‘Glitch’ to Blame for Gay-Washed Amazon.com, Says Spokesperson

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Well, this is certainly a debacle! It was discovered over the weekend that Amazon.com has apparently removed the sales rankings of hundreds of gay-themed books, causing affected titles to be excluded from best-seller lists and, in many cases, search results. When we contacted media relations last night, a spokeswoman told us, as she told others, "There was a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed ... We don't have anything else to add at this time." Needless to say, this explanation has done little to quell the angry uprising on Twitter.

It also doesn't square with the excuse Amazon gave a gay-romance publisher on Saturday, after he noticed that several of his books had lost their rankings:

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.

But even this doesn't explain why straight "adult materials" like Ron Jeremy's autobiography and a compendium of Playboy centerfolds are still ranked, while a Harvey Milk biography and Heather Has Two Mommies aren't. Also, if you search for "homosexuality" on the site, nearly all returned results are books on "preventing" or "healing" homosexuality.

Though hundreds of gay and lesbian books were apparently unranked over the past few days, the practice seems to have been happening as far back as February, when the autobiography of a gay stripper lost its ranking, even as Diablo Cody's straight-stripper memoir didn't.

The most likely explanation, as Dear Author points out, is some sort of automatic purge of all titles tagged with the keywords "sex," "erotic," "gay," "lesbian," and "transgender," though whoever signed off on such a policy is probably in just as much trouble this morning as the data-entry guy who forgot to put a "sex" tag on Ron Jeremy's book.

Amazon Follies [Mark R. Probst]
Why Is Amazon Removing The Sales Rankings From Gay, Lesbian Books? [Jezebel]
Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for "New" Adult Policy [PW]
Amazon Using Category MetaData to Filter Rankings [Dear Author]