Amazon reported that the de-ranking of several gay- and lesbian-themed books by Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and other writers was due to a glitch currently being fixed. Amazon has generated massive amounts of publicity, along with a little controversy, over the past few months as it expands its offerings into new areas centered around its Kindle 2 eReader device.
claims a "glitch" in its system stripped the sales rank from several
gay- and lesbian-themed books over the weekend of April 11, including tomes by
James Baldwin and Gore Vidal.
Books affected included Vidal's "The City and the Pillar" and
Jeanette Winterson's "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit," according to
the Associated Press. Another report stated that "Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography"
was also unranked.
"There was a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed," Patty
Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon, said in an e-mail on
April 13, as reported by the Associated Press.
Many users on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, however,
seemed to remain unconvinced.
"I smell backtracking," one user wrote on Twitter.
"Glitch or not, I'm done buying from Amazon until there is some kind of
apology," said another.
Writer and publisher Mark Probst posted in his blog on April 12 that he had
written to Amazon, asking about the disappeared sales rankings, and received a
response back from one "Ashlyn D, Member Services, Amazon.com
According to Probst, "Ashlyn D" wrote in an e-mail:
"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."
Probst's blog posting soon led to angry eruptions on Facebook and Twitter,
as users accused Amazon of bias. Amazon responded quickly that the whole
"incident" had its root in a glitch.
As of noon on April 13, rankings
for Vidal's book and a few others had been restored.
Amazon has been generating large amounts of news over the past few months.
On Feb. 9, Amazon
launched its Kindle 2 electronic reader, designed to give the company a
major share of the rapidly growing electronic book market, in a highly
publicized event that featured a product rollout by Jeff Bezos and a reading by
Nearly a month later, on March 4, Amazon attempted to expand the market for
its proprietary e-books with a Kindle
App for the iPhone.
In the days following the launch, however, Amazon also attracted some
controversy over the device, starting with the Author's
Guild complaining that the Kindle 2's text-to-speech reader could
potentially harm writers' royalties of audiobooks. Amazon responded by
disabling the feature.
To counter Amazon's growing electronic-reader influence, Google
and Sony announced a partnership where Google would make its free
public-domain e-books available through the Sony Reader. That move increased
Sony's eLibrary to 600,000 volumes versus Amazon's Kindle e-book library of
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.