Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon's "Cataloging Error" of Polyamory, LGBTs, Other Books

UPDATE: Amazon has restored the books I reference below to their normal searchable ranking status. We're still learning how the LGBTQ books have fared. It seems that others are still in limbo, with the authors still pleading with Amazon to do the right thing. An example is Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson's tantra books in hardback and paperback - somehow the "glitch" never excluded books available on Kindle, Amazon's electronic reader.

Here's what the New York Times says Amazon has reported. Apparently whatever happened, it was genuinely inadvertent, an admittedly "embarrassing and ham-fishted cataloging error."
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In a highly disturbing attempt to make their searches more "family friendly" (not to mine, certainly) Amazon implemented over the weekend a new policy that uses its ranking system to derank and exclude from searches on the topics "polyamory" and "open relationship" just about every contemporary book on those subjects. In particular this includes the just released new edition of the Ethical Slut, Tristan Taormino's Opening Up, Jenny Block's Open, and Pete Benson's Polyamory Handbook, all published within the last year. Also affected are, of course, books with erotica, on sacred sexuality and tantra. And then there are all the LGBTQ books also affected. I am very concerned about this appallingly ham-handed attempt at being family friendly that is in effect censorship, especially considering that Amazon is the largest book vendor anywhere.

I have so many author friends who are seriously adversely effected by this, including but not by any means limited to those listed above. It is frightening to think that this can happen so easily, thus resulting in polyamorists being unable to find the most basic texts on polyamory on Amazon without knowing the name of the book they need. Ironically, apparently if you already have the URL for what you want to buy, it can be found and purchased that way. So Amazon will still gladly take our money. If Amazon were a realtime store, this is analogous to their selling our books from a back room only to customers who come in and ask for it by name.

As many people know, I frequently give workshops on various aspects of conducting polyamorous relationships, and Amazon has just deranked what amount to MY TEXTBOOKS. This is very serious, especially if it becomes a trend with other book vendors, both for our valued authors and for our community.

As of Sunday night Amazon's customer service people have been telling concerned authors who call them that there was a glitch they are going to fix in the next 48 hours. No public statement has been made as of yet, and it's looking less and less like a glitch is really responsible. See here for more on that, and also search for the hashtag #glitchmyass on Twitter.

In the meantime, there are no such issues at Barnes and Noble and Borders, who at least as of now are surely glad to take our money. Plus, you can usually order these texts directly from the authors on their websites or from other sources, as the links above demonstrate. If you do a Google search for these books by name and/or author, the Amazon links come up and you CAN still go there and buy the books, but I urge you not to and instead too patronize less abhorent vendors.

This event quickly went viral over the weekend. Social networking site Twitter saw the search term #amazonfail quickly rise to the number one topic of Easter Sunday tweets, even more than "Easter" and "Masters". The hashtag #amazonfail is being used as a form of protest. Twitterers who have an opinion or more at stake include #amazonfail in their tweets so a thread is created. Just put #amazonfail in the Twitter search field to find those tweets.

Excellent explanations and analyses of all this can be found here and here.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITIONS at Change.org here and on The Petition Site.

Let's hope that Amazon can be persuaded to come to its senses. No doubt LGBT activists are already making Amazon's management's life miserable. Especially if you ahve an Amazon account, please do all we can to help by, as I have, writing to Amazon expressing the unacceptable nature of their decision, the value of the materials being deranked, how long you've been a customer, how much you have spent with them (a guess is fine for these purposes) and how it is that you will be cancelling our account very soon if this problem is not solved to our satisfaction.

2 comments:

lenija said...

I've been wondering whether Poly books were also affected - but of course they are. :(
Thank you for the update.

There's another petition here, which already has over 14,000 signatures. Of course I'm not an expert on online petitions, so there might be something wrong with this one?

Anita Wagner said...

Yes, sad to say, but I'm now hearing reports of authors being assured that this situation will be rectified in the next 48 hours. Time will tell.

Thanks for the link to the other petition!