Hundreds of LGBT book titles were stripped of their sales rank by Amazon.com over the weekend in what the online store is calling a "glitch." The books involved in the apparent snafu -- which included such classics as D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room -- were deemed "adult" by Amazon, which, due to an unexplained new adult policy, removes a title's sales rank. The problem was revealed by author Mark Probst.
After discovering that the sales rankings for two new high-profile LGBT books were missing, Probst noticed his book, The Filly, was also devoid of this information. Without the ranking, titles are more difficult to find using Amazon's search function, as bestselling and high-ranking titles are predominantly displayed. Probst complained to Amazon and received this reply: "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."
Since then, Amazon has informed various members of the press that the problem is a "glitch" and "it's being fixed."
Meanwhile, many people are outraged. Twitter has exploded with the hashtagged topic #amazonfail, which has served primarily as a soapbox for angered citizens who believe that this is not a mistake at all, but rather a homophobic approach to adult themes in LGBT literature. "Queerty" doesn't believe it was a glitch. "After Ellen" thinks indicates a broader homophobic vein in contemporary pop culture. A petition against Amazon and the company's new adult policy already has more than10,000 signatures and counting.
I don't believe Amazon would unfairly target the LGBT community and negatively impact the sales of literature containing potentially "risky" or "adult" themes. However, it's evident that the company's computer has tagged these books as containing said themes, and once wide-sweeping new policies are put into play, the LGBT community is directly targeted. For example, many risqué books with strong heterosexual pornographic contents were not affected by this glitch, leading many to believe a prejudicial bias exists.
This matter will not be solved until Amazon makes a public statement beyond blaming a glitch and apologizes to everyone for an error that may have permanently lost hundreds of customers.