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12th-Apr-2009 01:07 pm

If you write books with homosexual characters, read books with homosexual characters, please look at this:

Mark, Erastes, and Alex (among others) had their Amazon sales rankings removed over the last few days for The Filly, Transgressions and False Colours respectively. On enquiring about this, Mark was told the following:

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 Advantage

Please note that just before this, Erastes' Transgressions and Alex's False Colours were topping out the rankings. Also note that "The Filly" is a YA Books, and therefore I would suggest one of the more important books to have out there for kids questioning their identity, and Transgressions and False Colours are being shelved with the Romance section of Barnes and Noble. Though as Mark points out, that is of no fucking importance because this is homophobic bias pure and simple.

I have no idea what to do about this except spread the message. If anyone has any ideas on what to do, tell me. Because I am not letting this lie. As vashtan said, they are happy to take the money, but not happy to give these books the recognition they rightly deserve.


PS. Not linking to these books on Amazon, for obvious reasons. If people would give me other sites on which to buy them, will amend the post.

ETA: Letter to Amazon here:
12th-Apr-2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Based on the information over at Dear Author and my extensive history of hanging out with software developers and the LiveJournal Schools team, my new guess is the intersection of lazy programming and lazy reviewing.

Lazy programming: because it's considerably (and sometimes infinitely) more work to make a system work properly, elegantly, and logically, versus making it work sometime in the next three months. I would be willing to bet at least a batch of cookies that Amazon's ability to remove things from "certain searches" (and I still want to know *which* searches) has been hastily tacked on, and therefore done slapdash and not properly to avoid it interfering with anything else.

Based on this same experience, I would wager that it was a push from above to make it happen now and fast, rather than the programmers actually thinking that it was a good idea to do it this way.

Lazy reviewing: The mere fact that evidently LBGT-related keyworded things are disappearing en masse, and that it's apparently being done quite quickly, and without regard for whether there's actual sex in there or not, says to me that they are not bothering to actually read the books, or to attempt to find someone who actually has read the books.

I can sympathize, to a limited degree, with this problem. There is no rating system for books like there is for movies, so you get a half-decent idea of what's going on inside. I mentioned that I hang out with parts of the LiveJournal Schools team. There are surely less schools, worldwide, than there are books. It takes a team of devoted volunteers checking over the schools that people submit to ensure that they exist and are not duplicates, et cetera, before a school makes it into the schools directory. The Schools team is internally called "Team Leaky Canoe", for reasons that should be pretty obvious. Researching a single school is less time-consuming than reading a whole book. It's still a thankless grinding job. It does not seem as if it would be physically practical for Amazon to have an employee read the book and decide whether or not it's got enough adult content to get removed from whichever searches.

Does this excuse them? No. It's a completely irresponsible generalization for them to have made. They're Amazon. They have full text search of large quantities of their stock. There are much better automated ways to search for porn. (Try "throbbing", "cock", and any number of other things from some romance writer's resource site, and then display representative snippets from the book so someone going through can see where a search highlighted and make the call whether the "cock" is a rooster or a penis.)

In summary, I think it was a dick move to start with, compounded by bad programming and completely irresponsible stereotyping and abuse of keywords. I also think that the full implications of what they have done haven't sunk in yet with the people responsible for having made the decision. I think this is Amazon's equivalent of LiveJournal's Strikethrough.

Happy Easter.
12th-Apr-2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. Normally I'd be slightly more coherent, however at the moment all I can really do is nod and agree. Used to program myself, so can completely agree. Personally I think any sort of search-suppression is ridiculous, taken that most people use amazon to find the things they cannot find on the high street.

Happy Easter to you too!
12th-Apr-2009 08:06 pm (UTC)
And if there must be, then let it be a user-side setting that's clearly marked, as Google has.
12th-Apr-2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes. Actually coming from a strict Roman Catholic family I understand this better than many, it is something extremely upsetting for some people. However, just because it upsets some people, does not mean that all of us have to pay.
12th-Apr-2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
I think this is Amazon's equivalent of LiveJournal's Strikethrough.

Heck, it was even done on a holiday weekend. :D
12th-Apr-2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
So it was!

(I am immensely glad that barakb25 is the hell out of LJ.)
12th-Apr-2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
That is exactly what I thought, too. But this is the answer received by Mark Probst, author and publisher, when he inquired about the sales-rank stripping.

Bad idea? Oh, yes. But quite deliberate.

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 Advantage

I hope this is the same as Strikethrough. The groundswell is heartening - and on a holiday weekend, which -- like Strikethrough -- I believe was chosen deliberately.
12th-Apr-2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
I would argue the reverse, in that Amazon's conflation of GLBT and "adult" is entirely in keeping with the ways that movies are reviewed.

The MPAA has a long history of homophobia-based ratings decisions.
13th-Apr-2009 12:19 am (UTC)
I'm also a programmer and I agree.

It isn't just LGBT Books that are being effected either, it really does look like a "keyword" thingy of the kind to paraphrase an annoyed author that keeps kids from looking up things like "breast cancer"

but just I hope they are not going to spend a couple of weeks or so digging in their heels and being mulish in a vain Pee Wee Herman-like "I Meant To Do That!" attempt to "Save Face" . . . sigh
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