Sunday, April 12, 2009

The dangers of "adult" classification.

Amazon.com has recently adopted a baffling, backwards new policy:
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.
[Source: http://markprobst.livejournal.com]

Just how the hell does that work?
...Basically, any title that Amazon consider "adult" will no longer be included in the "Best Sellers" lists – or ranked at all. These titles will not show up on all searches, even when the exact title of the book is entered. Who decides what books are "adult"? That’s not at all clear. But whoever’s making the choices is casting the net far and wide, and hauling in an awful lot of GLBT books...
[Source: http://www.dailykos.com]
A comment to the article about this issue on the SeattlePi site says:
It's not that the books are no longer listed. If you search for a book by title or author, you will still be able to find it.

Rather, it's that those of us with books that have been deranked no longer have our books in the bestselling book ranks, where they appeared before (and would still appear, as that is based on our sales) nor listing under the subject headings in lists for our subjects/genres.

So, unless someone is coming unto Amazon and looking for our book by title or author, they are unlikely to find it. That's a huge issue for authors -- especially those of us who are marginal in some way to begin with -- as often consumers browse those lists to find our books.


Here is a disturbing example of the results for searching homosexuality on Amazon:
This is what currently happens when you search for "homosexuality" on Amazon.
(view full-size)


Who the hell gets to be in charge of defining exactly what is considered to be "Adult," anyway?

It seems that a lot of books with homosexual themes, or authors, are falling into the "Adult" category, even ones that don't contain any explicit sexual content. However, many books featuring graphic heterosexual content still get to keep their sales rank. But that pattern is not consistent; it doesn't follow any apparent logic. Maybe it IS a bias, or maybe it's a faulty automated system.

The L.A. Times blog compares title lists:
Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs; "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" by Alison Bechdel, "The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1" by Michel Foucault, "Bastard Out of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), "Little Birds: Erotica" by Anais Nin, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and "Becoming a Man" by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

Books that remain ranked include: "Naked" by David Sedaris; "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller; "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis; "Wifey" by Judy Blume; "The Kiss" by Kathryn Harrison; the photobooks "Playboy: Helmut Newton" and "Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds"; "Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs; "Incest: From 'A Journal of Love'" by Anais Nin; "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition).

Certianly many of the books that are no longer ranked are no more "adult" than many of those that are...
[source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/]

Here's another reason why this new policy doesn't make any sense:
This sounds like a big old bowl of BS, does it not? Especially when you consider the fact that Amazon has vibrators, clitoral stimulators and anal plugs available in their search system with sales ranks attached. One wonders why these items are allowed to remain in the system with sales ranks while books including gay and lesbian content, themes, and even, as a commenter points out, autobiographies of gay and lesbian authors such as Stephen Fry, are deemed too "adult" for such things.
[Source: http://jezebel.com/]

Regardless of WHAT Amazon is marking as "Adult" -- why the hell does it feel the need to implement a system to "protect" its customers in the first place? It's a thinly-veiled way of censoring certain content or products, and censorship is one of THE worst assaults to human freedom, ever. I'm against the exclusion of ANY book from search or availability, even titles I don't agree with, like Mein Kampf, or BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!!

One thing's certain; Amazon will definitely be "protecting" itself from lots of its customers' money (including mine).

Are online petitions worth it? Maybe, maybe not. If you are so inclined, there is one you can sign here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

Ultimately, the best way to show your dissatisfaction is to boycott. I won't be spending a fucking dime there unless they fully eliminate their policy of censoring content.

Suck a fat one, Amazon.com!

Sources:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/
http://blog.seattlepi.com/amazon/archives/166259.asp
http://markprobst.livejournal.com/15293.html
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/4/12/719278/-Amazons-New-Moralityfor-your-protection
http://jezebel.com/5209088/why-is-amazon-removing-the-sales-rankings-from-gay-lesbian-books
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

1 comment:

Arahan Claveau said...

I signed the petition you sent me. It is very worrying if more companies follow suit, and so hypocritical of Amazon.