Amazon.com’s sexuality fail

04/12/2009 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Here’s something to blog about that I’m sure everyone can agree is completely horrifying:

Amazon.com is stripping the sales rank feature off of books about sexuality – this includes LGBITQ books, feminist books, and as I’ve discovered, even general sexual health books. The books are being removed from top sales lists, so if you were to look at the most popular books right now and one of them happened to be a bestseller about sexuality, it won’t show up.

A couple of blogs are covering the story better than I ever could; check Jezebel & UnCooler than Thou, as well as LiveJournal community Meta Writer. Keep an eye on others; Feministing will have something to say shortly.

You can still find the books of interest; they’re not stopping sales. But what seems to be happening is, you have to know the exact title or author instead of being able to browse a topic.

Without a sales rank feature, this change in Amazon’s policy is resulting in some pretty disturbing search results. I’m quoting Jezebel here:

Update 3: Commenter Gertymac points out that due to the removal of sales rankings, the first title that pops up when one searches “homosexuality” on Amazon is the aforementioned A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Also in the top 10 when one searches for “homosexuality:” Coming Out Of Sexuality: New Freedom For Men And Women, Can Homosexuality Be Healed?, and When Homosexuality Hits Home: What To Do When A Loved One Says They’re Gay, which carries this description: “The heart–wrenching declaration that a loved one is a homosexual is increasingly being heard in Christian households across America. How can this be? What went wrong? Is there a cure?” Yikes.

What… what?

It makes me wonder very much what the search results looked like before a few days ago, when you looked for “Pornography.” I see what it looks like now – did anybody take screen caps of the search results a few days ago? I’m curious to see if it changed. I don’t see one of the titles about the legal issues & censorship appearing that I was thinking of getting.
…And there you are then. I was wanting to get one of the books about censorship, legal issues & porn and now I’m … probably not going to find it this way now am I. Because now of course I’m remembering that such a book existed and I cannot for the life of me remember the title or author.

It just happened again; I did a search for a book I know I own. I looked for The Science Fiction of Sex. Tell me now, do you see this book listed on the search page? Do I have to be THAT specific now? The title is too long to be practical to remember every word unless maybe you absolutely LOVE the book (Which, I don’t. I don’t love this book. It’s very cerebral.)

I have some of the books on these lists. I have blacklisted books. What? Check it out – click the link & then scan the page or do a search for “Sales” or “Sales Rank” & you won’t find something that does appear on the page description for something more “Wholesome,” something more Family Friendly such as EragonSales Rank. Check it out, Sales Rank appears for Eragon but not these books now. As of today, Eragon ranks #3,079 but the others… well look for yourself.

Let’s try some of the titles I’m most familiar with… ones that I either already own, or plan to own shortly. These seem relevant to my interests:

Sex guides such as  The Ultimate Guide to Sex & Disability and Anne Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex is getting the purge treatment. Sexual health books including The V Book are getting the purge treatment. WTF. THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE & MOST USEFUL BOOKS all caps. I use this book all the time! For Women Only, put out by the Berman Center, lost its sales rank feature. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn is getting this treatment. Yes Means Yes and other feminist works are getting blacklisted. For example, Jane Sexes it Up is getting this treatment. (This is the anthology that has the vulvodynia essay in it.)

Dr. Goldstein’s Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding your Lost Libido (something on my “I want it” list) has been de-ranked as well – now that may be because the hardcover version went out of print and the new paperback version isn’t available yet so maybe we can forgive that for the time being? I don’t know?

So far bell hooks has escaped the great purge. So too has The Feminine Mystique, but not My Secret Garden.

Interestingly, the BabeLand Sex Toy Book is getting purged, but not the actual Sex Toys themselves (note the sales rank feature is appearing in “Health & Personal Care.”) More of the same.

Are you familiar with these titles? Are you noticing a trend here? Are you noticing a theme?
What is going on? Is sex still THAT much of a taboo subject? It’s still that completely powerful & scary that you have to protect your own customers from it? Especially when it becomes more explicit or leaves the path of mainstream?

This is pretty upsetting – I bought a lot of my sexuality & feminist books from Amazon. It’s almost always cheaper for me to order the books online than it is for me to buy them in-store, unless I have a coupon. I once price compared the same 5 titles I wanted from BabeLand & Amazon & bought the bundle from Amazon for a net savings of $20 after shipping.

But now I think I am going to need to reconsider which store I patronize with my $.

Amazon, you need to go back & fix this. What are you doing? You are going to get so much flak. You survived the great recession of 2k9 so far, are you really willing to risk alienating a big chunk of your consumer base now? Like, I really don’t understnad what the logic is behind this move. Like I really don’t get it. Don’t you remember when LiveJournal similarily started censoring some interests from search results & the top interests list? The member base raised hell about it! It wasn’t that long ago.

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