April 13, 2009, 8:05 AM — Amazon.com is in the midst of a PR nightmare after the internet-surfing public noticed that the online retailer is removing "Sales Rank" data from a number of books they've tagged as "adult." The reason appears to be that Amazon doesn't want 'adult' titles showing up in its bestseller lists. As if this isn't bad enough, the perception among the outraged is that gay and lesbian books in particular are being singled out for exclusion.
There's been so much written about the issue in so short a time that rather than rehash it all, I'll just offer a reading list (see the bottom of this article). What I find fascinating is the one party not talking about the controversy, and that is Amazon itself. The only official word out of Amazon came Sunday evening when a spokesman said the changes were due to a "glitch" and that they were being addressed.
By glitch, I'm assuming they mean a bad algorithm. I personally find it hard to believe that some individual is sifting through the millions of books in the Amazon catalog and removing certain ones from the "Sales Rank" data. I find it even harder to believe that in today's political climate, they'd deliberately single out gay and lesbian books. That just seems like retail suicide to me.
Getting back to my point, it's dumbfounding that Amazon would let this controversy grow unchecked for a whole weekend. For such a giant in the online space, they certainly seem to be behaving like a brick and mortar company from two decades ago. The fact that this past weekend was a holiday for many people doesn't stop the flow of information on the internet. Someone at Amazon HQ is going to have a very bad Monday, and deservedly so.
Here's a very incomplete list of articles on the controversy. You can Google "amazonfail" for more.
- Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner (The LA Times)
- Amazon criticized for de-ranking 'adult' books (CNET)
- Why Is Amazon Removing The Sales Rankings From Gay, Lesbian Books? (Jezebel)
- Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for "New" Adult Policy (Publishers's Weekly)
- Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes (BookSquare)