I'm sure that some of you have already been bombarded with information about Amazon.com's new dickwad policy of removing sales rankings and search results for gay- and lesbian-themed material
. If you are among that number, please feel free to move along. :)
For the rest of you, here's what's been happening.
The policy of removing ranks and limiting searches for "adult" materials has, apparently, been implemented on a small--and secret--scale for several months. It was only recently, when several high-ranking gay and lesbian themed novels disappeared from said rankings, that author Mark Probst inquired about why his novel, The Filly, had disappeared
. Here is the text of the reply he received:( Amazon's Reply to Mark Probst )
Now, I have, in fact, read The Filly
. It's a young adult
novel. There is no explicit sex, no violence. It's about a young man discovering and exploring his first love, and coming to terms with his own sexuality. That's it
. And just because the young man happens to be gay, Amazon.com has decided that young men who are, perhaps, trying to find materials to help them deal with their own sexuality shouldn't be allowed to read this book. (In a dose of truly bitter irony, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality is now at the top of the search for "homosexuality" on Amazon
. How nice.)
Yesterday, I wrote to Amazon using the "Contact Us" button on the Help page. Here's the letter I sent:( My first letter to Amazon )
I wasn't the only one who sent a letter, and today I, and the others who had e-mailed, received this letter in return, claiming that the issue was a "glitch":( Amazon's automated reply )
Considering that they had just told Mark Probst outright that The Filly
's exclusion was a new policy, my immediate response, echoed by most everyone else who'd received this letter, was "Glitch, my ass." I clicked the "No" link, and sent the following:( My second letter to Amazon )( Some links )
Some final thoughts:
Why the heck, if Amazon was so keen to "protect" their shoppers, did it not occur to them to give their customers an opt-out for this? I can buy that the wholesale eradication of anything gay and lesbian wasn't what they had in mind--though I'm also pretty sure that they're way more sorry for getting caught than for doing it. But it's clear that they have been--and probably intend to continue--filtering the searches for all
their customers whether they want it or not. Even if they implement this policy in an even-handed manner to filter only material that is
sexually explicit or violent (though, frankly, violence doesn't seem to be bothering them much), I do not want this
. I'd still be pissed about singling out the gay and lesbian books, but I would be a lot less angry if I had the option to choose for myself
whether I wanted to be "protected" by Amazon's search filters.
Oh, yeah: Amazon Rank
ETA: If you're looking for an alternative to Amazon, Indie Bound
is a site where you can search for books and then order them from an independant bookseller in your area. Very nifty.
ETA 2: ( Amazon's second reply )
Okay. I am willing to grant that Amazon did not deliberately set out to eradicate gay and lesbian-themed works, that the "error" was widespread enough to suggest that it wasn't targeted.
This doesn't, however, answer any of my above concerns about the fact that they've started filtering content in the first place, without the knowledge or permission of their users. I suppose, really, that it's almost a good thing this happened, because otherwise I wouldn't have known that they were
filtering. Also, the fact that Amazon admitted to filtering The Filly
shows that they have no clue what they're doing with said filtering process. I'm also not convinced that the process isn't somewhat biased against gay and lesbian content, if an Amazon rep could blithely presume that The Filly
was adult. I guess I'll be waiting to see Amazon's next move.