I ended up spending a good chunk of yesterday following along with the massive furor over Amazon. Here’s the short of it if you haven’t heard about it yet:
Amazon decided to exclude “adult content” books from sales rankings, and thus from certain searches. I can at least understand the point some people are making that it’s reasonable to want to protect children from sexual material. However, there are a couple of problems with that idea. First, the listings of these books don’t contain explicit material of any kind; someone would have to order them, and that generally requires a credit card, which means an adult is involved at some point. Second, the actual books being deranked belie the assertion that Amazon is deranking “adult” material.
In other words, they’re deranking material that certain segments of the population would consider inappropriate or controversial, such as GLBT parenting and children’s books, while leaving “Girls Gone Wild” and “Playboy” material alone. There’s a very clear double-standard at work here that is forcing one brand of morality onto all of Amazon’s customers. It appears that category metadata is probably being used to filter out GLBT and sex-related materials.
Amazon is now claiming that this is a result of a glitch, despite having told at least one author that it was policy. Hopefully this means they’re back-pedaling and will undo the deranking. However, it would be foolish to simply assume we’ve won. Keep an eye on the ongoing news regarding this. Make it clear to Amazon that you don’t want them determining which categories of books you can and can’t find when you do a search on their site for reading material. Many people are switching wholesale to buying their books from other outlets. You can also contact their customer service department (politely but firmly!) to let them know how you feel and what actions you plan to take. Digg, reddit, stumble, and FARK the good articles you find regarding this subject so more people will find out. If you want to tweet about it, just check out #amazonfail and you’ll find more information than you know what to do with!