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Amazon = Fail

This started popping up on my FaceBook and LJ a few hours ago and I had intended to write a thoughtful post about it. But really, do I need to? Not just because others have done so, but because you really don’t need long and thoughtful to grasp this.

Amazon is (and apprently has been for a few weeks) stripping “adult” titles of their sales rank so that they don’t show up on bestseller lists and also don’t show up in many searches. The criteria for “adult” appears to be: anything that portrays homosexuality as a positive or talks about homophobia as a negative. For example: Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone — that would be a non-fiction history book about homophobia. What’s not adult? Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (with pictures of over 600 naked women). Want more examples? A huge list is growing here.

ETA: It’s been pointed out that there are other “adult” book categories being deranked, including books about/for rape survivors, feminist titles, female sexuality books, and books on disability and sexuality. Sensing a trend here? I am!

Oh Amazon, when you fail you fail so very, very hard.

And then you fail harder by lying. Or, if not lying, covering your ass without checking whether someone in your organization has already said that you’re doing exactly what you just said you’re not doing and haven’t been doing since February.

This is a form of censorship. And while it may be that Amazon has the legal right to censorship on their website, that doesn’t mean anyone has to stand for it. That means you can take your business elsewhere.

You can go to your local bookstores, be they big box or independent. You can order books online from Barnes & Noble, or Borders, or even your local independent bookstore. I am a fan of Powells, myself.

Buy books. Always buy books. But don’t buy books from assholes who attempt to censor out books about homosexuals (unless they are books wherein it shows one how to be cured of it — yes, those got to keep their ranking. Surprise!).

Also, if you’re the kind of person who is in to petitions, sign the petition.

16 thoughts on “Amazon = Fail”

  1. Lawrence Schimel says:

    Amazon deranking of titles for moral reasons has been going on since at least August 08:

    Major fail!

  2. jsb16 says:

    For another possible explanation, see

    It makes more sense that this is an exploitation of a poorly designed and trusting ranking system by fanatics than a deliberate censoring by a reasonably liberal company.

  3. Erica says:

    Things like this make me glad I’ve always used Powell’s rather than Amazon when I link to books I recommend my blog readers buy. I’ve never liked Amazon much, but now I am starting to seriously hate them.

  4. Pingback: What the Fuck is Amazon thinking?! « “Feminism to a neurotic extreme.”
  5. Trackback: What the Fuck is Amazon thinking?! « “Feminism to a neurotic extreme.”
    1. Calvin says:

      So it is a Really Elaborate Conspiracy.

  6. Sam says:

    I’ve been following this along on Twitter, and it turns out it’s close to what jsb16 was saying. It was someone exploiting the community rankings on Amazon for a laugh. Here’s the details.

  7. Samara Lynn says:

    ABW—Great post!

  8. Elena Perez says:

    We’ve got a post up with links showing that it started in February, that Amazon said earlier that it was company policy, and discussing the “tehdely” idea, which has some serious flaws. Also linked to a list of which titles were deranked.

  9. Misty Kaye says:

    @jsb16 Thank you for that link. It’s nice to see another possible reasonable explanation. It seems like people are always so quick to jump to the worst conclusions without considering all of the avenues. I think you’re right, something like the scenario described in the link you posted makes a lot more sense than Amazon purposefully risking pissing off these very vocal groups.

  10. Calvin says:

    Anyone care to suggest a motive (other than the tehdaily one)? I can’t think of that many groups that would be offended by LGBT that wouldn’t be offended by Playboy.

    Unless it’s just a really elaborate conspiracy.

  11. Zetta Brown says:

    Nice to meet another Angry Black Woman! I stumbled upon your site to check on whom else was talking about this crazy mess. My book–while still showing up in searches–has had its ranking stripped. It’s a hetero erotic romance, but that doesn’t matter. The whole idea is wrong and Amazon’s trying to cover their collective a-holes is pathetic.

    Thank goodness Amazon isn’t the only fish in the sea. People should take this seriously. Otherwise, where will it end?

    “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
    –Malcom X

  12. Holly says:

    This whole Amazon debacle has been a great example of censorship at its finest and yet another company that is falling under the buss and catering to the right wing demographic. After the amazonfail hashtag hit number one under trending topics on Twitter there were people actually starting an amazonwin hashtag in support of Amazon removing “filth” from its website. It was a clear indicator that the bigoted, homophobic wing of society is alive and well, and quite sad at that. People were actually buying Amazon gift cards and running giveaways on their blogs in support of Amazon’s idiocy.

  13. Godheval says:

    Well, petitions are pointless, so I wouldn’t bother. You probably won’t stop but a small handful of progressives from buying from Amazon, and them only for a short time.

    I have to say I’m surprised by all of this, although I had no reason to think that Amazon was a progressive company, or any different from any other corporation run by conservative politics. Huh.

    Oh, and by the way, if you’re boycotting Amazon, then you shouldn’t recommend that people buy from Borders Online, since they use Amazon for their online shopping.

  14. Elena Perez says:

    Finally there’s an explanation of what happened that makes sense: AmazonFail: An inside look at what happened

  15. Westerly says:

    Just…wow. Really, really disgusting. And 3 days ago I just received a book through Amazon. Will definitely be avoiding these ass-holes from here on in.

  16. Legible Susan says:

    I’m confused about the site layout: are the comments threaded? The Reply links and not being in date order suggests they are, but there’s no indication of who people are replying to.

    On topic, you probably already know this, but it didn’t just happen over Easter. That’s when they rolled it out to books and a critical mass of people noticed, but it’s been going on at least since Jan.08 on the Kindle listings ( Francine Saint Marie’s research proved they were specifically targetting anything tagged gay/lesbian.

    Having a safesearch as default is sensible, but removing sales rankings to implement it isn’t, and doing it without telling anyone and without allowing account-holders to turn it off is boycott-worthy in itself, even if they’d bothered to set the flags properly.

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