Over the past two months, online retailer Amazon.com (AMZN) began removing gay-themed books from its list of top selling books. When gay romance publisher Mark Probst noticed, the company told him:
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.
Problem is, the blacklisted works included more than just “adult” material, like Probst’s Rise and Fall of Gay Culture. Meanwhile Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds and porn-y books from romance novelist Jackie Collins remained on the list.
Now, Amazon has backtracked on its earlier explanation, telling All Things D’s Peter Kafka:
“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.”
Gawker writer Ryan Tate doesn’t buy the excuse, writing:
The online bookseller now needs to explain why a temporary glitch “recently” discovered has been affecting gay-themed novels going back to at least early February, when (as we noted previously) former gay stripper Craig Seymour saw the sales ranking on his memoir disappear even as Diablo Cody’s stripper memoir retained its sales rank. Seymour complained at the time and eventually resolved the issue, so it’s not like Amazon didn’t have warnings of the problem before this weekend.
Amazon also needs to explain how said glitch appears to have systemically targeted “hundreds” of gay romance books and autobiographies over the past two days while leaving so many similar straight books alone.
Amazon.com’s former gay and lesbian studies editor Ron Hogan takes the same stance, writing on Twitter that its more of a cultural issue than a technological one:
“AMZN isn’t strictly homophobic, b/c that would imply they did anything beyond take LGBT customers for granted.”