April 13th, 2009

Not Cool, Amazon

So it seems Amazon.com is changing or has changed their search and listing features for “adult” books — though only some. I first heard (read) about the issue on Jeremy Edwards‘s blog, and I followed the links to verify it and then did some searching and found that indeed some of my favorite books were not as easily found as they had previously been on Amazon.

Thus began my boycott of Amazon, which I emailed them to alert them to. (I did so by going to their help page from my account and clicking on the yellow “Contact Us” button to the lower right. Note: I had to put in my most recent order number to do this.) I do feel that they may make the rules they want. They are a business, and this culture operates within an obsession with a structure of capitalism. That has tended to mean that businesses may do what they want for the most part within their own rule structures and systems, ostensibly as long as they adhere to the law.

That said, it seems to me it can feel very frustrating to see a company that knows that it has a huge influence on society at large doing something that thus obviously impacts the masses as such that has a questionable basis. It occurs to me that a company obviously having this kind of huge impact, which seems beyond the general “business” reach, yet still being able to operate as they wish because of the “business” label may be what leads some to refer to this kind of thing as censorship, which seems along the lines of what Jeremy Edwards mentioned on his blog along with his explanation as such. I can understand that. Though it doesn’t strike me as technically censorship and I do not consider it such, it does seem like it would fall into some category other than just “a business making new rules” and could use a distinctive description as such.

Descriptions aside, it seems to me that given the circumstances above, the only/best thing I can do in response is simply not patronize that business. I am perfectly happy to buy books, etc., elsewhere if Amazon is going to present itself this way.

I have changed the links in the right sidebar here to link to the respective purchase pages on Barnes & Noble‘s website. They may all be purchased from their respective publishers as well (all but one of the print books are from Cleis Press) as well as online at Books-A-Million (for even cheaper it looks like) and other online booksellers, of course. And if you live somewhere with the selection/availability, you may be able to find such books at your local real live bookstores. :)

I myself have not signed the online petition circulating on the subject at this time because it read to me as though this was a LGBT literature verses heterosexual literature issue, and I have the impression at this point that that is not the case — that it is a sexually oriented literature issue and that much contemporary erotic or sexually explicit reading material in general has been removed from similar listing and ranking features. (Not that the LGBT issue isn’t a big part of it — Donna George Storey posted a cringe-worthy screen shot on her blog of what comes up now if one searches the topic of “homosexuality” on Amazon.com.) There has also been a google bomb set up by Smart Bitches Trashy Books in which a google search of the term “Amazon Rank” lists the site of that link.

So given what I’ve seen of the situation, that’s where I am now. I will post updates if/as I get them. Thanks again to Jeremy for the heads up.


[Note: Update here]

“Did I say something true?, oops, I didn’t know we couldn’t talk about sex…and I’m not sorry, it’s human nature…”
-Madonna “Human Nature”

6 Responses “Not Cool, Amazon”

  1. Erobintica says:

    Emerald, I was on the fence about signing the petition until I read this – seems it’s all about the MetaData. This explains a lot, imho.

    And this is not just over this weekend. I had trouble more than a month ago, but chalked it up to MY stupidity.

  2. Cora Zane says:

    I signed because my books are delisted. Not that I expect much from Amazon. The whole bad PR, #amazonfail campaign has worked to make them respond , but I think they’ll only fix so much as required to appease and leave the rest as it is.

  3. Emerald says:

    Hi you two, and thanks for responding (and visiting). I just read the email response they sent and am going to post it in a separate post.

  4. ste says:

    this is worth reading, about a hacker taking credit for causing all this. though Amazon didn’t comment specifically on that, they seem to be shouldering the blame themselves, and emphasising that none of this is deliberate. i’m looking forward to something more official from them.

  5. Emerald says:

    Thanks for that link, ste. I’m off to read it and the link from Robin — thank you Robin — now.

    I don’t know what to make of this yet. It seems a little odd to me though that a company as big as Amazon would take so long to come out and say that what occurred was an unintentional glitch — the uproar went on much of yesterday and all night before Amazon really made an appearance that wasn’t considerably vague. I would have thought they’d immediately address something that was unintentional on their part and say so. But again, I don’t know. It’s just something that’s occurred to me.

    Again, thank you!

  6. ste says:

    Yeah, the silence coming out of Amazon made it all a lot worse. This article has some interesting points on that… but having said that, this poster makes some interesting technical points that a lot of people don’t seem to be talking about.