So, unless you've been cut of from the Internet for the whole long weekend, you've probably already heard about the AmazonRank
shitstorm (and yes, that link was a Googlebomb
-- feel free to pass it on!).
If you HAVE been cut off from the Internet or in some other way missed it, the quick summary is: over the weekend, Amazon removed the sales rankings of pretty nearly all queer-themed books in their catalog except for those written from a fundamentalist Christian anti-gay perspective. Removing the sales rankings mean that not only do those books not show a sales rank on the book page (which would be pretty trivial), but they also don't show up on bestsellers lists and, most importantly, don't show up in search results.
So once this was done, searching for a keyword like "homosexuality" brought up nothing but How-Jesus-can-help-you-not-be-gay type books.
Initially the autoresponse they sent to people complaining said that they'd deranked books with "adult" content, "in consideration of our entire customer base" - i.e. to keep from offending absolutely anyone, supposedly. But they did not
derank heterosexual books that were far more graphically sexual than most of the ones that got it, and they did derank a lot of queer books that were completely non-sexual, like travel guides, biographies, historical books and even children's books!
Now, they're claiming it was a software glitch and is being fixed. This really doesn't sound terribly convincing to me. I do think it was likely a technical screw-up in some
sense, but not just a random glitch that happened out of the blue. And whatever happened, they owe the public a lot better explanation than that.( My e-mail to Amazon )
My initial comment on this, which I posted in one of the communities I first saw the issue raised in, was a little more heated and less well thought-out. After sleeping on it, I think it's worth remembering that Amazon doesn't have any sort of history of being anti-gay or otherwise right-wing -- as I mentioned in my e-mail, they've always had the reputation of being a fairly liberal company. So I don't really think they've randomly become right-wing homophobes overnight. However, they've certainly screwed up in some kind of substantive way here, and I think they owe people a real explanation and apology.
. . .
One of the aggravating things about the whole saga for me, as well as previous calls to boycott them over other issues, is that in Canada, Amazon.ca is the only major online bookseller that carries titles from independent publishers, so boycotting them means there's a lot of books I just can't buy at all. Americans can go to Powell's (who I heard is having a sale on LGBT titles in response to all this), Borders, etc., but none of those companies, last I checked, operated in Canada. And yes, it's possible to order books internationally, but it's really bloody expensive. By the time you factor in the exchange rate, international shipping, duty, etc. a $15 book ends up costing you $35-40 a lot of the time. Meanwhile, we do have Chapters-Indigo here, who are Canadian -- but they only stock books from large mainstream publishers, which means that a lot of the books I tend to order online can't be found there.
So honestly, I'm really hoping Amazon get their shit together and come out with some kind of coherent response to all this. Because while I can't in good conscience buy anything from them until it's resolved, that boycott is going to be a major pain in the ass to sustain for any length of time.
. . .
I was going to include a list of links to all the various sites dealing with this, but honestly, the info is absolutely bloody everywhere at this point, so I'm sure you can all find it on your own, and I'm overdue to go edit my dad's textbook manuscript, plus have one more post I really need to make before I leave.