Monday, 13 April 2009

This is really curious...

This is unconnected to MNW but I got this rather curious post on another listserve called "Desilitt", which I have joined. I am tempted to share this with all of you, since Amazon and ranking etc does concern us.

How authentic is this?

Friends,
Today I learned that Amazon.com has a new policy that excludes books withgay/lesbian content from bestseller lists, rankings, category-sharing, somesearches, and other features.
My book has been affected, along with more than 22,000 others, includingtitles by James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, MichelFoucault, Cokie Roberts (!), Jeanette Winterson, Susan Griffin, and manymany more.
Here's a fuller explanation of how Amazon has created second-class statusfor our books, as well as information on how to take action:
http://www.minalhajratwala.com/blog
I've included information about how to contact customer service, sign anonline petition, etc. Amazon seems to be changing things rapidly in responseto a massive email/twitter firestorm, so I'll try to keep the blog updatedwith new developments.If you're curious about whether a particular book has been targeted, here'show to tell as of 4/12/09:-Search for the page for the book on Amazon.com-Scroll down to "Product Details" and look for the "Amazon.com Sales Rank"number. If you know that the book has sold at least one copy on Amazon.combut you can't find a sales rank, it has been de-ranked.
If you are involved with a group that cares about books, rights, etc.,please encourage your organization to take a public stand on this issue.
Please also feel free to forward the links and spread the word about thisnoxious policy. I am saddened and angered by the fact that, in 2009, such anobviously discriminatory action can be taken by the largest bookseller inthe United States.
Sincerely,Minal

I am pretty astonished.

8 comments:

Tim Stretton said...

Suroopa, this doesn't look to be true to me.

The most high profile example on the list, Jeanette Winterson, has a sales ranking in both the UK and the US (and quite a high one at that).

Looks like urban myth/Amazon paranoia to me.

My self-published books have no Amazon sales ranking; but I've taken it on the chin that it's because no-one buys them!

Frances said...

I suppose this wasn't an April, fool was it? If not, quite appalling.

Len Tyler said...

My immediate reaction was that this must be a hoax, but checking Amazon.com neither "Oranges are the Only Fruit" nor "The Well of Loneliness" (to take two examples) appear to have rankings. "Sexing the Cherry", however, does have a ranking, as do most of Jeanette W's other books. Armistead Maupin also seems to have rankings for his books. So possibly rankings are being restored?

Aliya Whiteley said...

The ranking for Light Reading disappeared over the weekend and then returned. I thought it was just a glitch.

Eliza Graham said...

No hoax, apparently, but an internal glitch at Amazon.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6651080.html?desc=topstory

Ryan David Jahn said...

Here's another link from the LA Times.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/04/amazon-deranks-gayfriendly-books-the-twitterverse-notices.html

Neil said...

And a more explanatory one:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/04/14/guest-post-why-amazon-didnt-just-have-a-glitch/

Nice.

David Isaak said...

Amazon's algorithms are uniformly lousy and contain many built-in assumptions.

Take a look at how their "Advanced Search" works, for example. If you type in a title--in the title field, mnd you, not as a keyword--it seems like the first thing that would appear in the list of results would be a book with exactly that title. Right?

Wrong. For example, the other day I was searching for a copy of the nonfiction book "Crying". What was the first book that showed in the results? "The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer."

The book "Crying itself was #39 in the list.

They won't explain how their 'relevance' algorithm works, but it has a great deal to do with how well the books sell. They are not trying to find the book you requested, they are trying to expose you to things you might buyor that they are pushing for some reason.

It doesn't surprise me that they are mucking about with rankings in obscure ways, too. This one is particularly obnoxious, but I'd lay moeny there is other hanky-panky that remains undiscovered.