Amazon Fail: The Online Giant Censors Content?

Apropos of my interview with Ted Striphas, I want to discuss the weekend's news that Amazon is/was censoring books with "questionable" content–"questionable" in this case being defined as homosexual behavior. It's not completely clear what was happening, but it is arguable that this represented an effort to censor books.

The known facts are that many books that have little to do with each other–besides dealing with gay and lesbian issues–were suddenly "delisted" over the weekend. Many of these books were literary in nature: e.g. Giovanni's Room and Brokeback Mountain. Others were serious nonfiction (e.g. Unfriendly Fire, about banning homosexuals from the military). What happened was that Amazon effectively ostracized them by zapping their sales rank, making them very difficult to find by a browse or a search. The equivalent of sticking these books in a back room with a curtain in front of it.

After this topic burned up Twitter over the weekend (see #amazonfail) Bezos's boys are now claiming that it was all a big misunderstanding:

A groundswell of outrage, concern and confusion sprang up over the weekend, largely via Twitter, in response to what authors and others believed was a decision by Amazon to remove adult titles from its sales ranking. On Sunday evening, however, an Amazon spokesperson said that a glitch had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process of being fixed. The spokesperson added that there was no new adult policy.

Maybe, although it's that's questionable. Amazon's explanation doesn't exactly square with the email author Mark Probst received from Amazon after noticing that his book was delisted:

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.

This could just be the good old corporate brush-off, or it could be evidence that Amazon considered homosexually themed books worthy of being censored.

Needless to say, the rapidity with which Amazon about-faced on this is encouraging–clearly they'll do what their consumers say. But it does raise questions about giving so much power to just one bookstore, especially when Striphas's analysis indicates that future contenders are going to have a tough time knocking Amazon off its perch.



Recent Posts




Criticism Isn't Free


CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.





Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.