Yesterday I clicked on a link to a post by journalist-broadcaster Natalie Davis, attracted by the word book-burning in the post’s title. From her truculent writings it appears that on Amazon.com, three days ago, and very mysteriously, the sales rankings vanished from two newly-released gay romance books. The next day hundreds of gay books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including Davis’ own book called The Filly, and of course lots of people contacted Amazon questioning why all of this was happening. Customer service however came up with evasive replies, but as Davis is a publisher she had a special account through which she could contact the Amazon staff more directly. She received following answer:
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.
It seems that out of a top 100 of these gay novels almost all the books were purged, but – as claims Davis – none of these novels contain explicit erotica. The only “sex scene” in the book called The Well of Loneliness would in fact consist of, in its entirety, the words And that night they were not divided. If Amazon wants to uphold the adult argument, it must of course explain why titles such as Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women), Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love (explicit heterosexual romance) or Alan Moore’s Lost Girls (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)are still listed.
A wave of online protest arose as became clear that another (not too innocent) book on homosexuality A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, also available through Amazon was not de-ranked. The feedback page of this book is currently being tag bombed with accurate and often hilarious notions like pseudo-science, pathetic, waste of a good tree, a load of dingos kidneys, hateful divisive political rhetoric, humanityfail, more right-wing nonsense, moronic, unbridled buffoonery in the realm of hate and how did this get published.
The move of Amazon has also raised the ire of heterosexuals, including Kassia Krozser, who wrote an open letter to the online retailer:
Somehow, the brain trust of your company has decided to protect the “entire” Amazon customer base by restricting access to content that someone (who?) decided was offensive. In your zeal to protect me from myself, of course, you managed to leave content that I find singularly repulsive online (really, exploring the human condition is bad, but Mein Kampf is just fine?). As a heterosexual, happily married adult female, I am deeply offended by this decision. As a customer, I am angered enough to take my business elsewhere, and I’d like a refund on my Kindle since, despite reports that your database sweep was not complete, you have decided to limit my ability to purchase books — from literary classics like Lady Chatterley’s Lover to newesque titles like Tipping The Velvet and Running With Scissors.
My thoughts on these newsfacts: this is a piece of contemporary censorship which proves that books are still mighty powerfull objects, and that some of them are potentially dangerous – at least in the minds of the mistrustful powers that be. In her post Natalie Davis hopes Amazon will come to its senses sooner rather than later. We can only hope that it indeed has something to do with mental sanity, because unfortunately censorship is mostly tied to an agenda; and often to a lot of money too.