Monday, April 13, 2009

One Last Amazon Post (update x2)

So like a lot of you, I've been reading a more about the stripped sales rank issue. It does seem likely that whatever happened it was not a policy decision by Amazon as a whole. The main evidence for that is that it would be a very, very stupid policy decision and Amazon doesn't make decisions that stupid.

On the other hand it is not clear what did happen. It is not clear if their internal program for identifying "adult" (meaning mostly erotica) material was poorly written/updated, or if some troll group (it would have to be a group),, or hacker started flagging GLBT books as objectionable. That seems to be the dominate circulating theory, but it is A LOT of books. [Update 1: there is a person who is claiming to have master-minded the scheme. People who know more than I do about writing code are debating whether his claims are plausible. Amazon is still distressingly silent -- no apologies, explanations, or quick fixes. I am willing to grant that only the apology is a reasonable expectation at this point.]

What is clear is that it started happening in February. That's when a few authors noticed it with respect to their books and reported it.

I've gone from angry to irritated. I don't expect to write any more posts about it, but I also am not going to buy from them until they fix it. Whatever happened it is ultimately their responsibility and not buying from them is one thing I can do to exert pressure.

But I hope they hurry 'cause my Kindle is lonely.

Update 2: Amazon Replies to my email


Thank you for contacting

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.


Customer Service


  1. Hey ... thanks for writing about this.

    OH NO! Your Kindle! :(

  2. It has to be a glitch. For one thing, there's still a Gay & Lesbian "Department" in books that has definitely not been taken over by the Falwell types. The problem appears to be related to their suggested search feature - the one that, when you start typing in the "Search" bar at the top, suggests topics. Try this: if you just search for "homosexuality" you get the infuriating results, and even if you go to the lists at the left and filter your results by only those books in the Gay & Lesbian dept, you still get the infuriating results. HOWEVER, if you do the same search but start by browsing into G & L and then search for "homosexuality" the results are quite positive.

    Also, if you're on the amazon home page and search for "gay" instead of homosexuality, I think you'll find that Amazon isn't keeping gay erotica out of the front page of search results. I never knew there was a video of Naked Boys Singing, but it doesn't surprise me (it's Rule 34 of the internet: if you can imagine it, there is porn of it.)

  3. The three books I mentioned in my email to Amazon have had their sales rank restored. Sigh.

    I can get a new Kindle book now.



Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.