Heather Has Two Mommies and Just Canceled her Amazon Account

A current kerfuffle on the Internets has to do with Amazon de-ranking GLBT-themed books as reported on the LA Times Jacket Copy blog.

Amazon’s policy of removing “adult” content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. On Saturday, self-published author Mark R. Probst noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon’s customer service explained:

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.

Probst wrote a novel for young adults with gay characters set in the old West; he was concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted. Amazon has not responded to the L.A. Times request for clarification.

Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: “Running with Scissors” by Augusten Burroughs, “Rubyfruit Jungle” by Rita Mae Brown, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel, “The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1″ by Michel Foucault, “Bastard Out of Carolina” by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), “Little Birds: Erotica” by Anais Nin, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), “Maurice” by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and “Becoming a Man” by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

Maybe this is just a new marketing gimmick – create viral annoyance to get your brand out there. Certainly Kindle 2 got a lot of attention when the text-to-speech feature was disabled because the Author’s Guild has put its head in a place that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company.

In any case, libraries have one thing going for them – we defend intellectual freedom. Let’s see if we can tweet that to the world. Support your free (as in beer and as in speech) library.

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

5 thoughts on “Heather Has Two Mommies and Just Canceled her Amazon Account

  1. My husband’s book on gay social identity was given this treatment by amazon.com. I sent amazon.com an email, with the result that the book now does at least come up as a search result – but without its cover art (an extremely NON pornographic picture of a generic-looking man dressed in business attire and carrying a briefcase, viewed from the back), and without its sales rank. It has been removed from customer-created lists that previously contained it, and from “also bought” lists.

  2. I will note that my husband’s book is a sociological treatise on gay mens’ social identity. There is absolutely nothing in it with explicit sexual content.

  3. I think the powers that be at Amazon need to take a relaxing vacation — maybe in Vermont? ;-)

  4. Thanks for posting this, Barbara! I’m very interested to see where Amazon’s PR folks will fall on this one, which seems to fall somewhere between wretched policy and a computer glitch. Last I checked, “Brokeback Mountain” was also deranked. Wasn’t that made into a popular feature film, or something? ;)

    As the Internet says, AMAZON FAIL.

  5. I’ve never understood how obsessive Twitter can be until this incident. Watching the #amazonfail messages pour in was quite fascinating, soon followed by the expressive if somewhat earthy #glitchmyass.

    Now that’s an intriguing development of an on-the-fly real-time taxonomy.

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