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Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon A-Twitter

There is a rapidly unfolding story in the world of book sales that caused an absolute Twitter frenzy over the weekend. According to reports, Amazon has recently stripped certain book titles of their sales rankings. From what I can gather, in addition to the bestseller lists, Amazon sales rankings also factor into their search results, an important tool in online book sales.

What books are being stripped? Authors and users are initially reporting that the connective thread between the targeted book titles is erotic content and gay and lesbian content.

Amazon officials are currently calling it a glitch, but Twitterers, responding to a tweet from book critic Bethanne Patrick who initially sparked the frenzy, have seized on the topic and remain skeptical, many calling for a boycott under the hashtag #amazonfail.

Seattle Pi is currently quoting Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener as saying, "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection."

This story is unfolding so rapidly, I'm certain I won't be able to keep up with it on this blog. You can follow it with more reliability (no rumor or unsourced quotes) over at the LA Times' Literary Blog (which is pretty fantastic by the way) called Jacket Copy.

Whether this turns out to be a rapidly corrected glitch as Amazon seems to be claiming, or a signal of future policy, I think Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy really summed it up perfectly:
But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it's a bit beside the point. It's the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can't be a good idea.

1 comment:

e said...

I've been following this story on Apparently, as far back as February they responded to an author concerned about being unable to find his book by sending a letter explaining that, no mistake, his book had its sales ranking removed because of adult content. Hardly a glitch if, quietly, it's been several months in the making. There is a great deal of hypocrisy: Ellen Degeneres' biography was removed, but porn star Ron Jeremy's was not. Children's books like "Heather has Two Mommies" were removed, vibrators were not. I removed Amazon from the main links on my page; nearly every one of my posts includes a link to "The 3 AM Epiphany" on, so I'm pacing myself as far as removing those links. Really interesting and infuriating, and I'm glad you wrote something about it!