[YET ANOTHER UPDATE: See below] Ok, the Twitterverse and LGBT blogosphere are in an absolute snit over a recent change at Amazon.com classifying most LGBT fiction as "adult content" thereby excluding the material from sales rankings, etc.
Worst yet, when author Mark Probst wrote Amazon about the policy change, he supposedly received the following response from Ashlyn D in Amazon.com Advantage 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."
This is a pretty major transgression against the LGBT community. I have an author friend who just released a work of gay fiction earlier this month, and this new policy could seriously jeopardize the sales and success of his book. The LGBT community should immediately band together and boycott Amazon. Take action! Spread the word!
Hold. Your. Horses.
As of 10:30pm PST as I write this on Sunday evening, Amazon has issued a statement to Publishers Weekly claiming that this so-called policy change is a glitch and will be corrected. News may change by the time you read this, but that's where it stands tonight. Keep in mind that it is a Sunday night after 10pm on a holiday weekend. I doubt very few-high level Amazon officials are working this evening, so it is a tad unrealistic to expect more of a response from Amazon until tomorrow (believe it or not, this can wait until Monday- the world won't end in the meantime).
Now up until now Amazon has been a LGBT-friendly company. They have a non-discrimination clause that includes sexual orientation. They have carried LGBT-material since as long as I can remember, and I've been visiting Amazon.com for a long time (I can remember when they only sold books and had quite a different logo than today). They've even had Gay Pride Month features (at least I've seen them on my "customized for me" Amazon page).
So was the policy change a glitch? Oh, I doubt that, but that's typical corporate-speak. Most likely some lesser-VP or mid-level director made a bad decision that wasn't in line with the company's policy of non-discrimination. The Member Services representative was just regurgitating what she had been told. Will Amazon fess up to that? Most likely not. Corporations (both gay-friendly and not) don't like to admit stuff like that publicly as it might shake investor confidence. They'll continue to call it a glitch.
The more important thing is to watch and see how Amazon does correct things. Do they follow through and treat LGBT literature and products the same as any other product? If so, then it most likely was a change made against the larger company's wishes (regardless of how exactly it happened). It would be wrong to crucify Amazon over it.
HOWEVER, if Amazon does not change course and correct things promptly, then we do have a problem. In that case I will be the loudest advocate for boycotting Amazon until their policies change. A company that invokes such a anti-gay policy must be prepared to pay the price.
The thing about this that bothers me the most is how many people seemed to fly off the handle about this. Instead of taking a calm, measured approach, we as a community instantly played victim. People all across the Internet were treating Amazon as if they just signed Anita Bryant as spokesperson and appointed Dr. James Dobson to their Board of Directors. I really don't think that helps the LGBT community any. When we turn so quickly on a former friend before giving them a reasonable chance to respond, we look like a bunch of whiny hotheads. I think we teach people to avoid us altogether rather than risk our wrath should they make any misstep at all. Shouldn't we be willing to work with our friends and allies to help them see when a mistake is made and give them a chance to correct it rather than instantly damning them for it?
Just my 2¢, I know not everyone will agree, and I'm sure that they'll be plenty of people ready to boycott me over this.
(And no, I don't work for Amazon nor do I know anyone who does. I don't own Amazon stock. I have no interest in the company other than being an occasional customer.)
UPDATE: Amazon issued the following statement today:
"This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.
It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.
Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."
As you can see, they are outlining that yes, the "glitch" was in fact human error.
UPDATE 2: A blogger is claiming responsibility for getting the LGBT books flagged as inappropriate on Amazon. Read the story on CNET News.com here.
UPDATE 3: An Amazon employee is giving a behind-the-scenes account of what happened. It doesn't necessarily coincide with the blogger's claim, but it also makes the case for what happened being unintentional.