The internet retailer Amazon has denied any anti-gay cause for thousands of books about gay and lesbian topics losing their sales ranking over the past few days after they have been labelled as “adult” books. The “adult” books include Dr Who star, John Barrowman’s autobiography.
Amazon previously ranked all books based on sales but over the past few days, thousands of books on gay topics have disappeared from the list. Authors including E.M. Forster, James Baldwin and even Dr Who and Torchwood star John Barrowman have seen their books disappear.
American author Mark Probst wrote on his blog “”mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: ‘Transgressions’ by Erastes and ‘False Colors’ by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book ‘The Filly.'”
When he wrote to Amazon, he initially received the following reply from the company: “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.”
The book in reality is far from “adult” and is instead a romance. After further protests, Amazon has said it will reinstate the ranking for that individual author’s work.
Fellow author Kassia Krozser wrote an open letter to Amazon: ” It seems the Easter Bunny, while hopping down the bunny trail, left some rotten eggs all over the Amazon site while we were sleeping. Suddenly, many books lost their sales ranking and levels of searchability on the Amazon site.”
She added: “Somehow, the brain trust of your company has decided to protect the “entire” Amazon customer base by restricting access to content that someone (who?) decided was offensive. In your zeal to protect me from myself, of course, you managed to leave content that I find singularly repulsive online (really, exploring the human condition is bad, but Mein Kampf is just fine?).”
“Gee, I can buy a book on training fighting dogs (something so offensive my stomach hurts just looking at the cover image), but specific types of human relationships are suddenly taboo? Gee, that this happened on Easter is the kind of symbolism an editor would find too heavy-handed if an author wrote it (though some say this has been happening for a few days)!”
Zoe Margolis, author of Girl With A One-Track Mind also found her work removed from the sales rankings. She wrote on Twitter: “It’s as if Amazon said ‘An idea! Let’s get rid of all the queers and perverts!!!’ and then reset all their search algorithms!”
An online petition against the system has already received almost 10,000 signatures.
In a statement Amazon said the issues were caused by “a glitch in our system and it’s being fixed.”
A Channel4 News report on the controversy is found below.