An absolute epic fail from Amazon

April 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm (Caroline S, censorship, Feminism, Free Speech, LGBT, Pornography)

Image found at CRAIG’S POP LIFE.

Via Audacia Ray (on Twitter): Amazon US have removed the sales ranking from “adult material”. Adult? Why, sexuality, lesbian, gay, transgender, feminist and, um, other smutty porn books, of course.
The sales rank, as you can see from the picture, on the left is under ‘Product Details’ at the bottom of the list. On the left is the product details of Kitchener’s Last Volunteer (I picked that just because it’s top of my wishlist). Below right is the product details of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, a title I got from Helen G. Note the missing “sales rank”.Heather Corinna (on her Amazon blog) explains:

In other words, it [her book] is no longer listed in the sales ranks with other books of its subject or genre, no matter how good my sales are, or if my sales are above others who are currently listed. As well, my book, as is the case with many others, is not currently listed anymore in the subject heading appropriate to it. That deranking can massively impact us as authors, and also can impact consumers, particularly those who are trying to seek out material on a subject broadly without knowing what books are available by title or author. And with books that serve any sort of marginalized population or subject matter, finding them offline is often tough. Deranking books like mine further marginalizes the already marginalized.

(See also this article for more information on Amazon sales ranking, thanks to Dacia for sending me the link).

Here’s a list of some of the books from Meta Writer and another list from Jezebel affected by this. Up there at the top, I see Brokeback Mountain, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Well of Loneliness have had the treatment. Jesus. This is scary – what is happening here is actually incredibly disturbing. To be honest, I’m still absolutely stunned.

So what can we do? Craig Seymour, who has been on this from the start, has a round up. Smart Bitches proposes Google Bombing – “As always, fuckwittery should not go unrewarded”:

All you have to do is link to the page using these words: Amazon Rank. The more you do it, the higher up in rank the page will go, and the more successful it will be. One would hope.

The goal: that “Amazon Rank” points to the definition that underscores’s shortminded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public.

Also, there is an online petition you can sign, a call to boycott Amazon, fill out their customer complaint form, ring them or you could email them – here’s an example of what someone wrote to them. Finally, keep an eye on what’s being said on Twitter by searching for #amazonfail.

This is very reminiscent of Google’s indexing, which makes it all the more disturbing. It’s like the internet’s being “cleaned up” by the damn Christian Right.

Edited to add: Don’t you just love how Mein Kampf keeps its rank? Hell, Adolf fucking Hitler’s books fine, that Winterson woman though? She dangerous.

Also, via a commenter at Jezebel‘s:

Wanna hear something that will really make your day? Now because of this who sales rank thing when you search for Homosexuality in the Amazon search engine guess what is the first book that pops up? A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality!

It’s true, for both US and UK Amazon (click to enlarge).

Cross-posted at Sex In The Public Square and Uncooler Than Thou.


  1. twoseventwo said,

    I really wish that people would realise that the most likely explanation for something like this is usually a technical problem and that vast anger, conspiracy theories and calls for boycotts should begin only once that has been ruled out.

    In this case, Amazon say it is one and also that they’re fixing it. Perhaps the former is a lie, but I tend to doubt it (I find it very hard to believe they’d do something so boneheaded on purpose) and in any case they’re clearly not going to continue with it.

  2. Caroline said,

    “Technical problems” don’t usually lost months.

  3. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Especially not on major commercial websites.

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