate morality or dictate to the reading public what is/is not "mature content".

As a soon-to-be former Amazon customer, I have spent thousands of dollars over the past five years on books. In these trying economic times where every dollar counts, Amazon's so-called 'glitch' is just bad business. By the way, this ranking removal also effects non-erotic books such as 'Our Bodies, Our Selves'.

Um.

It's not just erotica that's missing. Try searching for "Heather Has Two Mommies". It's just gone. And there's definitely no sex or smut in that one.

It's just gone

When you say, "It's just gone." Do you mean not listed for sale on Amazon? The book is on Amazon: Heather Has Two Mommies: 10th Anniversary Edition (Alyson Wonderland)

Last night that edition

Last night that edition simply did not appear when you searched from the main page. Today it does. I think they are trying to fix the so-called "glitch". But there are still plenty of books that cannot be found by a simple search, which is, of course, how most people browse the site.

So...

So amazon is commercial. So it should be interested to speak to many people not only the homophobic ones. Stripping the ranking from homoerotic books DEFINETLY will do a lot good for their selling statistics, uhumm...
Darn, it could be so easy. Leave the rankings as they were. And books with adult content - REALLY adult content - sell only to adults. Done. Why are they so... whatever... and proclim it to be ok and just for commercials sake...

*sighs*
They should think of a better reason. Or at least one that's not blown at first sight.

At present, amazon.de ist

At present, amazon.de ist unaffected, and people from Germany who acess .co.uk and .com seem to be unaffected, too.

A friend of mine in Germany checked Amazon.de too, and found that some books in English had their rankings removed, but not those in German. When queried, customer service claimed that it was a technical glitch. I've seen reports of missing ranks on .ca and .co.uk as well, but I have no specifics for those.

So, they are wiling to sell them...

... but they don't want some people to know how popular they are?

We do, indeed, live in strange times.

Amazon's obligations

Amazon is not a public library. Amazon is a for-profit business. The obligation of such a business is to maximize profit for shareholders without violating civil laws.

It is unfortunate that the execution of this change happened this way. I can see a legitimate business case that could be made for this, though. As for not excluding pornography, I would imagine that the market for those sorts of materials is far broader and profitable than for LGBT material. Amazon's system apparently can be gamed like Google's PageRank so this would be critical to how their business operates overall, I suppose. I've written about gaming Google's PageRank here and here.

The Internet is a big place. Why not have somebody put together an e-commerce site for the materials Amazon yanked the ranks of? There do not necessarily have to be hegemons in the marketplace.
________________________
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

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