Amazon De-ranks "Adult" Books

April 12th, 2009

This is not a crisis, nor should we run screaming, but I think it is important enough that every reader, writer, publisher, editor and all champions of freedom of expression should take note. Amazon has changed its policy and has de-ranked books that it deems “adult” in nature. This includes anything they count as erotica and many non-adult LGBT books, as well. De-ranking means that they have been pulled from the sales ranks and are also not coming up in the search engine.

I do not advocate being outraged. Outrage accomplishes nothing. I *do* advocate a polite, but firm letter campaign asking that Amazon allow sales to indicate sales rank and nothing else. I distrust their definition of “adult” if it does not include Twilight, or Playboy, but does include Annie on My Mind.

Please make a firm request that all books be ranked and that they do not involve behavior that can be seen as censorship or “protection.” Please feel free to Digg this or forward it to MLs, forums, sites, etc. The more people who protest politely, the more of an impact we can make.

You can contact the Amazon Executive customer service email at ecr@amazon.com, call the customer service phone number: 1-800-201-7575 or login to your Amazon account and visit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html?ie=UTF8&browse_node_id=468496

You can also sign this petition against the policy:http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

As a publisher of LGBT comics, as a reader of whatever I bloody well want to read, as a member of the community of humans that prefers to think for myself, I ask for your support against this misguided policy.

***

Update – This is not a “glitch”. Emails were sent out to the first victims of this new policy more than 2 months ago that stated that it was a policy change. They were all LGBT authors – many of whom had no, or ridiculously little, “adult” content in their books.

It’s understandable that Amazon wants to call it a glitch, but don’t let them get away with it.

Also – do not ask *me* if your local Amazon is affected. Go search for J.D. Glass, Radclyffe Hall or any other LGBT book you can think of and see for yourself. *Do* for yourself, and *think* for yourself. Don’t be sheep and follow me or anyone.

Lastly – this has nothing to do with the game Rapeplay, don’t be delusional. The 14 of you who want that dreck have had no affect of the hundreds of authors de-ranked and delisted from Amazon right now. Crichey.

***

Update 2 – Amazon has apologized, and is sending out emails calling this a ham-fisted and embarassing error. To say the least….

I should let you know that it *did* affect some of the other catalogs. Amazon.co.uk was affected. And yes, some Yuri and Yaoi manga titles were caught in the net.

Weev’s claim that he hacked the system is…unlikely. A number of people are saying that that is a hoax.

Here’s what I think actually happened:

Some manager proposed an idea for moving adult books off the ranking, like in Amazon JP. Another one got the order, handed it to a tech and said, “do this.”

The tech had no interest or clue and did a thing that checked ontology or whatever. They don’t report to the manager who told them to do it, so they handed it to their manager who had no idea about it who, when asked about the gay thing said, “it’s all porn, whatever.”

So customer service gets emails and asks a completely different manager, who asks up the chain and finally gets, “it’s a policy thing about adult stuff.”

I’ve worked in large companies for my entire life and basically, this is how things always work. No one knows what the person next to him did and none of the managers have a clue.

As of this moment, I have no intention of moving the Yuricon Shop or the links here and we’ll see what happens.

Final Update: Everything has been restored.

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27 Responses

  1. BruceMcF says:

    I was so lazy that after I signed the petition, when I went to blog it at Docudharma, I just copied and pasted what you said in a couple of big block quotes.

    Tried to say something nice about Okazu, but, hope that makes up for being so lazy.

  2. ggymeta says:

    I gave in to the rage…it gets me out of Pesach drama [it’s like a dysfunctional thanksgiving that lasts for days!] :)

    I blogged, and at first just listed ways to contact them, until I saw that ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ was deranked and realized, this is BS. So I linked to that Google-bomb post, and relevant linkspams of outrage, and have been following #amazonfail at Twitter.

    I also find it pretty strategic that they chose the Good-Friday/Easter Sunday time to pull this. :(

    Yes, they’re still selling these titles, but what they’ve done is to cripple front-page searches – it’s the same thing as removing a book from the shelf and sticking it in the back; then selling it only if a customer asks for it.

    I hope by Friday of this week, Amazon cops to a really bad technical glitch. :/

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m curious, did this also affect Amazon.co.jp, especially in terms of Yuri manga, etc.? If so, will you start linking to other websites when mentioning such titles?

  4. @Anonymous – we don’t think so. It is affecting Amazon.co.uk (see Andrew Sullivan’s comment on his books being delisted.)

  5. Thank you very much for posting about this, I am spreading the word on some private conferences and library lists I am on.

    Is there a copy of the full Amazon statement on this action available?

  6. @Gilles Amazon has not said anything as of yet. The first authors/publishers affected receieved a private email on the matter, as in Mark Probst recounts in his blog: http://markprobst.livejournal.com/15293.html

  7. ^_^ says:

    When “Homosexuality” is entered into the search function it brings up almost exclusively, homo-phobic titles. It’s not just the de-ranking that’s an issue.

    I spend far more than the average consumer at Amazon. (Thousands in only a couple of years.) The blatant homophobia is a problem for me. My money will go elsewhere if it isn’t fixed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/04/amazon-responds-to-adult-queries-blames-a-glitch.html

    According to this, it may all be an incredible mistake…let’s hope so, although if it is, I feel sorry for the persons or people who are about to lose their job(s) because of the massive negative publicity they just gained Amazon…

  9. Melissa says:

    Is Amazon.ca being affected?

  10. Jo, the 2nd. says:

    Besides singing the petition do you happen to know if there are other sites in Europe from were I can get my mangas without paying one more manga in shipping from US?

    Forbiden Planet and Play are out of the question as they are very limited when it comes to my favorite mangas.

  11. thedarkworld says:

    I’m really upset about this. And perhaps I can shed some light on what may have happened here.

    About a month or go, maybe more, there was a huge hoopla that through Amazon, a seller was selling a game called Rapelay, some Japanese hentai game where the intent was to stalk women and rape them. Of course the mainstream media jumped all over it and made Amazon out to be purveyors of all things pornographic and tasteless and of course the usual “threat to kids” crap. I’m betting they got a lot of negative feedback about selling adult products, but instead of ignoring it, they decided to do this.

    Here’s a link about the rapelay thing: http://www.postchronicle.com/news/original/article_212208028.shtml

    I’m upset because Amazon has always provided me with top-notch customer support, replacing missing items and even a broken Kindle. But I’m an author, one who was hoping to self-publish and launch my Yuri novel this year… but without Amazon, how will I get sales other than by word-of-mouth? I’m disgusted that because of peer pressure, we are essentially being censored.

    I did support my local Borders because I liked them to get Yuri manga in.. but sadly it wasn’t enough and they closed about 3 months ago. So now I have a very tiny Borders within range with very little selection.

    I’m hoping we can get this reversed. I’m going to send them a polite letter and see what kind of response I get.

    I hate the sensationalist mob that jumped all over Rapelay. And I’m disappointed in Amazon for giving in to their demands.

  12. Rinu says:

    @Anonymous – we don’t think so. It is affecting Amazon.co.uk (see Andrew Sullivan’s comment on his books being delisted.)

    I thought it affected only Amazon.com, at least judging according to http://markprobst.livejournal.com/15293.html.

    Thanks for the information. Of course I said my no too (although I am not surprised due to circumstances).

    Btw, it looks like it was only a “glitch”.

  13. diaphanus says:

    ^_^ is right.

    Here are some results:

    1. A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality

    3. You Don’t Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is

    4. For The Bible Tells Me So

    5. Can Homosexuality Be Healed?

  14. Like I said, I was lazy and when I blogged about this at two small (political) community blogs, here and here, It was 50% blockquote of Erika’s piece (I was lucky enough to get front-paged at both blogs, which I ascribe to Erika’s writing) …

    … but not so lazy that I did not scratch around at least a not before posting.

    Its no glitch … and its not just this week, though it may be that this last week the ongoing process of de-ranking reached a critical mass in terms of enough insane “rank / don’t rank” decisions, or at least enough to be heard within the 140 character limit of Twitter.

    In Is Amazon.com Homophobic?, Craig of Craig’s Pop life reports that he has been complaining about this since February.

    More at #amazonfail – Amazon.com Exposes bias against gay and lesbian books (Comics212) and Why Is Amazon Removing The Sales Rankings From Gay, Lesbian Books? (Jezebel).

  15. Anonymous says:

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/amazon/archives/166329.asp

    Amazon is now claiming this was a massive cataloging error, and is promising to fix it quickly:

    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.

  16. rickey-a says:

    Thank you for being the first person blogging about this whole mess, that I can actually agree with in some way. I am relieved to see a calm and intelligent look at this situation instead of torches and pitchforks.

  17. Winterbraid says:

    An imaginary scenario:

    ‘All right, listen up, people… this is gonna be a short meeting with Amazon representatives, we will deliver our petition and withdraw politely. Remember: outrage accomplishes nothing…’

    Five hours later:

    ‘Okay, guys, own it up… who’s thrown the Molotov cocktail?’Anyway, thanks a lot for letting us know. Hehe, I guess it was either like you said, or someone at Amazon at some point decided that it’d be an awesome thing to do… ^-^;

  18. Katherine says:

    I’m disappointed…that I purchased manga from Amazon a few weeks ago. After learning about this “glitch”, I’m taking all of my business elsewhere.

  19. @Katherine – If you do that, you punish me, or any other affiliate who uses them too. Personally, I’d rather see the top 10 bestsellers list on Amazon be all LGBT books this week.

  20. Katherine says:

    @ Erica- Sorry, I didn’t consider that. I don’t care for the idea of Amazon (US and UK Amazon, not Amazon Japan) making any money for titles whose ranking they shelved because of this “glitch”, but I don’t want to punish authors and publishers of lgbt titles because of Amazon. Point noted.

  21. @Katherine – I understand your outrage, but honestly, really, does it even make sense to attribute this to malice? Amazon is very unlikely to have done this on purpose and they are probably confused and annoyed about it as much as we are.

  22. Katherine says:

    That’s a valid point. I shouldn’t have assumed the worst right off the bat.

  23. yukikyo says:

    I can understand how some people would be outraged, and why amazon would do something like this. At least I think I can grasp it a bit.

    But I mean, there are people that like to read LGBT novels, and they shouldn’t have that taken away from them. Those that don’t like to read them shouldn’t frequent them, shouldn’t make a big stink about it.
    Or if they are ‘adult books’ put them behind a curtain so only ‘adults’ can look at them.

    I’m a Christian, and I am even surprised and a bit outraged that they would do something like that. You can’t conform people to your liking. They can read what they want to read.

  24. @yukikyo As I’ve said repeatedly, I do not think Amazon *did* this. I think it *happened.* Booksellers sell books. They therefore want people to buy them. It seems far more likely that this was a stupid accident, rather than blatant attack.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I realise that I’m a little late to the party but this is the first I’m hearing of this.

    Wouldn’t removing it from the search engine make these books impossible to find? I’m as disappointed as I’ve ever been with something on the internet. And that’s quite a feat.

    -However-

    It seems that the problem has been fixed, at least for Amazon.co.uk. I found all the Yuri/yaoi and LGBT books that I searched for (Including Yuri Monogatari). Admittedly I couldn’t remember many titles off the top of my head. Sort of like when someone is filming you and asks you to say something. I had to resort to reading titles off my bookshelf.

    I considered boycotting Amazon for a second there… instead I ended up buying six Yuri manga. ^^;

    “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity” those are words I try to live by but Amazon make it quite hard when the top results in a search for “homosexuality” are “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality” and “Can Homosexuality be Healed?”. :(

    Although the tags for those products made me smile.

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