Amazon Claims “Glitch” Removed LGBT Books from Sales Rankings

While some people were out hunting for Easter egss, concerned bibliophiles were searching for answers as to why the sales rankings of certain books–specifically those dealing with LGBT issues– had lost their sales rankings on Amazon.

The Amazon sales listing purge leaves some people wondering if maybe there wasn’t an orchestrated troll or pre-planned Easter weekend rampage through the website, perhpasa concerted effort by someone(s) to mess with the system, especially when the top ranked book that shows up during a search for "homosexuality" is  A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.

(As of press time the number two ranked listing for a search of "homosexuality" shows the word "homosexuality" and two links, one for fiction an done for non-fiction which redirect to the delisted titles; this may be part of Amazon’s short term fix for the problem).

Author Mark Probst noticed his self-published book The Filly had lost its ranking and wrote to Amazon. He got this reply:

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.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services

In February Craig Seymour, an Associate Professor of Journalism at Northern Illinois University noticed the Amazon.com Sales Rank completely disappeared from the product details of All I Could Bare, his memoir about his days as a Washington D.C. gay stripper. The book also had disappeared from the search listings. He writes:

I immediately sent emails to Amazon asking about this situation. I also placed several phone calls.But I could never get a straight answer, until February 25, when I received an email stating that "the sales rank was not displayed for the following reasons: The ISBN #1416542051 was classified as an Adult product."…My gay stripper memoir had no sales ranking, but Diablo Cody’s stripper memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, did.

Fueled by twitter, specificall #amazonfail, authors and readers raised a ruckus–so much so that when Amazon responded on  Publishers’ Weekly, that site had trouble loading because so many readers rushed to the see response:

 An Amazon spokesperson said that a glitch had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process of being fixed. The spokesperson added that there was no new adult policy.

However Carolyn Kellogg at the LATimes asked Amazon spokesperson Patty Smith straight out why classic LGBT titles like Virgina Woolf’s Orlando were affected, pointing out:

In fact, only one of the top 10 books in your Gay & Lesbian section continues to have a sales ranking (the Kindle version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray"). No other section is similarly affected. Can you comment on that?

The Amazon spokesperson responded that she was unable able to comment further and that Amazon was  working to resolve the issue. 

Included in the rankings purge were Ellen Degeneres: A Biography, Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1Brokeback Mountain, and The Truth Is…My Life In Love And Music by Melissa Etheridge, The Mayor Of Castro Street: The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk, plus a number of historical and sociological/queer studies titles like Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Mitchell Gold’s Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America and Identity And The Case For Gay Rights: Race, Gender, Religion as Analogies.  Oddly Lady Chatterley’s Lover also had its sales ranking removed; titles dealing wiht feminism were also striped of their rankings, as were titles by James Baldwin and Gore Vidal.

The socialogical study of the penis, A Mind of its Own remained ranked at #165,800 in books and the Trinity Rabbit vibrator was ranked #157 in health & personal care. And Just F#@% Me! – What Women Want Men to Know About Taking Control in the Bedroom (A Guide for Couples) (Kindle Edition)–which spells out the word in the title!–is ranked #26,742 in Kindle Store.

Update via twitter #amazonfail:

THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK is ranked; JOY OF SEX is unranked. Amazon would rather you make napalm than get laid 

3 Responses to "Amazon Claims “Glitch” Removed LGBT Books from Sales Rankings"
Siun | Sunday April 12, 2009 09:19 pm 1

This is awful … they better get this sorted out fast!

Saw this on #amazonfail – Why #amazonfail is horrifying?Search for books on “homosexuality” now that stuff’s removed & you get THIS: http://bit.ly/jjeP


Suzanne | Sunday April 12, 2009 11:04 pm 2

thanks lalisa – great video


Siun | Sunday April 12, 2009 11:51 pm 3

The more I watch this develop the more stunning it is …thanks for covering this LaLisa!


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