Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon In The Police Business

Amazon is on the naughty list for the readers of all things feminist, LGBT and sexual-empowerment. The potentially "sexual" themes were removed from the sales rankings, which are numbers that show how well a product is performing on the website.

Angry authors and readers responded by launching a full-on social media assault, using blogs, Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness and to collect signatures on a petition. The beauty of petitions, especially online petitions like this one is the immediacy. Nothing like immediate satisfaction. The recent Mea Culpa from Amazon is laughable: we goofed as in technical hickup. I suspect Amazon was throwing it's weigh around as some sort of literature police and got spanked for it. Now the corporate marketing "line" is oops- we had a technical glitch. Yeah, right. It didn't take Amazon long to get the message loud and clear that it does not have the right to try and police what we buy. Amazon seemed to have forgotten that we’re the people it’s supposed to be serving–and right now I’m speaking as a consumer, Amazon seemed to be stripping the sales figures and accompanying rankings from GLBTQ books, erotica, and romance novels, particularly those with what they term “adult content.” Nothing pisses me off more than being told what NOT to do. I can't take on any more issues in therapy at the moment to address this zealot nature too, so what to do??

This is nothing short of discrimination; nothing short of censorship. This is nothing a business that claims commercial integrity at even the most basic level would do. Consequently, as a longtime Amazon customer, I look forward to an immediate reversal of this ridiculous and unconscionable policy. Otherwise, I will purchase elsewhere and encourage everyone else I know to do the same. Should you feel the need to vent, please feel free to cut and paste the following rant to the email listed at the bottom. Made me feel a bit better, maybe it will do the same for you.

Dear Amazon,

It has come to my attention that you are de-ranking books, supposedly on the basis of “adult content.” Apparently, according to the Amazon Dictionary, this is defined as books that have anything at all to do with GLBT characters, authors, issues, or references, with some general erotically-oriented works being roped in, as well. In the meantime, however, books on the illegal, inhumane, and horrifyingly violent sport of dog fighting remain ranked and appear on a first page search under “dog fighting”: http://bit.ly/18l70B. Further, a search under “playboy” yields as the first return “Playboy: Wet and Wild Complete Collection,” followed by “Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds,” and so on. At what point did “adult content” exclude nude women and dogs killing other dogs for sport? I choose to purchase my books from anyone other than Amazon, until this is addressed. Amazon executive customer service email is: ecr@amazon.com and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575.

Curious about how this really translates? Here is an example, one of these books has been removed from Amazon’s sales rankings because of “adult” content; the other has not. “American Psycho” is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. “Unfriendly Fire” is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s “Unfriendly Fire” that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results. So this is the global, publicly embarrassing problem for the retailer which prides itself on its online community and ranking system.

It's cathartic to share this short minded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public. Interesting to see how it will shake out.

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