Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-06-20
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Amazon.com 'embarrassed' at gay glitch
News update April 13, 2009
by TRACY BAIM
2009-04-08

facebook twitter del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


LGBT authors of all kinds were outraged last weekend when Amazon.com removed their books from its rankings ( which hurts sales ) and in some cases removed them from searches entirely.

Amazon.com finally issued an apology Monday, April 13, but it did not seem to fully explain what happened.

Amazon.com spokesman Drew Herdener stated that: "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection. It has been misreported that the issue was limited to gay- and lesbian-themed titles--in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search."

As of Monday, Amazon.com had fixed some rankings and searches, but not all. There were also further explanations on some Web sites blaming it on a programmer in France who made an error that wrongly categorized erotic with adult content.

But the range of LGBT books was immense, from family titles such as Heather Has Two Mommies to young adult novels, mysteries, religious titles, and more. If the categories impacted were in fact those listed above, the question becomes how did a gay-related children's book ever get tagged as erotica? Many anti-gay titles in fact remained searchable and ranked, as did heterosexual romances and straight sexuality books.

Amazon's apology falls short of fully explaining how in fact it may "tag" any LGBT titles in their back-end programming. Weeks before this uproar, which was fueled by Twitter and Facebook posts throughout the holiday weekend, at least some gay authors had been receiving letters from Amazon explaining why their erotic titles were not good enough to be ranked.

Craig Seymour noticed his gay stripper book All I Could Bare: My life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C., and titles by gay porn stars were not ranked, but one by straight stripper Diablo Cody, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, did get ranked. After he complained, Seymour's book was ranked again.

"I was happy, of course," Seymour wrote on his blog, Craig's Pop Life. "But I was still freaked out by the whole situation and worried about how it would affect other authors, especially those who aren't [ with ] mainstream publishers. Somehow, for nearly three weeks, Amazon effectively 'coded' my book out of circulation, and I had no idea how or why."

Romance writer and publisher Mark R. Probst posted this letter he had received from Amazon after he complained about the de-ranking of his book The Filly prior to the weekend's massive de-ranking occurred: "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." The letter was signed by "Ashlyn D" in Amazon.com member services.

Such an explanation, sent before the "glitch," would seem to indicate a much deeper problem for gay-related titles on Amazon.com .

"This comment spells it out and gives us a partial name of the speller," said mystery writer Ellen Hart in an e-mail to Windy City Times. "I don't think they can backtrack or manipulate their way out of this one. I hope people see this growing behemoth--Amazon.com--for what it really is. I do not write 'adult' fiction. I write mystery novels for Ballantine and St. Martin's, no different from any other writer's mystery novels with one exception. My main character, Jane Lawless, is a lesbian. If the tender feelings of Amazon's customer base are being protected from this, than their action is censorship, plain and simple. I'm not just disappointed, I'm furious."

"I think Ellen DeGeneres and her mother, Betty, might be interested to hear that Betty penned an 'adult' book when she wrote Love Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey," Hart continued. "Amazon has effectively shelved all GLBT writers in the 'adult' section."

"It is outrageous that something like this could happen," said Michelangelo Signorile, whose own titles were de-ranked. " [ One ] does wonder how, if they were flagging 'erotica', specifically gay political or self-help titles could be singled out while sexual titles of a heterosexual nature, like Playboy, were not."

Gay writer Lawrence Schimel, like Hart and Signorile, was spreading the word far and wide about the de-ranking: "Either Amazon is homophobicly considering 'adult' ( in an erotic context ) any LGBT title, regardless of its erotic content ( and I know that my own non-erotic LGBT books Found Tribe: Jewish Coming Out Stories and Best Date Ever: True Stories that Celebrate Gay Relationships have been de-ranked ) and/or a double-standard is at play, and the 'adult' policy is being used selectively, and with bias, to specifically target LGBT titles, something we in the queer community have seen before, such as in the specific targeting and harassment by Canadian Customs of shipments of LGBT titles to the Little Sisters Bookshop. No matter what excuses they come up with--and already Amazon is claiming this was just a 'glitch,' even after various gay authors have been getting communications from Amazon about this 'new policy' for weeks, ever since first noticing in early February that their titles no longer had sales rankings nor showed up in searches--this should not have happened; it should not have been possible."

Schimel pointed out that even though print editions of some gay books were de-ranked, the Amazon.com Kindle electronic book versions sometimes did show up.

One irony of the timing of this Easter-weekend problem: The Chicago-based founder of the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, Judith Krug, 69, died April 11 of complications from cancer. The ALA celebrated Banned Books Week every year since 1982, often pointing out how GLBT books were targeted for censorship. Krug worked in the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom starting in 1967.

Some LGBT writers said this incident further points out the risk of having very few companies be the primary focal point for sales, becoming the arbiter of culture. Giving Amazon.com that power means they can wield it like a club against titles that may offend some of their customers. There are just a handful of feminist and lesbian and gay bookstores left in the country; but some, like Women and Children First Bookstore, offer vast selections of books online, and perhaps will benefit from a backlash this de-ranking is causing against Amazon.com .

Lesbian romance writer Karin Kallmaker posted on her Facebook page: "'Ham-fisted and embarrassing,' I totally agree with. But 'A guy in France did it' is really straining credulity. … Still listening hard for the words 'We value LGBT literature and we're sorry it was equated with porn."


facebook twitter del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

BOOKS Roxane Gay talks sexual violence, writing advice in Chicago visit 2018-06-24
'Bewildered' author Ron Weaver remembered 2018-06-20
DOUBLE BOOK REVIEW Hiding Out and Dad 1, Dad 2 2018-06-20
BOOK REVIEW The Trauma Cleaner 2018-06-20
BOOKS Rebecca Makkai on 'The Great Believers,'Chicago, Paris and AIDS 2018-06-20
Cards Against Humanity Releases Pride-themed Expansion Pack 2018-06-19
BOOKS New 'Fairy Town' book examines Chicago's pre-WWII gay life 2018-06-18
Elledge at bookstores June 20, 22 2018-06-12
BOOK REVIEW Tough Mothers 2018-06-12
Children's Museum hosts drag queens on Family Equality Day 2018-06-12
Five Worth Finding 2018-06-06
MOMBIAN Two new picture books tell story of the rainbow flag 2018-06-06
LGBTQ-inclusive CAKE comics expo hits Center on Halsted 2018-06-06
Lambda Literary awardees include Carmen Maria Machado, John Rechy, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor 2018-06-05
Queer Comics in the U.S. panel June 14 TALK CANCELLED 2018-06-04
Chicago Public Library celebrates Pride Month 2018-06-01
Pride month brings Pride Open Mic, LGBTQIA Storytelling to Feminist Bookstore 2018-05-30
Genderqueer poet at AWM on June 5 2018-05-30
30th annual Lammys in NYC on June 4 2018-05-30
BOOK REVIEW Transgender History 2018-05-30
Milwaukee Pride to feature Danica Roem 2018-05-30
BOOKS Paperback hero, Iconic author John Rechy 2018-05-30
BOOK REVIEW What You Want To See 2018-05-23
'P.O.W.E.R. Project' to run in June 2018-05-22
MOVIES Director, writer talk star-studded 'Book Club' 2018-05-15
Genderqueer poet at AWM on June 5 2018-05-10
CSGS LGBTQ talk series concludes May 17 2018-05-09
Studs Terkel Radio Archive to launch 2018-05-08
Jeanne Thornton, Mecca J. Sullivan earn Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers 2018-05-07
Women & Children First Books shares May schedule 2018-05-05
BOOK REVIEW Tomorrow Will Be Different 2018-05-02
BOOKS Gore's new tale a bewitching spin on fiction 2018-05-01
Legendary HIV activist, writer Larry Kramer to speak at Conference on AIDS 2018-05-01
Trans author/activist Reyna Ortiz talks work, new publishing company 2018-04-25
Queercore panel held at Loop library 2018-04-25
Local historian discusses Belmont Rocks' LGBTQ history at forum 2018-04-24
SHOWBIZ 'Brokeback,' Prince memoir, 'Wonder Woman,' Bette Midler 2018-04-24
'Gay Is Good' exhibit opens at Gerber/Hart 2018-04-23
"Bed 26" tells of oppression faced by refugees in America through the story of a gay man 2018-04-22
"Defining Aging for Ourselves" Book Reading, Discussion April 26 2018-04-20
 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.