UPDATED: LGBT books stripped of Amazon.com sales ranks due to "glitch"

Chicago (IL) – Hundreds of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) book titles on Amazon.com’s online store had their sales rankings removed by what Amazon is calling a computer glitch. Their system deemed many LGBT books to be “adult” books which, under a new Amazon online policy, do not have their sales rankings displayed. However, subsequent findings suggest while it may be a glitch, it is targeted specifically at LGBT materials, and does not relate to “adult” categories at all.

The original publisher of the glitch, Mark R. Probst, observed “the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay roman books: Transgressions by Erastes and False Colors by Alex Beecroft”. He noticed that on the next day, hundreds of sales rankings had been lost, including his own book entitled The Filly. Even such classics as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room did not have their sales ranking information shown. This prompted Probst to contact Amazon.com.

In an email response, “Ashyln D” of Member Services confirmed that there was a glitch and that it related to content deemed to be “adult material”. She writes, “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 did not buy this response because he has identified adult content by Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins, for example, which is still being ranked, as is this Playboy Centerfolds Collection (Amazon.com Sales Rank: #23,769 in Books). In addition, as the author of his book, The Filly, he knows it is classified as Young Adult, which is not related in any way to the “adult” genre, but is for teenagers. Its only possible connotation is that it is a book containing homosexual content.

As a result, he’s concluded that the website is targeting all LGBT material, and subsequently removing their sales ranking regardless of whether or not they actually contain adult content in the traditional sense.

And since the original posting on April 12, Publisher’s Weekly picked up the story and has an Amazon spokesman admitting such a glitch exists, though they deny there it is the result of a new adult policy. Probst also points to this blog which has a similar story.

In short, it appears Amazon.com is flagging LGBT content, removing it from their internal sales ranking system so it will not appear on searches.

See Mark Probst’s Live Journal.

UPDATED:  April 13, 2009 – 11:21am CDT
It was observed by TG Daily that the sales rankings are now back. Mark Probst’s book, The Filly, has the following information shown on its Amazon.com product page.