Monday, April 13, 2009


Image by John Coulthart

The Twitter and blog world is abuzz with news of Amazon's removal of rankings to books with "adult" themes, including books with gay and lesbian themes but also books such as "The Joy of Sex." The ranking system does not mean that books are unavailable but that they do not show up in a search for bestsellers. MetaWriter includes a comprehensive list of the books affected.

A question from self-published author Mark R. Probst, who noticed that his book had lost its ranking elicited 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.

Amazon has since identified the problem as a "glitch" and is working to reinstate books that have been removed. Simon Bisson, blogging at Technology, Books, and Other Neat Stuff explains why it might be a nightmare for Amazon to fix.

In the latest news, a hacker is claiming responsibility for the removal of the tags, according to "Why It Makes Sense That a Hacker's Behind Amazon's Big Gay Outrage," an online article on ValleyWag. If this is indeed true, a few lines of code have created an incredible stir. According to the article, another programmer has debunked the myth.

In the meantime, questions are being raised about the consequences of having such a huge company have within its power the ability to decide which books should be ranked and which are deemed somehow dangerous to society.

It will be interesting to see how this drama unfolds.

Links to the buzz:

#amazonfail on Twitter
IT World
LA Times
Publisher's Weekly who writes an open letter to Amazon
Entertainment Weekly News Briefs, a collection of links
John Coultart who provides an interesting timeline to date

While the world waits to see the outcome of this drama, why not take the "Banned Book Challenge" with the Pelham Public Library. The challenge runs until June 30.

No comments: