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Amazon.com Responds to De-Listing of LGBT Books

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By GLAAD |
April 14, 2009

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the online retailer, Amazon.com, had stripped hundreds of LGBT books of their sales ranking, making the works impossible to find. According to many blogs includingTowleroad, Joe.My.God. and The Bilerico Project, many of the LGBT works sold through the online retailer had been re-classified as “adult books” leading to their exclusion from searches.

LGBT author Mark R. Probst initially reported the problem on his website after he noticed his own book, The Filly, had been de-listed. He emailed Amazon to express his concern and received the following response:

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

Amazon.com Advantage

But the de-ranking did not affect LGBT works alone. Jezebel noticed that prominent feminist literature was also affected by the “glitch”, including Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism.

Yesterday, GLAAD President, Neil G. Giuliano spoke to the Wall Street Journal, issuing the following statement:

GLAAD has reached out to Amazon.com and they indicate this was an error, so we expect to start seeing evidence of its correction immediately, and any loss of visibility of gay-themed books as a result of this error will be made right by Amazon. When people learn about the lives of gay and transgender people and the common ground we share, the culture changes and advances. It is so important that stories about the lives of our community are available, and that companies like Amazon promote these titles in an equal fashion.

As of this morning, many of the rankings have been restored to the books-- including Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography, Heather Has Two Mommies, and Queer Theory: An Introduction.

However, some authors indicated that their rankings were stripped back in February and have yet to be restored.

Queerty offered an interview with Chair of The Lambda Literary Foundation Christopher Rice discussing the efforts Amazon might make to tackle the concerns of the LGBT community.

Gizmodo drew attention to a hacker who claims to have caused the en masse delisting by exploiting the website’s user-generated “flagging” system.

However, as of today, Amazon’s official stance remains that the issue was due to a “glitch” in the system.

Amazon’s Head of Corporate Communications reached out to GLAAD, reiterating the wording of the company’s official Amazon statement provided to news outlets. Read the full email after the jump…

-----Original Message-----

From: Smith, Patricia

Sent: Mon 4/13/2009 4:46 PM

To: Cindi Creager

Subject: Your message to Amazon

Hi Cindy -

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 again for your message.

Patty Smith

Director of Corporate Communications

Amazon.com

Hopefully in the coming days, we will see Amazon make a concerted effort to fix the error and address the concerns of the community regarding the controversy. Regardless of the cause of the de-listing, GLAAD is committed to holding accountable companies for their responsibility to provide fair treatment to LGBT works and authors.

Issues: