Sunday, April 12, 2009

Is Amazon Censoring LGBT Books?

It has been brought to our attention that hundreds of gay,lesbian, and trans books simultaneously lost their sales rankings yesterday. Bringing into question whether there is a campaign to suppress LGBT themed books?

This prompted many Amazon users, authors, and purchasers of LGBT literature to contact the company. It seems many books simply about being transgender, or a college guide for LGBT students is being deemed "erotic"?

Amazon has taken the rankings off of many books in "erotica" categories. The question is why are they deeming so many non-erotica LGBT based books as offensive? While they still have ratings available on such books as Playboy centerfolds which clearly is in a different category than many of the books that are being targeted.

Use their express customer service form to voice your complaint or call 1-800-201-7575.

36 comments:

lindamarie127 said...

perhaps AMAZON should give an explanation as to what they consider offensive and erotica?
And have them define the difference between the two. Or is it that Playboy is NOT considered offensive because it is a best seller to heterosexual male readers?
But, Money "talks"... in the corporate world gee.. I wonder why?

Unite the Fight! said...

Before we fully know how to react, we should get all the information first, and that means a full response from Amazon. If we're not satisfied, then we react (campaign, boycott?) But before I start trashing the company, I would like to know what their response is.

iFonEarth said...

If this is what they're really doing, that's not cool. However, I agree with Unite the Fight--I'd like a full response from Amazon first...

szlevi said...

Stop with the queer hysteria... :p
Sales ranks are ARE THERE:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Well+of+Loneliness&x=0&y=0
http://www.amazon.com/Brokeback-Mountain-Annie-Proulx/dp/0739462164/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239556140&sr=8-2
http://www.amazon.com/Oranges-Only-Fruit-Bloomsbury-classics/dp/0747510431/ref=ed_oe_h

Harrison said...

Funny this should be posted today, because just yesterday I bought The Best Gay Poetry 2008.

Queers United said...

Their response was vague and I have check every LGBT book I have read, no ranks for any.

"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."

Queers United said...

I'm sorry but the Velvet Rage (gay self-help book) Advocate lgbt college guide, and tons of coming out books are NOT erotic!

Drew Tatusko said...

Fascinating since these how-to titles are not considered adult:

http://www.amazon.com/Intended-Pleasure-Technique-Fulfillment-Christian/dp/0800717368/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239557031&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Sex-101-Creative-Pleasurable-Marriage/dp/0929292928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239556891&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Romance-Glory-God-Christian/dp/1581346247/ref=pd_sim_b_1

http://www.amazon.com/What-Wives-their-Husbands-about/dp/080106774X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239557031&sr=1-1

etc...

So techniques on how to stimulate your partner if you are a man = adult erotica. Techniques on how to stimulate your different gendered spouse with a scripture passage = romance.

Queers United said...

Well 2 of those "erotic" christian sex books didn't have a rank, but it seems their system picks and chooses. I just can't believe every gay book I have read that I typed in is not ranked, and I don't read "erotic" books I read non-fiction, books on history, the movement, etc

bialogue said...

We've posted to Facebook et. al. asking if anyone knows about this and can give a reasonable explanation about what is going on. We are of course all hoping it is just a misunderstanding or perhaps some sort of systems error given that the company is so large and that Amazon will work with everyone to swiftly resolve this.

Anonymous said...

Here are two samples I found - books by the same author and about as non-adult as you can get in anyone's standards (well, anyone expect Falwell that is)

Stranger at the Gate by Mel White has not ratings - apparently that means it is an adult selection.
And Yet... Religion Gone Bad also by Mel White still has it's rankings...
Popular in this category:
#2 in Books > Gay & Lesbian > Nonfiction > Civil Rights

Notice that Gay & Lesbian is part of the category.

Queers United said...

Anon not every single LGBT book is not ranking, but most appear not to be.

I think one of two things might be happening.

1. System glitch, certain words are pulled out as possible erotic books and for whatever reason LGBT books are being flagged.

2. There is a suppression by Amazon, perhaps under pressure by religious right elements.

I hope it is the first one and a misunderstanding that can be fixed, otherwise they will have gay rights, civil liberties people ticked off about censorship and the religious right celebrating.

Kassa said...

Not sure if this has been posted but the petition started against this is found here:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

Anonymous said...

Maybe some complete research should be done prior to assuming this is a campaign against LGBT literature. For example, the books "Slow Love: A Polynesian Pillow Book (Paperback)", category Health, Mind & Body > General, and "French Women Don't Sleep Alone", categories Health, Mind & Body > Relationships > Interpersonal Relations, Health, Mind & Body > Relationships > Love & Romance, and Parenting & Families > General, don't have sales ranks, either. More likely, something just isn't functioning properly at this time, and it impacted some, but not all, categories of book sales rankings. Considering that Amazon has historically been one of the most LGBT friendly companies around, don't they deserve the benefit of the doubt? Also, "censorship" doesn't really seem to apply here as all of the books are still available to purchase. All that is missing is a number that I'd bet 90% or more of customers never even look at.

Nobilis said...

I don't believe it's an LGBT issue. I think it's a broader "offensive content" issue. LGBT titles are only one set that their system pulls in.

Anonymous said...

For all the posters who comment advising caution...please explain to me why "Heather Has Two Mommies" (http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Has-Two-Mommies-Anniversary/dp/1555835430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239555808&sr=1-1 look, no sales ranking!) has stronger "adult content" than "American Psycho" (http://www.amazon.com/American-Psycho-Bret-Easton-Ellis/dp/0679735771/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239566293&sr=1-1 Look! Four different ways to use sales rankings to find more books like this one!)? And then explain to me how this is not about bigotry.

Vanessa said...

It could be that Amazon made an honest mistake. Some people view everything about sexuality as erotica in some fashion. Perhaps a new policy went into affect and the implementation... suffered from bad judgement.

Amazon Rank said...

Every should post the following link Amazon Rank to Google Bomb Amazon and force them to change their censorship policy

Stan Scott said...

Ellen DeGeneres' autobiography no longer has a sales ranking. Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, with a naked woman on the cover, is unchanged.

szlevi said...

Again: how is it that all those 3 well-known LGBT books I've linked above STILL HAVE THEIR SALES RANKS?

As I said before: STOP with the queer hysteria...

T. R Xands said...

For more "queer hysteria" (lulz szlevi) everyone check out this post: http://atrulyelegantmess.blogspot.com/2009/04/queer-kids-dont-exist-action-needed.html

There's a nice petition involved too.

T. R Xands said...

Also, wow, 3 lbgt books still have a sales ranking despite the...uh, more than 3 that don't! I guess we better go home!

Kelli Anne Busey said...

Tweeted and cross posted. I'm curious as to what they give as an explanation.

The Angry Fag said...

Interesting thing to note.....

Type in "homosexuality" for a search. You get 3 books trashing homosexuality and a book by Gene Robinson as your top 4.

phd in yogurtry said...

When the website buyblue.org was up and running (last I checked, it is now defunct) you could check which companies have liberal policies and donate heavy to which political party. Amazon was definately in the red. Is this related? Possibly.

And I recall searching for a gay themed book, couldn't find anything. Later, someone loaned me a book and I'm certain I typed in the exact search words.

Forty Five

said...

How we can speak out with our money as well as our petitions, phone calls and emails: Go buy an LGBT themed book at an indy store and then email Amazon with a picture of the receipt that they lost in sales. Please pass this info in via your blog, FB status, Twitter, etc.

The Angry Fag said...

Great idea Forty Five :)

kissmyassterisk said...

They are still available for search, but NOT from the MAIN page. Anyone looking for books such as: Ellen Degeneres' Biography, or Heather Has Two Mommies must look specifically under books, and if you are looking for a book that is also a movie and want to see both results, you have to do two searches, one under Books, and one under Movies & TV.

Meanwhile, Playboy displays prominently from a search on the main page.

As has been stated elsewhere, if they did this to books by and about African-Americans, wouldn't we call it racism? Yes- and why should we shy from calling Amazon out over this?

tapati said...

While Amazon is saying this was a "glitch," they've admitted elsewhere that they do have a policy of de-ranking "adult" books. The very existence of such a policy is a problem, since it could only be implemented via software and that is going to result in mistakes being made of the type we are noticing. They can't possibly have humans make all these decisions, and even if they could it would be subjective.

I don't want Amazon deciding what should be searchable under basic search terms and what should be ranked, thus influencing sales and what publishers will publish or promote in the future.

Find another solution if you want to limit kids' ability to search for things--parental controls of some sort, for instance. Or maybe try parenting. :)

(Yes I was a parent and I know what a pain that would be, but there's no substitute for it. Have the computer out in the family space and observe regularly what your kids are doing.)

thegayte-keeper said...

I suppose they feel that we are getting too strong and powerful...

Anonymous said...

It's worse than it seems.

It's important to realize that they're not just ghettoizing gay books, but also gay authors whether a book has much gay content or not.

Here are amazon reader tags for "My Germany," one of my books that's been de-ranked:

holocaust(7)
lev raphael(7)
memoir(7)
germany(6)
jewish(6)
judaica(5)
gay and lesbian(4)
gay(1)

The tags accurately reflect the book's themes and subjects (though it's also a travelogue and I don't know if that's an amazon tag or not).

http://www.levraphael.com/mygermany.html

Anonymous said...

I e-mailed Amazon, and this is their reply:

Hello, Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed. Thanks again for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon. Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question

LH

Anonymous said...

Simmer down people! Amazon supports our float in the parade, so quick to turn on an amazing company that supports our rights? A petition are u serious? Give them a chance to fix the glitch it's not a snap your fingers fix!!!

Anonymous said...

Simmer down people! Amazon supports our float in the parade, so quick to turn on an amazing company that supports our rights? A petition are u serious? Give them a chance to fix the glitch it's not a snap your fingers fix!!!

T. R Xands said...

Amazon supports our float in the paradeHah! Hah! So?

...so quick to turn on an amazing company that supports our rights?They fucked up massively, why not. Do you not understand that it went beyond LGBT lit but on to books on sexuality, kink, disability, feminist, and classical works of literature?

A petition are u serious?Naaah, we's just playin'.

It's not like this is the first time amazon has screwed over a group for no reason. Like I said, mighty convenient glitch that is.

Caitlin said...

I wrote a blog post about this. I am wondering why more folks aren't using this as an opportunity to talk about issues of one corporation (amazon.com/barnes and noble) controlling the bulk of books being bought in the U.S. and further, why aren't we already supporting independent bookstores (especially feminist indies and queer indies?) You can read my post via the link below. I'd love to hear from folks about this: http://caitlinpetrakischilds.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/why-are-queers-shopping-at-amazoncom-anyway/

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