Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Censorship? Or purely bad business decision?

If you follow any writing community blogs including twitter, facebook or anywhere else you run into authors, you've probably heard about the new Amazon kerfuffle.

If you haven't, sit back and let me fill you in.

A few days ago book rankings started disappearing from books here and there on Amazon. A few would return, and then more would disappear. Searches by author name and/or book title wouldn't always return results, and things were generally very wonky. A few people began questioning Amazon and after some very vague answers from some poor customer service reps who had no idea what was happening, finally someone who had an advantage account received a reply:

(The following is reposted from Mark Probst's Live Journal Blog -

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.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services Advantage

So, basically Amazon has decided to protect all of us from ourselves? We can no longer be trusted to decide what we search on and what we look at? Huh? Not to mention that if I search for a particular author - they may not show up in my search results if Amazon deems them "adult" and therefore inappropriate for me to see even though I'm a consenting adult well over the age of consent?? Again, I say, Huh??

Amazingly, the list of what books are affected certainly aren't consistent across the board, in fact, someone pointed out that Penthouse and Playboy still had a rank when they looked earlier today. And I've read some Jackie Collins books that equal some of the erotic romances that have been stripped of rank, but Jackie still retains hers. Selective rank and search removal? Or just poor implementation of a poorly thought out policy?

Not to mention that from a business perspective, if readers can't search and find the books they are looking for, they will go elsewhere to buy. Not that Amazon has ever done huge sales numbers for individual authors (contrary to popular belief, most authors don't make most of their sales through Amazon), but you would think as a reseller that they would want people to be able to easily find their products and purchase them.

AND, if all of these "offensive" adult books are appearing on the best sellers lists so they can offend all of us (supposedly) then who is buying them to get them to appear there?? Hmmm, maybe the buying customers who will now take their business elsewhere? (Guess Amazon didn't think of that...oops!)

I know several authors, myself included are going to remove all links from our websites that go to until they reverse this really useless policy. If they don't want to help customers find our books, then we'll be glad to "help" them with the effectiveness of their own policy.

If any of you would like to let know how you feel about their new policy, this is their email addy:
Other ways to get in touch with them:

Or write to their CEO:
Jeffrey Bezos. The address is 1200 12th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98144-2734, United States Phone: 206-266-1000 Fax: 206-622-2405

Well, I'm off to remove some links and then sit down to write a very detailed letter of my own to Amazon.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out...



Desiree Holt said...

Raising my hand and saying That sucks! Does jeff Bezos think he is the king of teh world? I'm writing and emailing.

TinaGerow said...

Thanks Desiree. This has already hit the NYT and the LA Times. I think Amazon just bought themselves a whole lotta trouble...

There's a petition circulating to stop it, too.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

This morning, Amazon is saying it's a "glitch" that will be fixed.

Uh huh

Mechele Armstrong said...

I think they just started a firestorm. They are now saying "glitch." We shall see.

Mechele Armstrong said...

LOL Jennifer and I posted at the same time.

I fired my own note to Amazon this morning. The new policy is unacceptable if that's what it is. I asked them is this glitch or new policy? We'll see what they reply.

I hope they get inundated.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

Yesterday somebody posted phone numbers of the top five people at Amazon -- I'll bet they've already been swamped!

Karen McCullough said...

It's always easy to blame it on the hardware/software. But ultimately the computer only does what some human tells it to do.

TJ Michaels said...


TinaGerow said...

Yeah, I don't think anyone is buying the "glitch" explanation... Not a good pr move for Amazon.