Amazonfail

// 13 April 2009

UPDATE 2: Well, we finally did receive a reply – the same statement admitting culpability that has been circulating around the blogs and media. In light of this, we’ve restored links to The F-Word shop.

UPDATE: We’ve still received no reply, but Amazon has officially apologised and said it is fixing the issue. There’s all sorts of speculation flying around about what really caused the problem, but it does look like this is being tackled at least! We will update you as and when.

Super-alert readers might have noticed we took down links to our Amazon shop late last night.

The reason is Amazonfail.

Amazon has stripped the sales rankings from a vast number of LGBT and feminist books it now considers “adult”. Some books are not turning up in search results either.

Mark Probst asked what was going on and was told:

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.

As Heather Corinna notes on her blog, this affects her own book, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College, and others such as:

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape,

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein

See here for an expanding list of titles affected

Meanwhile, actual porn (including Girls Gone Wild and Playboy stuff) retains its sales rankings…!

The Angry Black Woman puts it like this:

The criteria for “adult” appears to be: anything that portrays homosexuality as a positive or talks about homophobia as a negative. For example: Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone — that would be a non-fiction history book about homophobia. What’s not adult? Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (with pictures of over 600 naked women).

So, we’ve also written to Amazon to protest this. We will let you know when we get a response!

Comments From You

lucy // Posted 13 April 2009 at 11:11 am

i guess by now you know that this was the work of a group of amazon users rather than amazon staff.

Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting that Amazon should have seen something like this coming, they definitely should keep better track of trends in the “adult content” flagging and respond more quickly to mis-use like this.

Anne Onne // Posted 13 April 2009 at 2:43 pm

I read about this. The ladies at Feministing were hoping that Amazon would have an explanation come Tuesday.

I’d like to see what kind of explanation they have, personally. What kind of ‘adult’ category LGBTQ and feminist books (fiction and non-fiction) only are in, and why if there is some big purge of ‘adult’ material, the usual patriarchical fare didn’t disappear.

Amy Clare // Posted 13 April 2009 at 2:59 pm

Can’t believe this… I really wanted to buy some of those books but now will not be doing so through Amazon.

Would be great if you could link to some alternative internet booksellers as I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to take my business elsewhere.

eleanargh // Posted 13 April 2009 at 3:50 pm

Ohh, it’s good that you can remove the link to the F Word shop – more effective/threatening to profits that just us wee individuals boycotting.

An explanation of the possible reason for which books have been deranked (though not why any deranked happened in the first place) is here – http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-possibly-using-category-metadata-to-filter-rankings/ – it seems as though those affected are under specific categories (gay, adult, erotica), which explains why some with very similar subject matter are still fine (if they aren’t in one of those categories) and some aren’t.

Amongst the massive internet backlash I’m particularly amused by all the books which have now been tagged ‘amazonfail’ by readers on Amazon itself. http://www.amazon.com/tag/amazonfail/products/ref=tag_stp_bkt_istp

Victoria // Posted 13 April 2009 at 4:09 pm

That is awful.

brain and body are not working well today otherwise I would say more

FLK // Posted 13 April 2009 at 7:44 pm

I found this article today via reddit.com: http://pastebin.ca/1390576

Seems like it wasn’t Amazon’s fault.

Fran // Posted 13 April 2009 at 8:41 pm

I was about to recommend AbeBooks for an alternative to Amazon, but as it turns out Amazon have just bought them! They’re really more of a go-between for small booksellers and internet shoppers, so perhaps Amazon don’t make quite as much profit from them, but I’m still seconding the request for alternatives.

Rosa // Posted 13 April 2009 at 9:04 pm

I saw last night you had taken the Amazon links down. The story was covered by Channel 4 News tonight, too. They quoted Amazon as saying they will “fix it” and looked like Amazon was trying to pass it off as a glitch in the system rather than something they actually did. Hrmph.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 13 April 2009 at 9:32 pm

The internet protests about this matter have already brought it to the attention of the mainstream media in the UK, it’s on the Guardian website at least, and there was a feature on it on tonight’s Channel 4 News programme (Monday).

Victoria // Posted 13 April 2009 at 11:26 pm

What I wanted to write before was that books on disability are being targeted. More information is available here:

http://textualfury.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/amazonfail/

http://reunifygally.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/amazonfail-hurts-both-disability-and-glbt-communities/

Self-help books and coping guides that give explicit details on how to overcome certain difficulties (such as using a non-accessible toilet if you have severe mobility problems) have had their rankings removed. More predictably, so have books that deal with disability and sex. These books are important, as disabled people are taught from childhood upwards that sex is something for the able-bodied. Asexuality is one of the most common disability stereotypes there is. And now this is reinforced on Amazon by the removal of titles such as ‘The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability’. Of course, books that are aimed at able-bodied people (‘How to Have Great Sex’, etc) remain.

I don’t know how Amazon decides on which books are de-ranked, but I hope the problem is corrected soon.

Hazel // Posted 13 April 2009 at 11:35 pm

I buy all my books via the Book Depository. They do work closely with Amazon but then who doesn’t/didn’t?

Libraries are good too.

polly styrene // Posted 14 April 2009 at 11:14 am

News from Nowhere is an independent women’s co-operative and it does mail order. They also have a shop in Liverpool.

http://www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk/

Steph // Posted 14 April 2009 at 2:17 pm

Abebooks.com/co.uk is a decent online intermediatery between private sellers and independent bookshops.

Jessica Burton // Posted 14 April 2009 at 6:55 pm

I know this doesn’t help you guys at the F word but as a person who has a fab job in a library may I encourage you all to use your local library! I found many of the books on this amazing website’s list at my library and I liked some of them and not others so I’m glad I didn’t buy them right away.

Just go to you local authorities website and there will be a link to the online catalogue. Best xxx

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