Tour’s Books Blog

April 12, 2009

Amazon Alert – De-Ranking some erotic romance

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 4:12 pm
Tags: , ,

The ladies at Dear Author have once again brought to romance reader’s attention a serious issue with Amazon – the system wide de-ranking of erotic romance books with certain ‘adult content’.  Their thread explains it all.  Just click here

I have sent an email to Amazon on this subject and the complete lack of common sense around their decision.  Here is the text of that email sent:

To:  erc@amazon.com

Dear Customer Service

As a long time Amazon customer, and a damn good one, I was shocked to find out that Amazon is systematically de-ranking books it deems to have too much ‘adult content’.  All I can say is, HUH?  Let me see if I have this logic right.  Ménage books are OK, even ones with abusive or coercive (dubious consent) elements in them are OK.  Sadistic killers with disturbing sexual dysfunctions that whack off watching people die (read the opening chapter of Lora Leigh’s Maverick), those are OK.  Books that have vampires, werewolves and demons having all kinds of sex with females – human or not – they’re OK.  But Brokeback Mountain isn’t?

Are you people demented?  Have you lost even the smallest shred of common sense?  Do you REALLY want to lose your Romance readers by the boat load?  Is the one area of GROWING REVENUE unimportant?  You are not offering me a product I can’t buy elsewhere, you offer me convenience and when you cease to be convenient, you’re USELESS!

I despise this kind of moronic knee-jerk censorship crap.  It is so offensive.  Who are you to act as an arbiter of my book choices?  And please, do not give me that crap about people being offended.  I’m offended by their tiny narrow minds and little pin heads.  Are you going to start de-ranking all those bestsellers that have gay, lesbian and other bizarre sexual content in them?  Or is it just romance novels that will be victimized?  What a bunch of gutless hypocrites.  Did you cave to some right-wing pea-brains with a horror of anything remotely tainted by GLBT plot elements?  Does this mean the Maddy Hunter Passport to Peril cozies will be de-ranked because of the trans-gender ex-husband Jackie Thum, formerly Jack?  Are books featuring gay detectives on the way out?

I am ashamed of you for making such an ill considered decision.  You list Lora Leigh’s books – bestsellers mostly – and she has more freaking bizarre sex per book than any writer out there – but since she hasn’t done m/m or f/f it’s ok?  Sex with genetically altered males that have all kinds of specialized ‘equipment’ – that ok.  And isn’t it a point of pride for you that you list all kinds of books under ‘dog fighting’, the #1 book titled The Dog Pit – Or, How To Select, Breed, Train And Manage Fighting Dogs, With Points As To Their Care In Health And Disease – 1888 (History Of Fighting Dogs Series) .  Big thumbs up there guys.  Sadistic behavior toward humans and animals – OK.  Mass ritual murder – OK.  Perverted, horrifying serial killing – OK.  Gay love story – de-ranked.  Heather Has Two Mommies – de-ranked.  Your values are so screwed up!

You need to get your priorities in order.  People do NOT like this kind of censorship by companies, especially when it’s done covertly.  I despise it utterly.  Check my buying history, I do buy erotic romance, and mainstream romance, and mysteries, and thrillers, and non-fiction, and all manner of books.  Hundreds each year.  Paperbacks, hardcovers, CD’s, DVD’s.  I even buy household and kitchen items.  You get a LOT of business from me – to the tune of several thousand dollars a year.  No, I don’t much care for GLBT romance.  Not my thing.  But when I search ‘Maya Banks’ I DO NOT want you limiting the listing by content!  Your argument on ‘adult content’ does not hold water as long as you allow blood soaked thrillers – including the whole damn Dexter series – to remain listed!  This is this worst kind of closet censorship and I find it mortally offensive.  I can buy your ‘ranked’ books elsewhere.  Don’t be surprised when my orders fall off dramatically.  You deserve to lose my business and you’ve earned my contempt.

Sincerely

On behalf of all readers, please let Amazon know it is not acceptable for them to act as social arbiters of books – to act as de facto parents and determine what I can and can’t find.  My buying history alone tells them I am more than old enough to buy whatever I want and they have no business automatically filtering my search results.  Their claim to fame is ease of use.  Making books harder to find by giving me only SOME of an authors titles is not a good idea.  It’s Amazon’s broader results that won me over from Barnes and Nobel.  Screw Amazon.  I can spend my money elsewhere.

UPDATE:   Here’s the Smart Bitches take on this with several good links to other sites.  Just click here.

UPDATE 2:  Dear Author explains why rankings are so important when shopping Amazon, especially in the association of books with similar themes.   It’s how I’ve found many new authors over the years in every genre.  Take a look to get a better grip on why this subject is so important to authors, publishers and folks like us who are readers.  Click here.

UPDATE 3:  I just posted this over at Dear Author, so here’s what Publishers Weekly said today   click here (sorry this link does not seem to be working.  I can’t even get on the Publishers Weekly site at the moment)   PS – On Dear Author, Smart Bitches and Racy Romance Reader, I’m Reacher Fan – a tip of my hat to Jack Reacher, the character developed by Lee Child.

UPDATE 4: Click on Amazon Rank to see definition.

UPDATE 5:  The LA Times blog on the subject

UPDATE 6: From CNET with comments from Amazon   Click here

Sign that petition!!!!!!!!!!!

UPDATE 7:  An article on Dear Author on metafile listing click here

There are three threads over on Amazon Forums.  I started one on Erotic Romance Forum and one was started under the General Romance Forum and another under Paranormal Romance Forum.   Some sadistic customers are tagging authors like Ann Coulter with ‘homoerotic’ and ‘gay porn’ tags.  I admit I’m hysterical with laughter.  If there is a way to level the playing field and get even for Amazon’s idiocy, that’s the way to do it, using their own damn customer driven system against them.  :-)

The Christian Science Monitor has weighed in here.

And of all places PC Magazine is also weighing in here.

Remember to sign that petition!

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4-13

Having received no response from Amazon, I sent this email today:

To:  erc@amazon.com

Dear Customer Service

Since I sent my complaint about the deletion of many books with GLBT material or references yesterday, it seems other books deemed ‘adult content’ have been placed in a similar limbo.  There appears to be varying degrees of difficulty in finding a book or author depending on perceived content.  How Amazon has ‘selected’ these books for de-ranking is a mystery to me as many have zero erotic content.  They range from social history to children’s books to classics to romance.  Their common element is a gay or lesbian element.

While I do not read GLBT romance, many of the books I read across a wide range of genres have some gay or lesbian element in them.  So what?  I find that far less disturbing the serial killer sadist books out there and many mysteries have those elements as well.  Yes, you have delisted some ‘erotic romance’ books, but still allow books with BDSM themes to be ranked!  What exactly is this obviously targeted assault on GLBT supposed to achieve?  What good will it do Amazon’s bottom line?  Its image?  You have done yourselves more damage in the eyes of your customers than any competitor could ever do.  I know it was Easter, but bringing your own cross and nails to your crucifixion is a bit much.

I do not need Amazon to act in loco parentis for me.  How is a book like American Psycho any more suitable for your customers than Heather Has Two Mommies or Unfriendly Fire?  Why would it be entitled to the many benefits of a ranking while the others are exiled to the digital age slag heap?  The logic fails me completely.  And please, do NOT fob your customer off with the nonsensical ‘glitch’ excuse.  Absolutely no one with an IQ above that of your average ficus believes it.

Your first obligation is to your customers.  If your customer’s buying decision makes a book with GLBT content a ranked product, the decision has been made by the only ones that matter – the people spending money!  If the book is authored by Ann Coulter and it’s anti-GLBT, it’s ranked.  If it’s written pro-GLBT it isn’t.  Does that not define ‘discrimination’ at its worst – specific, targeted and unyielding.

This is no ‘glitch’.  This is no hacker gaming the tags.  This is a systematic corporate assault on a market segment intended to marginalize books, authors, and by extension, readers who purchase books with certain content.  It is Amazon saying to me that my dollars don’t count if I spend the on books that have been de-ranked, regardless of how many people buy that title.  I have become a second class customer, unworthy of participating in determining what is and is not a ‘bestseller’ in a given category.  That is a very direct insult to me, your customer, your entire reason for existence.  You aren’t even respectful enough of the many thousands of dollars I’ve spent with you to respond to my first email!

If I may quote from the Darby Bible translation:

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; should it sprout, it would yield no meal; if so be it yield, strangers shall swallow it up.

And so ‘strangers’ – your competitors, shall swallow up your customers and be damned happy to get their money!

Sincerely

******************************************************************************************************

True to form, Amazon refuses to acknowledge any culpability in the de-ranking fiasco.   Dear Author has something to say that’s worth reading, as it usually is.  Click here to read it.

Wise people will keep an eagle eye on Amazon.  The very long delay between the start of the problem, the cavalier dismissal of the initial questions by authors, the refusal of comment to the press until 2 days into the explosion of Twitter all suggests a company working out a viable excuse for reprehensible actions that will get them off the hook with customers without ever admitting what was REALLY going on.  Maybe I’m a little too ‘conspiracy’ minded, but honestly, would you trust them and their data algorithms again?  I’m not at all sure their meta files or their rankings are as unbiased as they would have us believe.  You only break trust once to be forever branded and this was a pretty big breach of trust.

UPDATE 4-13 The New York Times take on this is here

And the AP thoughts are here

************************************************************************************************

4-14

Dear Author has an insightful summary of this whole Amazon fiasco.  You can read it here.  It says all that’s been eating at me since getting two form letters from Amazon in response to my complaints.  The text of Amazon’s reply follows:  (Both replies had identical text, but the second had two links, one to say I had gotten an acceptable response that resolved the problem and the second for unresolved.)

Hello,

Thank you for contacting Amazon.com.

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 & 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.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department

Amazon.com

The Wall Street Journal interview with ‘weev’, the hacker who claims responsibility for the GLBT thing at Amazon is here

And PC World’s story about the hacker ‘weev’ that’s very interesting is here

And the final word is from Smart Bitches – Trashy Books blog, some really smart dudettes here

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4-15

A post mortem of Amazonfail can be found on Booksquare here

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