Amazon fail

Wow, have you heard the recent ruckus about Amazon? Apparently they are doing a little censoring by controlling search results on homosexuality-related books. The books are no longer showing up on best seller lists, etc. They claim they are delisting all “adult” titles, but this doesn’t seem to apply across the board. The Examiner has an article about this ridiculousness. Out of curiosity, I just dropped over there and did a search for “homosexuality” and strangely enough, the majority of items returned are about how not to be gay, or how not to have a gay child, or books about what the Bible says about homosexuality. That seems a bit shady and one sided. I imagine there is more to the story, and I intend to find out, but if this is truly going to be their practice going forward, I am more than happy to conduct all future internet book purchases through a different company.

UPDATE MONDAY AM: Amazon is blaming this all on a “glitch.” Is that the full story? I guess we’ll have to see, but author Craig Seymour has a different story. He wrote a memoir about his time as a stripper in gay-oriented DC clubs, and Amazon stripped his book of rankings back in February and told him it was because it was “adult” material, but he found books by Jenna Jameson and Diablo Cody’s memoir still listed. It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. 

I do feel strongly about how this relates directly to YA lit. Some young adults are fortunate enough to grow up in open-minded, supportive environments, but many other teens find themselves feeling alone in their community as they grapple with an aspect of their personality that makes them feel different from everyone else. This could be their sexuality, their interest in a particular religion, a genre of literature or movies, an interest in the arts, a profession, or even just a different way of life. When one feels alone, books can often be what helps someone feel less alone. If you live in an area that might not be very supportive of your interest, you might not be able to depend on your local library or book store to carry information on that subject, and that is where a site such as Amazon can be so helpful. While it doesn’t sound like Amazon has any intention to actually stop carrying these “adult” materials (money does talk, after all) if they make it more difficult to find a book like Boy Meets Boy, Annie On My Mind, or a Julie Anne Peters title, they are doing a disservice to potential customers. 

I was fortunate to see Julie Anne Peters at the YALSA YA Lit Symposium this past November. She mainly just read letters she had received from fans of her work, and I would be surprised if I was to learn there was a dry eye in the room. She has received so many letters from readers who read one of her books and felt like they were finally thrown a lifeline, or they finally found a supportive friend, or even felt like they read their own story. The loneliness and sadness some of these letters carried was heartbreaking, and it gives one a new appreciation for writers that tell stories that speak to readers, no matter what the subject matter.

If Amazon does plan to make it just a little more difficult to find the materials that meet these readers needs, they are going to lose customers. Speaking for myself, I buy a lot of materials from Amazon both for myself and for my school library, which may not equal hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it does equal a decent chunk of cash, and I am happy to funnel it elsewhere. I’ll keep watching for updates to this story.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Amazon fail

  1. Ben

    I’m not familiar with the titles you mentioned, but I have noticed that many YA books with gay themes merely hint at them on the covers, and I’m actually not sure if it’s a marketing thing–well, wait. I’m sure it is. But what I mean to say is that kids may be more likely to pick up a book that doesn’t specifically announce its themes even if they suspect/hope that specific theme is there….because they don’t want anyone to know they have a “gay” book. I’ve also just observed, since we’ve been reading Anne Frank in class, that homosexuals form the only group that the teenagers in my sphere still feel is okay to put in gas chambers….or at least feel it’s okay to joke about it being okay to put in gas chambers. Maybe a contributing factor are these Amazonian marketing decisions?

    On the other side of the coin, though, I’ve been trying to support my local record store, but they’ve not been to come through on placing orders for me, so where do I keep turning? Amazon. I need to hurry up and get everything I want before the world becomes one big Store that will only sell me what they want me to have.

  2. dogearedandwellread

    Ben, I think you are right about the covers not screaming “gay” being by choice and being for a good reason.

    Weirdly, in the school I work in, the negativity still seems to be focused on people of different ethnicities, with some of it being in general and some of it focused on whether people are here legally. I don’t know if that is due to homosexuality being more acceptable to them, or if racial issues are just bigger. Ugh.

  3. Jen

    This is the first I’m hearing about this–how crazy! I have to check out those articles you referenced. I totally agree though, if that’s the direction Amazon maintains, they’ll definitely lose a lot of business!

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