One of the most powerful indicators of how a book is doing sales wise and can be a leading factor for generating or killing interest in a book. Though many factors go into the sales ranking system, the primary driving factor has been sales-number of books sold. Using that method, a shopper could look at similar titles within a genre and see which books were generating sales. The method however, now seems altered, in a manner that feels similar to the unsavory practice of banning books.
Amazon isn't actually no longer selling the books, of course, but it is delisting “adult” titles from the sales ranking system. Which would seem like a fine policy, if it were applied equally. But as an online petition points out the following publications remain on the sales ranking system:
-Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
--Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love" (explicit heterosexual romance);
--Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Wolf and the Dove (explicit heterosexual romance);
--Bertrice Smal's Skye o'Malley which are all explicit heterosexual romances
--and Alan Moore's Lost Girls (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)
while the following LGBT books have been removed:
--Radclyffe Hill's classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
--Mark R Probst's YA novel The Filly about a young man in the wild West discovering that he's gay (gay romance, no sex);
--Charlie Cochrane's Lessons in Love (gay romance with no sex);
--The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience, edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues);
--and Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone (non-fiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years).
Overall, the sales rank delisting may seem like a minor issue, but it can have a very serious impact for publishers and authors of lesser known works which depend on the sales ranking to get noticed and help spread the word. Amazon pulls unranked books from search results.
Amazon defends its position in a statement from Ashlyn D of Amazon.com Member Services
"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.”
So the question is, is Amazon hurting LGBT customers who enjoy and purchase even non adult LGBT themed work to prevent offending the rest of the customer base? If that's the case, Amazon may have some resistance to that policy, as grass roots efforts are taking shape to object directly to Amazon; like this press release from Erica Friedman of Yuricon & ALC Publishing:
Amazon De-ranks "Adult" Books?
This is not a crisis, nor should we run screaming, but I think it is important
enough that every reader, writer, publisher, editor and all champions of
freedom of expression should take note. Amazon has changed its policy and
has de-ranked books that it deems "adult" in nature. This includes anything
they count as erotica and many non-adult LGBT books, as well.
I do not advocate being outraged. Outrage accomplishes nothing. I *do* advocate
a polite, but firm letter campaign asking that Amazon allow sales to indicate
sales rank and nothing else. I distrust their definition of "adult" if it does not
include Twilight, but does include Annie on My Mind.
Please make a firm request that all books be ranked and that they do not involve
behavior that can be seen as censorship or "protection." Please feel free to
Digg this or forward it to MLs, forums, sites, etc. The more people who protest
politely, the more of an impact we can make.
You can contact the Amazon Executive customer service email at email@example.com, call the customer service phone number: 1-800-201-7575 or login to your Amazon account and visit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html?ie=UTF8&browse_node_id=468496
As a publisher of LGBT comics, as a reader of whatever I want to read,
as a member of the community of humans that prefers to think for myself, I ask
for your support against this misguided policy.
Yuricon & ALC Publishing
And the online petition mentioned earlier, sponsored by J Spencer, frames the question quite candidly:
Please tell us, Amazon, why the explicit books with a heterosexual focus are allowed to keep their sales ratings while the non-explicit romances, the histories and the biographies that deal with LGBTQ issues are not.
We would love to hear your reasoning.
How will Amazon react to the outrage caused by this misstep that appears to be online censorship?
edit: a list of some of the deranked books http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html
Also - http://community.livejournal.com/ontd_political/2799767.html