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Monday, April 13, 2009


Like many people who went to bed early last night, I woke up this morning to a storm of controversy regarding Amazon's new filtering policy that deranked hundreds of queer theory, feminist books, and classics like Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence because of their "adult" themes. Wtf? Amazon is now saying it's just a glitch in the system, but it's hard to comprehend a glitch that would strip the sales ranking from a children's book to help explain two mommies while leaving porn star Ron Jeremy's filthy memoir alone. I feel sick to my stomach thinking of the amount of money I've spent at Amazon in the last week since getting my Kindle, not to mention the years before that. Let's hope they do in fact fix this "glitch" and issue a huge, heartfelt apology to those authors whose sales have undoubtedly been affected as well as to Amazon consumers whose searches and interests have essentially been censored. If you want to know more about this issue, check out the #amazonfail thread on Twitter, or the great posts on Jezebel and AfterEllen.

My personal guarantee is that no matter where you fall on the issue of gay rights you will be shocked at the list of deranked books, especially as compared to the list of books deemed not too shocking for Amazon's consumers. EPIC FAIL, Amazon.

ETA: Correspondence between a friend of mine and Amazon. Friend's letters were so good, I wanted to highlight them here.

Letter #1:
have never felt more betrayed by a company I used to love than I do
now. The idea that Amazon would declare "adult" books like The Diving
Bell and the Buttefly, Unfriendly Fire, and Swish by Joel Derfner (a
book that I am personally thanked in), and consequently strip them of
their rankings and/or their ability to be searched for, is disgusting
and inexplicable to me. I have a good friend who's publishing a romance
novel from a major publisher in the fall, and it features some explicit
sex scenes; will it suffer the same fate? I'm writing this letter as a
personal individual, but I have worked in the publishing industry for
many years. Among many other books, I've edited two extremely
successful series from a major NYT-bestselling author, whose novels
occasionally feature explicit sex scenes. Will those books be shoved
off bestseller lists on Amazon, and hidden from searches? I would
accept (and understand the need for) something like the optional "safe
search" filtering options on Google searches within Amazon's system,
but anything that would give Amazon the power to arbitrarily label
books as "adult" and make them unranked and impossible to search
for--all but wiping them from existence--totally ruins Amazon as a
service to me, and makes Amazon a company that I can have no respect
for. I have been a loyal and happy Amazon customer for years. If this
policy is immediately reversed and a strongly worded apology is issued,
I might be willing to continue using Amazon for a little while, to see
if I'd be up for giving the company a chance to regain my trust.
Otherwise, I will be forced to cancel my account. A few years ago, this
would have been very difficult for me, but today there are many other
online sources that are just as cheap and convenient to use as Amazon
for everything I currently buy here. It is the goodwill Amazon has
built with me that keeps me as its customer more than anything else. It
is amazing to me how quickly and effectively Amazon has destroyed that

goodwill. I am horrified and repulsed.

Amazon response:

Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed.
Thanks again for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.
Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:"

Friend's response to THAT:

Responding to my email and the current news stories about the deranking of
arbitrarily labeled "adult" books--with a high proportion comprising
gay and lesbian books, including classics like Orlando--with the
insufficient statement that Amazon has suffered some kind of magical
"glitch" is totally insufficient to address my concerns over this
company policy. I do not understand how nor accept that this could be a
glitch. Neither does the AP, who put the word in quotes in their
headline about this. Again, if a strongly worded apology is not
forthcoming from Amazon, I will be forced to cancel my account.
Everyone I have discussed this with feels the same. Many of them are
published authors or people who work in publishing--the original core
of Amazon's business! Don't you care about our concerns? Dismissing
them only furthers the inexplicable insult you have delivered here to
many or your customers. One of my friends says she feels like flushing
her Kindle down the toilet. You need to give her a reason not to feel
that way anymore by issuing an appropriate response to what has
happened here.



Amazon stock down 1.5% this morning. Gee, wonder why? Best place to hit them, square in the balance sheet.

I blogged about it too. I don't buy the glitch excuse either...unless they mean there was a glitch in their business acumen.

This whole thing has my head spinning this morning too. I was super busy yesterday with Easter and all and to hear about this last night hurts my heart.
I have Amazon links on my blog and don't know what to do. I'm pretty much a hot head but I'm trying to wait it out to see how it all plays out but it is very distressing. Glitch my butt.

I missed most of this thanks to a super busy weekend.

They need to get their act together because they're going to lose customers so quickly their head will spend. The whole glitch thing is ludicrous but I hope they figure out a way to make everybody happy.

Thanks for posting the letter!

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