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April 14, 2009


This morning, I received the following email from Amazon. It was in response to my signing the letter at change.org protesting their new and discriminatory reclassification policy.


This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

In my posting yesterday, I said that I hoped this whole thing was an unintentional glitch in their system or, if not, that it was orchestrated by a small, right-wing faction within Amazon without the knowledge of the company's top leadership.

Today, I think it's a little of both. I doubt that the top echelon of Amazon would be stupid enough to even consider jeopardizing the worldwide reputation and good will they've built-up over the years with the GLBT community just to placate a few religious zealots in this country. I think they were caught off-guard and offered that email explanation because they didn't want to admit that something like this could happen in their company.

I do, however, still believe that it very well could have been a small group of religious zealots who were in a position to pull this off and just couldn't resist. As we all know by now, these people aren't playing with a full deck and could easily have deluded themselves into thinking they were smart enough.

My skepticism with Amazon's official explanation seems to be shared by others as well. In a NY Times article, Daniel Mendelsohn, an author whose memoir “The Elusive Embrace” lost its sales ranking over the weekend, said:

“There are mistakes and there are mistakes. At some point in this process, which I don’t understand because I’m not a computer genius, the words gay and lesbian were clearly flagged, as well as some kind of porno tag. I say, do I want my book in anyone’s mind to be equivalent to a porno? And the answer is no.”

In the same article, playwright, author and long-time gay activist, Larry Kramer was quoted as saying:

“I don’t think for one second that this was a glitch. We have to now keep a more diligent eye on Amazon and how they handle the world’s cultural heritage.”

I agree with Larry, from now on, we have to keep a very watchful eye on Amazon and other companies that offer GLBT books and/or merchandise as a part of their overall inventories.