Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Somehow ... a "glitch" has caused sales ratings on Amazon.com to be removed from gay/lesbian themed books. Among them James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar, Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain and Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. (I found though that Alan Hollingshurst's The Line of Beauty was unaffected at Amazon.com - maybe Booker prize winners are immune!).

The furor about this has been building up since the weekend especially on Twitter and Facebook (which is how I came to hear of this first), with the first people to become aware of it being authors who suddenly found themselves stripped of their ratings. (See also Edward Champion's post here.)

Publisher Mark Probst was one of the first to question what was going on. The answer he got from Amazon was evasive :
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.
Novels with hetrosexual sex scenes in them, though, seem to be strangely unaffected! Jackie Collins is still ranked and so is Harold Robbins, although many books in the erotica category have also been stripped of ratings.

More comment today at The Guardian.

Update :

A hacker called Weev has claimed credit for creating "the glitch". Amazon is repairing the damage. All our buttons got pushed, hey-ho.

Afterthought :

If it's true that this was a case of hacking, why on earth couldn't Amazon have handled public relations more professionally? At the first sniff of a problem, there should have been a notice posted on the site to the effect that they had been notified about the problem and were working to fix it. Now they need to put some serious effort into damage control.

(Wish I could claim credit for the title of this post but nicked it from a wittier friend!)


Anonymous said...

Very disappointed with Amazon. Boikot! Boikot!

- Poppadumdum.

k0k s3n w4i said...

gosh, who died and let a homophobic prick take over Amazon.com?

Baronhawk said...

Actually the issue here is with the identification that all alternative sexual practices are graded as being sexually explicit materials. As such they get the triple X rating by default. Normal heterosexual written exploit are probably graded on a sliding scale hence the lighter sensuous fare survived while hard core almost porno materials suffer the same fate as gay/bi/lesbian stories. I faced a similar problem with my choice of pictures for an article at one time. Apparently pictures of a girl kissing a girl is considered pornography as it depicts a homo-lifestyle. Touchy issue because legally many alternative sexual literature are considered triple X.

Amir Muhammad said...

Let's hope this gets resolved by August. Ahem!

Anonymous said...

The Weev story sounds like an excuse/spin woven by Amazon themselves! "Oh, wasn't our fault, a hacker did it!"

- Poppadumdum