The strange case of Amazon disappeared books

Amazon policy on LGBT books spurs twitter uprising

Online bookseller Amazon has a bit of a PR nightmare on its hands. It started earlier this weekend when customers and Amazon visitors began to notice that books that had gay, lesbian, bi and trans-gendered themes began to disappear from the site’s crucial sales rankings. Author Mark Probst was the first on the case:

On Amazon.com two days ago, 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.” There was buzz, What’s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books?

The books were actually being refiled as “adult” books and kept out of sales rankings. Amazon’s new policy was so broad that dozens if not hundreds of seemingly innocuous titles were caught in the net. Popular blog Jezebel notes that items like sex toys were somehow left out of the adult material dragnet but books by authors such as Henry Miller, Anais Nin and D.H. Lawrence were listed as “adult” and stripped of their sales rankings.

Amazon’s troubles would soon quickly spiral out of control when twitter users caught on to the story and began using the hashtag #amazonfail to spread the word about the company’s policy. On Sunday night the tag was the top trending topic on the popular microblogging platform’s search engine. Facebook groups, petitions and calls for a boycott sprang up all over the web. Facebook users have also created groups to protest Amazon’s move.

Amazon’s official response to the disappearing sales rankings is that it was a “glitch” that would be fixed.

But that explanation seems only to have angered people and sparked calls of homophobia. Twitter users began adding the tag #glitchmyass fuelling even more fire to the PR crisis.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Andrea James has tried to follow the story and points out that one author complained about Amazon filing gay books as “adult”  content as long as two months ago. Foreign Policy columnist Yevgeny Morozov posits some possible actions that activist net users might take against Amazon.

The story is still developing and many in the book industry will be looking at Amazon’s response in the coming days.

Inside the news

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