April 13, 2009

Bad Buzz for Amazon.com After Delisting GLBT Books

Amazon.com sent bloggers abuzz this past week by removing the sales rankings of certain GLBT books - making it much more difficult to find them in a search.

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The Internet spent a lot of Easter Sunday talking about Amazon.com’s recent policy change which grouped GLBT books into the “adult” category and delisted these books from their sales ranking system.

Why is this ranking system important? According to this article, which quotes author Mark R. Probst’s blog, it means that certain books will now be excluded from searches because they contain “adult” material not suitable for a general audience. Probst posted in his blog this response from Amazon.com when he contacted them about moving two specific GLBT romance novels into their adult category (when many heterosexual romance novels are not):

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.

Amazon responded yesterday by saying no new policies around adult material had been put into place and they were looking into the “glitch” which caused sales rankings from books like Brokeback Mountain to be removed. Bloggers all over the Internet are up in arms (and, rightly so in my opinion) about this issue and are fighting back through blog ranting, tweets, and petitions.

Bloggers Respond to the Changes

Even Dr. Debby and our fellow sexual health bloggers have been hit by Amazon’s policy which makes it difficult to find sexuality related books if they contain GLBT or sexual content Amazon deems too “adult,” apparently.

Jezebel, like many other blogs, continues to update their post on this issue comparing non-ranked versus ranked books to show the seemingly willy-nilly decision making around which books get stripped of their rankings (like The Ultimate Guide to Sex & Disability) while others get to keep theirs (like The Complete A%&hole’s Guide to Handling Chicks).

You have to hand it to Twitter on this one. The storm has been brewing since February but the overwhelming amount of social networking on this issue via Twitter and other blogs might just be enough for Amazon to deal with this “glitch” in a more public and professional way.