Monday, April 13, 2009

Re: It's premature to blame Amazon

From Information Week

"But it's premature to blame Amazon or boycott them. Let's hear what Amazon has to say before getting out the flaming torches and pitchforks."

Yes, let's hear what Amazon has to say, like Craig Seymour has been repeatedly asking since February 2nd. Because, golly, nobody thought of doing that.

Lets see what Amazon has to say, well they said: "Upon following up the issue with our Technical staff, the sales rank was not displayed for the following reasons: The ISBN [redacted] was classified as an Adult product" and "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" and "The reason that these books aren’t appearing with sales rank is due to their classification as erotica. It is an Amazon policy that adult ASINS are to be filtered from product group sales ranks."

That is what they said. How could it be any plainer? It is also very clear that reranked books had gay and lesbian or erotica in their category metadata. And support email to multiple separate customers specified deranking was due to "adult" content.

"Indeed, an Amazon spokeswoman said late Sunday that the change was a "glitch" in their software, they're fixing it, and they're still trying to figure out what's going on. Even in text, she sounded tired."

Oh poor baby. A policy they enacted months ago and rolled out on a holiday weekend upset people and they were mean to her. How terrible. But the Amazon spokeswoman doesn't know what is going on with the company she represents isn't that her fucking problem? Perhaps she could get the gals at Dear Author and Absolute Write to explain it to her?

"My prediction: By the end of the day Monday, we'll find out this is, indeed, a software glitch. Or maybe some bigoted middle manager got too big for his britches. I am confident that this is not a reflection of Amazon policy."

My prediction: Amazon flew a kite and found the weather stormy. They will, as they always do when this occurs, pull it in and call it all a big mistake.

Being confident that discrimination and puritanism is not Amazon's policy is, however, jumping to a conclusion that is both unsupported, self-serving and naive. It is discrimination by proxy and smacks of calling authors (especially authors of so called "adult" material) hysterical, uneducated and mean girls. A leap in either direction is a leap of faith--but those paying attention know which assumption is better supported by the evidence.

Those at Information Week may have their own reasons for identifying with Amazon's approach. After all, to even comment on a blog post at Information Week you are required to give them your full name, mailing address, workplace (name, industry and number of employees), job position and telephone number. Because I should just assume they won't make any use of that unwarranted disclosure of information.

Unless of course they have a "glitch".


Anonymous said...

Here via Twitter. This is a *fantastic* post and I'm really impressed, particularly with how you've highlighted IW's implicit accusation of affected authors (and readers) as hysterical, &c.

Thank you for this!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that this was deliberate. But the folks at Amazon must be mondo-stupid to have ever thought something like this would go over well. What were(are) they smoking?

This is a PR fail on the level of New Coke. Maybe even worse than New Coke, since it blended idiocy with bigotry.

kirsten saell said...

The very fact that this went down over a long weekend when people are spending time with family and less likely to be online is incriminating in itself. Fewer people online to notice, and the perfect excuse for why they can't fix it right away. "Sorry, guys, we're busy eating turkey and chocolate bunnies--we'll get on it first thing Tuesday. Don't worry, it's probably just a very specific, uncannily discriminatory glitch. Honest."

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not a "mean girl" but I'm one disappointed customer. Isn't it nice to know how a glitch can only affect a certain genre? Pious patrons must be so grateful. Nothing like living in a world sterilized of the simple pleasures of living.