Epic Fail

Why We’re Not Buying Amazon’s Gay Book ‘Glitch’


It’s all a “glitch”, says Amazon. After a weekend of being bombarded by emails organized by Twitter (we told you it was an important gay political tool!) under the hashtag #amazonfail, the world’s largest online retailer of books is apologizing for de-ranking dozens of gay books by classifying them as “adult literature.” Amazon responded to our requests for more information with a statement that it sent to other reporters:

“We recently discovered a glitch to our Amazon sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed. We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible.”

As of the publication of the story, some of the books de-ranked over the weekend, including Paul Monnette’s 1992 National Book Award winner Becoming a Man, have been added back, but many others, including E.M. Forster’s Maurice, remain classified as too-hot-to-handle adult material, which means that in Amazon’s eyes, Hugh Grant was in a porn when he appeared in the Merchant & Ivory adaptation of the book.

The L.A. Times tried to get more information from the retailer, but Amazon Director of Corporate Communications Patty Smith said:

“Unfortunately, I’m not able to comment further. We’re working to resolve the issue, but I don’t have any further information.”

So, is the de-ranking some random computer glitch. Not likely. The books targeted are almost exclusively LGBT titles. As one commenter points out:

“Porn star Ron Jeremy’s raunchy autobiography is still ranked. A scholarly bio of Ellen DeGeneres is de-ranked. Mein Kampf is still ranked. Heather Has Two Mommies is de-ranked.”

Amazon’s silence isn’t helping the impression that there’s some homophobic censorship going on, either. Do a search for “homosexuality” on Amazon and the first title to show up is A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. By removing gay-related content from its rankings, Amazon has made it so that they do not appear easily in searches and do not appear in book suggestions throughout the site.

Neither can we blithely assume that this is the result of a single homophobic rogue system operator. When author Mark Probst asked two weeks ago, why two of his gay-themed romance books were removed from the listings and received this reply:

“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.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,
Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage”

41ed98qmcql_ss500_This implies that this weekend’s actions are not the actions of a single employee, but rather the result of a company policy. The Inquistor mentions that at least one author was told that the decision was based on policy, not technical error. Even if it’s not, even if, beyond all plausible reality, Amazon’s software just randomly decided to mark a wide swath of gay literature as “adult”, including the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, the fallout for the company is likely to be intense.

On Twitter, the rage towards the company continues unabated. It’s the number two topic (only outstripped by talk about the Mikeyy worm hitting PC’s) and users have already organized a full-on boycott, reaching over 9,000 signatures so far. The speed at which Twitter was able to take a single blog post by author Craig Seymour and transform it into a national news story shows just how much power the service has in collectively organizing direct political action. And of course, YouTube is now getting in on the act, as you can see from this entertaining call made about the Twilight book series:

It seems beyond comprehension that Amazon won’t apologize for the “glitch”, but the damage has already been done. The phrase “Amazon Rank” has already received a new definition:

“amazon rank
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): amazon ranked

1. To censor and exclude on the basis of adult content in literature (except for Playboy, Penthouse, dogfighting and graphic novels depicting incest orgies).
2. To make changes based on inconsistent applications of standards, logic and common sense.

Etymology: from 12 April 2009 removal of sales rank figures from books on Amazon.com containing sexual, erotic, romantic, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or queer content, rendering them impossible to find through basic search functions at the top of Amazon.com’s website. Titles stripped of their sales rankings include “Bastard Out of Carolina,” “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” prominent romance novels, GLBTQ fiction novels, YA books, and narratives about gay people.

Example of usage: “I tried to do a report on Lady Chatterly’s Lover for English Lit, but my teacher amazon ranked me and I got an F on grounds that it was obscene.”

Alternate usage: “My girlfriend wanted to preserve her virginity, and I was happy to respect that, then she amazon ranked and decided anal sex was okay.” ”

To say this is bad for business is an understatement. Even Amazon’s defenders are able to offer up little more than a “let’s see what they have to say first” defense. Information Week predicts:

“By the end of the day Monday, we’ll find out this is, indeed, a software glitch. Or maybe some bigoted middle manager got too big for his britches. I am confident that this is not a reflection of Amazon policy.

If I’m wrong and Amazon is singling out gay-themed books for penalties? Well, I’ll boycott them. But I’d like to wait for all the facts to come in before making a judgment. The cause of gay rights and equality will not be significantly harmed if we hold off the Amazon boycott until, say, Wednesday. “

It seems the onus is on Amazon, to answer for the de-ranking and until they do– and frankly, at this point an explanation beyond “it was a glitch” is necessary– the boycott should continue. On a personal note, what the hell am I going to do with my Kindle now?

UPDATE: How 10 lines of programming code could do this.

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  • John

    I don’t think your logic in determining that this isn’t the action of one employee holds up. The ‘adult titles’ answer from the customer service rep sounds like a canned response to questions about listing – typically reps can push a button to send pre-written answers about a variety of topics out to people – and the whole thing just doesn’t seem to fit Amazon’s general culture. So I would not be surprised to find that some bigoted employee took it on himself or herself to mess with the rankings.

    Which of course Amazon will not want to talk about publicly because it shows a big problem in how they manage their rankings.

    I’m willing to wait and see how they deal with this. (And I’m not buying anything from them until they do. Which sucks because I, too, have a Kindle!)

  • Landon Bryce

    Please contact your legislators and ask for legislation that would make this sort of action illegal in the future.

  • Steff

    It’s affected amazon.co.uk too. Grr.

  • Matt

    @Landon Bryce: bad idea. Amazon is a privately owned website and it should legally be able to do what it likes with its ranking system. But, we should be able to express displeasure at Amazon’s de-ranking “glitch” and, if we so choose, not do business there. It’s also a bad idea to prematurely jump to conclusions, so I think we should wait and see what Amazon says about the systematic de-ranking, if anything. Groups of people such as Scientologists and conservatives have effectively gamed its flagging/reviewing system before.

  • michael

    If Amazon has a competitor, this would be a good time to send them your business.

  • Landon Bryce


    I assume you oppose ENDA as well. After all, Amazon should have the right to fire people for being gay if they can make it impossible to find gay books in searches, right? Authors are people, too, dude.

    Amazon is a monopoly that has driven specialty bookstores out of business. At this point, it is obvious that they do not take seriously the responsibility that gives them. I think their ranking system probably was gamed here, but they allowed it to happen. The same thing happens on YouTube: gay content is unfairly flagged by bigoted users and Google takes no responsibility.

    It is legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the United States, so Amazon faces no legal consequences. That should not be the case the next time a similar situation arises, and it will.

  • Alexa

    I have a Kindle as well, just buy your books elsewhere. I buy from fictionwise.com, but there are other places I’m sure. Most of their books come in a Kindle-ready format, but those that don’t can be converted using the mobipocket reader you can download free.

    I’ve canceled my subscribe and save orders from Amazon for the time being and told them why, and don’t plan on ordering anything else from them even though I’ve been buying from them for years. IF they resolve this properly – and that includes an apology, not just a claim it was a glitch – I will reconsider.

  • GayIsTheWay

    The HATEROSEXUAL DICTATORSHIP is on the march. The history of inequality is the history of haterosexuality.

  • bigjake75

    @Landon Bryce: um…no, it is a private company if they want to be bigots that is their right…but it is our right to boycott, support others, and shame them publicly as has been done. Please, no more laws restricting our rights. Don’t be quick to use the government to restrict others…that is what is happening to us. It is not right.

  • bigjake75

    @Landon Bryce: maybe you should not assume Matt is against ENDA. What purpose is served by attacking each other? We are all pissed and should focused a REASONED intelligent response at Amazon. Look, they got smacked and are reeling. Guess what, Amazon is gonna end up being way gay friendly as a result of this. This misstep on their part is going to create opportunity. Lets work together to make the most of it. Work together!!

  • Mika Rosen

    The ad on the bottom of this page is for a kindle. That is hilarious. I can’t even express how angry i am about this i wonder if they re-classified Twelfth Night!

  • Ann

    Thanks for the good overview. One quibble, though — your url says “amazon says sorry”, but there hasn’t been a *whiff* of an apology, has there?

  • Lisa

    I disagree that a boycott should wait until all the facts are in. Ultimately, an organization is responsible for what its “rogue employees” do, or what its IT infrastructure does.

    Simple thing — respond with appropriate action and messaging and it will be fine. Cover up and act like jackasses and it won’t.

    Sometimes…capitalism works well. Kudos to Twitter.

  • Landon Bryce


    Again, Amazon is, in practical terms, a monopoly that has put most specialty bookstores out of business. It should not be legal for them to then make it impossible for people who need the books that were previously available through those sellers to find them on their website. Regardless of how or why, Amazon is guilty of extreme ideological censorship after destroying the avenues by which those censored voices have been heard in the past. This is not on a par with Yahoo helping to put Chinese journalists in jail for political crimes, but it is not unrelated, either. Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and other Internet monopolies do not take seriously the power they have over minority communities’ access to information. They play fast and loose with it all the time, and real people get really hurt.

    Fuck the libertarian viewpoint that all laws are bad.

  • Chitown Kev

    @Landon Bryce:
    Thank you Landon, and a lot of these specialty stores are our own LGBT bookstores.

    That is the sort of fucked up thing about the libertarian POV (which I have some affinity for, to be honest) is that according to the “majority rules” philosophy, minorities get screwed all too easily.

  • Chris L.

    This only confirms my longtime suspicion of the whole Kindle project, of Amazon becoming the default supplier of all content.

  • Kit

    @Chris L.:

    Same here. How long before another “glitch” causes all the gay-themed content on your Kindle to become inaccessible? Besides being able to send precise information about your reading habits back to Amazon, the Kindle also allows Amazon to remotely de-authorize books you’ve bought or silently replace them with “revised” editions. Have the people who’ve bought these things really thought through the long-term privacy and free-speech implications? Personally, there’s no way in hell I’d trust Amazon (or any company, to be fair) with that kind of power.

  • DC Steve

    @Landon Bryce: I disagree that “Amazon is a monopoly”. Borders and Barnes & Noble both operate huge webstores, and there are tons of queer-owned bookstores who do online sales. And you better believe that if Amazon doesn’t clean up their act, it will be a HUGE business opportunity for gay-friendly online sellers.

    They couldn’t have picked a worse time for this nonsense, between the current political climate and the state of the economy. Lots of people use Amazon as a default shopping choice, but it won’t take long for people to realize that they’re not the only game in town and that a boycott doesn’t take any more effort than typing a different name into the browser’s address bar.

  • Greg Goss

    An earlier poster said that “If Amazon had a competitor…”

    Barnes and Noble at bn.com claims to be “the internet’s biggest bookstore”, while Amazon claims to be “Earth’s biggest bookstore” while operating on the internet. I don’t know how to evaluate either claim, though I’m sure Amazon is bigger. But B&N is big enough to fill the niche if everyone wants to drop Amazon.

  • Yokai

    Hmmm… I’m not really certain if, being a straight guy, I have any place posting here, but…

    At this moment I am going to hold off on buying the nothing that I’d been planning to buy from Amazon over the next few weeks. I will instead continue acquiring my books from local bookstores (or from an area Borders or B&N if the local stores don’t happen to have what I’m looking for available). If I had been planning to buy anything I would hold off on doing so instead. I am giving Amazon about 72 hours to rectify and explain the current situation, and if they do not do so to my satisfacction, then the next time I DO have call to buy something online, Amazon will be URL that I will NOT be going to for buying it.

    In short, I’m giving them a chance to make good, because if it was a glitch, hack, or rogue employee, they’ll need a bit of time to fix it, but if they blow it… ta ta.

  • Kelly

    It appears to me that Mark Probst’s de-ranking was two days ago, around April 10th, not two weeks ago. The news moved much faster than that!

  • Leisha Camden

    A tip for those who wish to avoid Amazon, and, who knows, maybe even get a better deal in the process: The Book Depository. Just type it into Google. :-) They don’t have as good a selection as Amazon (at least not yet), but they have quite a lot. They also have good prices *and* they ship worldwide for free. :-)

    For your out-of-print needs, there’s always ABEbooks.com. :-)

    Thanks for contributing to getting the word out on this.

  • Jamie

    Chitown Kev wrote: “That is the sort of fucked up thing about the libertarian POV (which I have some affinity for, to be honest) is that according to the “majority rules” philosophy, minorities get screwed all too easily.”

    But that is not the libertarian pov at all. We don’t subscribe to a majority rules philosophy – quite the opposite. Individual rights and freedoms are priority #1 in libertarian political philosophy.

    Also, Landon – “all laws are bad” is not a libertarian view point, it’s an anarchist viewpoint. Libertarians do recognize the need for laws and government, albeit of a limited and unintrusive nature, designed to protect, not violate rights.

    Now, libertarians also respect the rights of private business owners to run their own companies – and to accept the consequences for their decisions. So, Amazon has the right to pursue these policies if it likes – and we, as consumers, have a right to take our business elsewhere. Remember, freedom works both ways.

    No need for legislation – the consumer response to this will be sufficient to ensure that Amazon changes its policies.

  • Alec

    @Jamie: No need for legislation – the consumer response to this will be sufficient to ensure that Amazon changes its policies.

    I disagree. The civil rights act was instrumental in helping black Americans and other racial and religious minorities achieve economic and social equality, or at least tearing down a major barrier to acheiving it. We’ve already made the judgment: in services and employment, discrimination is improper.

    Libertarian utopians assume that the market will correct itself; tell that to the two guys being evicted, or the the guy who gets fired in the Deep South.

  • Jonathan

    Honestly, the guy behind this hack deserves those lulz. While I was initially outraged or whatever too, that shit is impressive.

  • Leisha Camden

    @Larry-bob: They did?? Shit, I didn’t know that. Dagnabbit!! I don’t like this new century. :-(

  • Landon Bryce


    Yes, Jamie. I was using hypoerbole. Libertarians favor those laws which benefit the upper class white guys who are libertarians. They disapprove of any laws that limit the ability of the powerful to run roughshod over the powerless. They are what the country club Republicans who find religion tacky have become. They are Ayn Rand’s bitter legacy.

    They are bad.

  • Chitown Kev


    If libertarian philosophy based upon a true meritocracy, I could agree with you. Once social inequities according to class, ethnicity, or sex are addressed (pay rates, inadequate schooling, etc.) I could go along with this.

  • Paul

    @Landon Bryce The books are not “impossible to find.” They’re still fairly easy to find. If you search for a title with “Books” in the drop-down, the books can still be located as before. If you search for a title with “All Departments” in the drop-down (the default), the books aren’t visible. Amazon is still selling each and every one of these books; there’s just a snafu in the search and ranking that make them (slightly) more difficult to find.

  • Landon Bryce


    They are possible to find if you know what you are looking for. If you are a gay kid considering suicide, searching for help, and don’t know the names of authors and titles, Amazon.com right this minute is implicitly telling you to go ahead. That’s close enough to “impossible” for me, thanks.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Paul: Right now they are easy to find. I am not advocating a law, but I do understand the flip side of having a consolidation of vendors who provide books. It means that their policies regarding what gets seen increasingly will impact what gets read in general. Your post is also a little wrong headed. The ability to make it difficult to find the book is also a part of how one can use policy to effectively control information. If I write a 100,000 word article, and I bury a key passage of page 492 in a footnote with the text is written in small type, yes, I am still revealing the information, but it is more than likely that most will miss it. Difficulty is also then a factor. Pretending otherwise seems false. Again, I do not agree with at this point- but one should not pretend media consolidation or corporate policy has no impact of free speech concerns.

  • The Gay Numbers

    “free speech” should read “censorship”

  • dgz

    @Landon Bryce:
    oh, stop. going back to your first comment, i would advise that no one contact their legislators. why? because the law you propose would be a) impossible to pass and b) constitutionally invalid. so, why don’t we all focus on a strategy that actually makes sense?

    and this story has nothing to do with libertarians, so please let’s return to the topic at hand.

  • Chitown Kev


    But Landon’s concerns about media consolidation (especially in times of a recession) and censorship are valid, however.

    I don’t know how all this works with Amazon (since I only purchase from Amazon when I know precisely what I want), but did anything think to check out a cross-listings. For example, Baldwin in the African-American section (and I have a lot of issues even in brick and mortar stores with the way books are cross-listed).

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Chitown Kev: the issue is to me akin to being a library where there is a book that is being censored by holding the book, but not including it in the dewey system. Yes, you can find it, but it would be really difficult to do so. Raising the time cost of searching reduces the likelihood of it being found or read. As I said above, this is a problem going forward if more companies are simply limiting the ability to find books.

  • petted

    Makes a fair amount of sense – the update, the web-attack reasoning is incredibly petty though in point of fact its redunkulous the rational of dubious veracity that being said I could definitely see someone doing this for some sort of lark.

  • Paul

    @The Gay Numbers: I don’t disagree that this is a very unfortunate direction for Amazon to have gone in, and I hope they rectify it as quickly as possible. However, I also think it’s counterproductive to use such hyperbole as “impossible to find.” For instance, a search on “Heather has two mommies” on “All Departments” right now doesn’t turn up that book, but it does turn up a bunch of gay-friendly kiddie lit, most of it involving two-mother households. Yes, a search on “Homosexuality” on “All Departments” is absolutely noxious today, but “gay suicide” on “All Departments” turns up books on preventing teen suicide and a book on coming-out stories. Using hyperbole makes us look reactive and unreasonable, in my view.

  • Paul

    @The Gay Numbers: An additional concern in my mind is that the All Departments search for Heather has Two Mommies includes at #12 a hit on a record that says it’s out of print. This is true for quite a few of these titles, actually; because the out of print record is tagged differently, it’s coming up where the in print records aren’t. That may lead some consumers to believe that these books ARE out of print when they’re not, which hurts the consumer, the author, and the community at large.

  • Chitown Kev


    For example, when I shop for a book at Amazon, I am looking for a specific title. Usually the book is out-of-print and I was unable to find the book at 2-4 brick and mortar used bookstores (and there are 2 brick and mortar Powell Bookstore’s in Chicago).
    So I never have a problem finding what I want at Amazon’s, then again I know the specific title or author I am looking for. Still, many people must deal in generalities (and who knows when I will have to do so?)

    For them (and possibly me) this type of homophobic censorship is a disaster.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    Why are Gawker saying is was a prank?


  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    Glitch my ass, indeed. One LiveJournal user speculated that the mass flagging of gay books on Amazon.com might be the work of organized antigay groups — or troublemaking hackers:

    Via Gawker

    “Now, let’s just put ourselves in Amazon’s shoes. Keep in mind that Amazon is a smug, fairly liberal company headquartered in fucking Seattle of all places and, last I checked, Jeff Bezos is not exactly a Christian fundamentalist.

    Why on earth would they suddenly censor only a specific group of content that deals with a marginalized and politically active community? Why would this policy change not take the form of a specific policy, but rather of very discriminately flagging only certain titles as “adult” content? Why would this happen over a weekend?

    Our hacker has an explanation: Amazon.com has long had a mechanism that allowed customers to flag a product as “inappropriate.” Only a small number of these votes were needed to get a book off of Amazon’s sales rankings.”

    Link above..

  • Gggg

    The girl is fabulous!!!!!! LOL!!!

  • Litgay

    I just looked up “Lady Chatterly’s Lover”, “Tropic of Capricorn”, and “Lolita”. They do not fall under “Adult Content”. There is no adult warning or restrictions of any kind. Alternative bookstores are only an options for people who live in big cities with large gay populations. Small towns do not have that luxury and for some isolated gays, online book suppliers like Amazon are the only way to access gay books. In these uncertain economic times, when no business is really safe, an outspoken boycott by gays and friends of gays is the most effective way to make them listen.

  • Chitown Kev


    Ok, then it is our job as a community to compose and disseminate a listing of recommended booksellers for our rural brotherss and sisters then. To be sure, those listings may not be as user-friendly as Amazon’s but they don’t have to subsidize Amazon’s homophobia.


  • The Gay Numbers

    @Paul: I have no idea to whom you are responding or why you can not read carefully, but I gave an analogy of what I meant. There is nothing in the way of hyperbole about it. It describes the nature of the problem. If you prefer cliches- my point is finding a needle in a haystack. This is how censorship can happen here.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): I do not know about Amazon, but this is a problem on other social network sites such as YouTubes where homophobes would try to censor gay related content. Outside of the copyright violations (which is fine), there were attempts to censor clips of various shows and movies, including Beautiful Thing.

  • Kate

    @michael: There is competition for Amazon, and it’s your local independent bookstore. I saw Powell’s mentioned above (powells.com), and Indie Bound enables users to find local independent bookstores near them or order from one online — indiebound.org
    Shifting to B&N and Borders, although they are technically competitors for Amazon, only maintains support of sprawling corporate booksellers that cater to product sales rather than considering the importance of books as knowledge transmitters. Independent bookstores are far more likely to represent and sell marginalized authors/books, and are important to maintaining a diverse knowledge landscape. I hope that, whatever the cause of Amazon’s issues, we take this as an opportunity to consider what kinds of establishments we really want to support.

  • GJR

    The jury is still out on whether it was intentional or not. There is an extensive article on Kos that says that someone or a group of people was able to exploit (not hack) the system by setting up numerous accounts, then tagging many GLBT titles as inappropriate (like one could choose to do with say Playboy or something..)

    Be that as it may, the fact that they backtracked in less than 24 hours shows that we have a bigger voice than in the past. Either they will address the loophole that allowed this to happen or they will change their bone-headed policies. Either way, stupid problem solved. Was Amazon 100% honest about how much at fault it was? Probably not. Most corporations are not. But at least they are making an effort to rectify the problem when the heat was put on them.

  • Paul

    @The Gay Numbers: The portion I put in quotes was from Landon Bryce, who’s using gross hyperbole (he admits as much about another topic). I agree with you. No need to get defensive.

  • Paul

    @Litgay: If your point is that Lolita ought to have been affected by the deranking, you’re right. It was. Many of the ranks have been restored. The All Departments search of Lolita today contains many more editions than it did yesterday. (I didn’t look up the other two books you mention yesterday, so I don’t know if they’ve changed.)

  • Vera

    We are all upset because Amazon seems to have targeted the gay community, but the bigger question, the one that should be asked, but nobody seems to be asking, is why is Amazon censoring for content at all? Why don’t they just sponser a public burning of all the books they find objectionable? It is up to the reader to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t, not Amazon.com and not people who are flagging things that they find appropriate. It is not a glitch. It is a profoundly flawed ideology that says it’s OK to bow down to the hate mongers.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    What AFTER you read the Gawker story???????

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    Are they censoring??

  • Paul

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): Define “censoring.”

    Has Amazon at any point removed a book from purchase based on content they found objectionable? No, I haven’t heard of that happening.

    Has Amazon made it more difficult to find certain books based on content? Yes. Inasmuch as that action reduced access, it was a form of censorship.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    But why??

    If enough people flag it/a book….wouldn’t they censor it?

    To me…it’s just too suspicious..

    I mean why ALL of a sudden..unless they literally have a new CEO??

    The more we get pissed at the more liberal private sector outlets….

  • will

    I don’t know whether or not this is all intention or not. But as an information technology professional, I can easily see how the coding could have gone bad. This kind of stuff happens all the time, with the mass amount of programmers they have (probably outsourced to other countries) I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened. However, I think their response should be a little better….

  • Paul

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): Possibilities, in rough order of plausibility…

    1. Someone external figured out a way to game the existing “adult” system in bulk and maliciously.
    2. They were recklessly tweaking their “adult” filters and didn’t think through the ramifications of a particular tweak.
    3. Someone internal (such as middle management) decided to push through a personal value assessment in the hopes that upper management wouldn’t notice.
    4. Someone internal (such as an IT employee) was feeling vindictive.
    5. Amazon has gone entirely and utterly insane, and decided to deliberately alienate their entire alt.sex readership (including GLBTs). Nothing better to get us to forget about victories in Vermont and Iowa.

    A surprising number have people have concluded (5) when (1)-(4) are all much more likely.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    5 is SO wrong…

    Why change NOW?

    Which is why I ask, is their a new CEO??

    Come on..

  • hardmannyc

    HAHAHA! It was a stunt by some hacker named Weev. You gut punked. The guy was making a point about how stupid tagging books as “offensive” was. Read it in Gawker.

  • Mark

    Yes, here’s why we’re not buying this ridiculous excuse. TO PURCHASE A BOOK OR ANY OTHER ITEM AT AMAZON YOU MUST BE A CREDIT CARD CARRYING ADULT.

    Thus, this means only ADULTS purchase anything on Amazon.

    The fact is that when you input the word ‘homosexuality’ into the All Departments search engine you get ONLY the following results: books on how to PREVENT homosexuality.

    Thus, there is only one conclusion to be made about this matter. At the helm is a homophobic fundamentalist evangelical IT database manager. Plain and simple. There is only one group of people in this country who would dare to do something like this. ONLY ONE. AND WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

    My novels have been affected by this blatant act of Christian discrimination. Well, listen up you medieval louts. You will be hung up to dry because of this. When it is exposed that Christians are behind this, you will not hear the last of it from us.

    Nazi Germany banned books and it started innocently enough. This is not your Pope’s Christian nation. This is not your Falwell’s Christian nation. This is not your Rick Warren’s Christian nation. This is a secular society, based on the US Constitution whether you like it or not, pals. We won’t rest until this is over and you are out of a job.

  • Tallskin

    This could be because (and I don’t know for sure) because they have been zapped by a concerted campaign by christian groups.

    You only have to see that ghastly video “Gathering Storm” to see the tip of the iceberg. What is going on underneath the waterline?

  • Chitown Kev


    Ok, but even if it was sabotage, you would think that Amazon’s PR’s people would have handled this much. much better.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Paul: Your post was confusing.

  • TANK

    Shocking. And to think that Jeff Bezos has such a nasty case of gay face and geek laugh.

  • Paul

    @The Gay Numbers: I’ll try again.

    Landon Bryce said that Amazon was making it “impossible” to find these books. I said it wasn’t impossible, just slightly harder than it was. You commented (in my interpretation) about how this is step in the direction of making things much harder, and that we shouldn’t pretend it’s trivial. I agreed but said I wasn’t comfortable with hyperbole like “impossible” (again, Landon Bryce’s word).

    I agree with you. I don’t agree with Landon Bryce.

    That’s as clear as I can make it.

  • bigjake75

    @Landon Bryce: Well it was people shopping at amazon that put others out of business. If no one shops there, they are nothing. So blame the cheap ass short sighted American consumer. Dont’ get angry with me because I don’t want more fucked up laws passed. And im not against all laws. For example, it should be illegal for me to thump you on the head for emotionally overreacting to my post and not using reason. So therefore, no thumping shall occur.

    If anyone in the LGBT community ever used Amazon..they are guilty as well. We need to be united in our efforts, and our spending, to support one another. So the phrase comes to mind..”physician, heal thyself.” And I challenge you to look for another post from me someday, and respond out of logic and reason, and stop treating me like the enemy. Just remember, it is the majority, using the government and law, that are keeping our rights from us. Be careful how much more power you want our government to have, being we are the minority.

  • bigjake75

    @Chitown Kev: you are off base about the libertarian POV. In no way does it support ‘majority rule’ if that infringes on the right of anyone…any individual, not just a minority group.

  • Landon Bryce


    To claim that the effected books were “slightly” more difficult to find when they did not come up under general searches is not exactly less of an exaggeration than saying they were impossible to find (which they were, if you were not armed with an author’s name or title.) But enough of that–

    I disagree with those who assume that this is only a concern if it was deliberate censorship on Amazon’s part. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, but they allowed it to happen. They were alerted to it early on and did nothing. The way they have handled the situation shows no respect for the minority communities they effectively silenced. They were at best irresponsible in allowing their system to be gamed so effectively and disrespectful in allowing the situation to exist for as long as it has without as apology.

    When you become as major a player as Amazon is in how the world gets information, there have to be responsibilities. To me, this incident is proof enough that Bezos et. al. are not interested in living up to those responsibilities, do not understand that they have obligations that go beyond the bottom line. That being the case, it is appropriate to ask elected representatives to do a little saber rattling and to start asking questions about whether a free society that values information can allow behavior such as Amazon shown to be legal. I would not advocate that people call their representatives if I thought such action would result in immediate legal changes. But it won’t. It might get this issue on a list of things to do research on, though, and I think that that is highly appropriate at this point.

  • bigjake75

    @Jamie: amen. much better job expounding than i did.

  • Landon Bryce

    Dude, you jumped all over me– did not allow that there could be any validity to any part of my point of view– and then are having stating that only law prevents you from beating me up and challenging me to respond me to you in a reasoned way?

    Umm, I don’t think it’s POSSIBLE to respond to that in a reasoned way.

  • Greg Ever

    GLAAD responds – this was not intentional

    The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said it expects Amazon’s “error” to be corrected immediately. Here’s the full statement:

    “GLAAD has reached out to Amazon.com and they indicate this was an error, so we expect to start seeing evidence of its correction immediately, and that any loss of visibility of gay-themed books as a result of this error will be made right by Amazon,” said Neil G. Giuliano, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). “When people learn about the lives of gay and transgender people and the common ground we share, the culture changes and advances. It is so important that stories about the lives of our community are available, and that companies like Amazon promote these titles in an equal fashion.”

  • DC Steve

    I just got an email in response to my complaint to Amazon yesterday afternoon:


    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.


    Customer Service Department

  • Chitown Kev


    But don’t libertarians believe in elections in the context of the democratic process? And that everyone person is to be regarded as equal regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, income level, etc.?

    I love the ideal, personally, as I have some libertarian views myself (drug legalization is one example. I also believe in an almost absolute freedom of speech). Freedom to form whatever contracts that wish without government interference would actually fall under the civil contact of marriage. Of course, the higher the income level, the easier it is to form contracts. Or to buy elections.

    But in pratical terms, that freedom also allows for the freedom to discriminate with little or no regard to what little rule of law exists (and ideally, there would be none save for the individual conscience).

  • Chitown Kev

    @Greg Ever:

    I’m not sure this was a “freak accident,” I believe their online security was compromised in a discriminatory manner.

    Given the uptick in gay bashing lately, we can expect that it will strike gay online communities as well. We need to be on our Ps and Qs.

  • Greg Ever

    @Chitown Kev: Did you read this article? The Amazon spokesperson was asked about the rumor that the site got hacked and he denied that this happened. He said, “this was our error,” meaning Amazon’s.

    An overview of how the story goes…
    This guy claimed he did the hacking, but then this guy tried it and said the claim was a hoax.

    The most convincing answer I’ve seen so far comes from a supposed former Amazon employee who still has contacts within the company who say that it was actually a translation error. Specifically, he says a French Amazon employee screwed up the translation between “sexuality” and “erotic” and marked stuff tagged “sexuality” as adult content.

    Right now, I am about 98% confident that this whole fiasco was unintentional and that it was a mistake within Amazon.

  • tommyb

    This is an outrage. Too bad I’m a long-time active customer but I am telling all my family, friends a co-workers to boycott Amazon until they COMPLETELY reverse their so-called “glitch”.

  • TANK

    But really, when hasn’t glaad and the other effete lgbt advocacy groups been in the business of quieting dissent and appeasing the homophobes?

  • TANK


    It’s still true in spite of the fact that this appears to be an accidental mixup on the part of a foreign employee editing the international sites, which are all linked.

    What’s particularly amusing are the people rushing to the defense of formerly bigoted amazon, advocating blatent discrimination in the private sector. No, the market has proven time and again that it sustains injustice and unethical behavior. That the freedom to commit harm through discrimination isn’t worth the cost in a society which values egalitarianism and equal opportunity above the liberty of some to limit the liberty of others.

    Want a good book on libertarianism? Well, start with the classics. Nozick.

  • hardmannyc

    @Chitown Kev: “We need to be on our Ps and Qs.”

    It’s actually “mind our Ps and Qs,” which means keep your head down and don’t do anything. I don’t think you meant that.

  • ducdebrabant

    Convenient, isn’t it, that it’s all being pinned on a single employee (in Matt Drudge’s favorite country, France).

    I would like to know why the “flip” affected only gay and lesbian subject matter or — in the words of Amazon itself — “a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica.”

    Amazon emphasized the latter to suggest that gay content wasn’t targeted, but what do those areas all have in common? Definitely the likelihood that they would touch on homosexuality.

    Knitting, woodworking, mathematics, the American Revolution, the Cavalier Poets, scholastic philosophy, the Arian Heresy and the history of baseball seem to have come through unscathed.

  • Chitown Kev


    Dammit, sleep with one eye open then, but I communicated effectively because you understood what I meant!

  • Greg Ever

    @ducdebrabant: While “Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica” appear to be relatively diverse categories, it is pretty easy to imagine how books in these categories could have something to do with sexuality, and it’s pretty easy to imagine how this mistake could have happened if you understand the concept of tagging.

    A tag is basically a simple identifier that can be added to any item to help the site and its customers know what topics the item/book discusses. So if you have a health book that happens to briefly mention sexuality, someone could give that book the tag “sexuality” at any time in the past, which is perfectly fine and very helpful with normal site functionality. The problem arose when this guy who screwed things up came along and essentially did something in the site that said “all items with the tag ‘sexuality’ will be put into the restricted adult category.” That’s how you end up with lots of books on different topics ending up with the same fate.

    On the other hand, there is almost no chance books about knitting or woodworking or anything else you mentioned would mention anything about sexuality. Therefore, nobody would have given those books the tag “sexuality”, thus they would not have been affected by this screwup.

    I hope that makes sense.

  • Greg Ever

    @Greg Ever: And the fact that it was the tag “sexuality” that was involved in this mix-up is at least partially coincidental. The person who got the translations confused probably saw “sex” in the word “sexuality” and genuinely thought that these items contained adult material. It was obviously a mistake because he failed to translate the meaning of the word properly, but it was still a genuine accident.

  • Monica Roberts

    The real tragedy of all this is once again overlooked by the blackface-wearing rich privileged whites.

    Until a 6’2″ somewhat butch person of color (Trangendered) can do a SIMPLE amazon.com search for size 16 pumps, I will always feel relegated to the back of the internet.

  • TANK

    That holdin’ ya down? So long as you’ve got your priorties properly ordered…

  • TANK

    Ew, holdin ya back even…back of the bus…I thought it was under the bus, though? Isn’t that more melodramatic?

  • Phoenix (Not Shopping At Amazon)

    Okay, until Amazon fixes their “glitch” we can:

    1.) Shop at Powell’s Books.

    2.) Along with our order, also purchase one of these books and donate them to your local library.

  • Rictor Norton

    It quickly became apparent that by “adult” Amazon mean not only titles of an erotic or pornographic nature, but also any gay and lesbian titles no matter how serious they may be. So in effect they have classified all GLBT material as obscene. Some of the titles which have been stripped of their sales ranking details include the following books on LGBT history:

    Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture
    Gay and Lesbian Historical Fiction by Norman Jones
    A Lesbian History of Britain by Rebecca Jennings
    The Sciences of Homosexuality by Kenneth Borris
    Behind the Mask of the Mattachine by James Sears
    Byron and Greek Love by Louis Crompton
    Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton
    Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam
    Gay Life and Culture by Robert Aldrich
    Gay American History by Jonathan Katz
    Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford by Linda Dowling
    How to do the History of Homosexuality by David Halperin
    Homosexuality in Greece and Rome by Thomas Hubbard

    and the list is endless — anything that presents a positive or even neutral study of gay lesbian queer or homosexual subjects is no longer accorded sales rankings.

    On the other hand, books like “Sex Among the Rabble” by the historian Clare Lyons or “City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920” by Timothy Gilfoyle — and an equally endless list — still have their sales rankings. Obviously, books about heterosexual history are perfectly OK because they are accepted by their “normal” market, but books about homosexual history are obscene in the view of Amazon, whose general audience is no longer deemed to include LGBT individuals or indeed anyone interested in such things.

    I’m not entirely sure what commercial effect the removal of sales rankings has. But obviously it had its promotional uses, otherwise it would not have been removed so that material deemed inappropriate by Amazon would no longer be promoted. My main objection is that this is a clear-cut case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, that is: homophobia pure and simple.

    My own website promotes Amazon product through its Associates programme, but if Amazon doesn’t wish to encourage promotion of LGBT books, then of course I will cease promoting Amazon books on my website and resign from its Associates programme.

    Rictor Norton, London

  • Clarknt67

    I’d have been inclined to avoid Amazon out of concerns of monopoly and media consolidation before all this. This confirms it.

    We’ve seen this before. Everyone knows just a teaspoon full of teh gay is far more dangerous than a swimming pool of the Hitler. F Amazon.

  • Text to speech

    The problem arose when this guy who screwed things up came along and essentially did something in the site that said “all items with the tag ‘sexuality’ will be put into the restricted adult category.” That’s how you end up with lots of books on different topics ending up with the same fate.

    On the other hand, there is almost no chance books about knitting or woodworking or anything else you mentioned would mention anything about sexuality. Therefore, nobody would have given those books the tag “sexuality”, thus they would not have been affected by this screwup.

    I hope that makes sense.

  • B.K. Wright

    Of course it was NO accident. If Amazon respected the gay community, it would welcome gay ebooks, and so far they have not responded to my inquiries.

    B.K. Wright

  • Jake Deckard

    Screw Amazon. The fact is there are plenty of other places to shop. Their stock is in bad shape BTW. Guess other people feel the same way.

  • TWD -

    Libertarians favor those laws which benefit the upper class white guys who are libertarians. They disapprove of any laws that limit the ability of the powerful to run roughshod over the powerless. They are what the country club Republicans who find religion tacky have become. They are Ayn Rand’s bitter legacy.

  • Phil

    I work for Amazon.com and I’m gay, if you take a look at a vast majority of the Amazon.com employees, they are gay. I honestly think that a majority of the people who read this are grossly overreacting. I’m going to stop ordering from here, I’m going to stop ordering from here, has anyone taken a look at what crap a majority of the big stores play. (i.e. Walmart, Kmart, E-bay, Walden, etc.) A majority of them are just as bad if not worse in what Amazon has done here, yet I will make the bet that all of you if not all than a vast majority still frequent stores like this. Granted, we don’t want to let it be known that you can pick on us just because of our sexual preference, but honestly, by not shopping there, and giving no reasoning what-so-ever, it’s complete stupidity to think that Amazon and it’s leaders will ever know it’s because of what happened with their books. Plus the stereotype of gay people being overly sensitive is being perpetuated by not even hearing the entire story out. You want to make an impact, and be heard, make them understand in someway by voicing the opinion in a public way AFTER they have said it’s because they’re anti-gay. Until then, you’re basically proving everyone else correct.

  • Pete

    You queers are always crying like little stupid bitchs. You are sooo easy to troll.

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