Amazon Fail: Is Amazon Burying Sex or GLBT Books?

Earlier today I was getting ready to go for a run or hit the gym (I hadn’t yet decided) when all craziness broke out on Twitter. Audacia Ray and Rachel Kramer Bussell started twittering about how sales rank data had disappeared from their book listings on Amazon. This caught my attention, as I noticed that earlier this week, it suddenly became very difficult for me to even find my book, Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, on Amazon. While I used to be able to find it by searching using my last name “herbenick”, now when I did that all I saw was my mom’s cookbook, my uncle’s academic books and other non-sex books. Where had my book gone?

It turns out that Audacia Ray, Rachel and I were not the only ones whose sex-related books were buried in Amazon searches and stripped of visible sales ranking data. People started twittering that a large number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) related books had gone missing in usual searches, many also stripped of sales ranking data. Some worried that the efforts were targeted toward GLBT-related books; others cited examples of other sex-related books (like mine) that were not GLBT-focused but that were buried in search results too. You can read more about this on Twitter.

I have to say: until all this went down, I was still a little on the fence about twitter. But now I can see how people can use Twitter to quickly communicate about news and events and issues that are of interest to their communities. Word then spread quickly to the blogs such as Jezebel, Daily Kos, one by Heather Corinna, and Feministing, all of which are monitoring the issue. I read that Amazon is supposedly looking into the glitch after earlier messages suggesting that they were actively trying to keep what they considered to be “adult” titles out of ranked lists (of note to protesters was that books of a violent or otherwise graphic nature, or those that were very heterosexual, were still listed). My, how our culture still tends to be uncomfortable with – and in some instances, censorship-like – when it comes to sex.

Stay tuned for  more.

UPDATE (Monday):
Amazon says that they are fixing the glitch. Read more here.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • JH

    This is crap. Why censor information that people would be actively searching for? 1. You are denying information people seek and 2. Its’ a pretty bad business model.

  • JH

    This is crap. Why censor information that people would be actively searching for? 1. You are denying information people seek and 2. Its’ a pretty bad business model.

  • Leigh

    At one point it did appear that the limitations were only on GLBT books. That yours is there as well is – in a strange way – someone “more equal (?).” However, it is wrong of Amazon to limit information if people are looking for it. What’s the purpose of the limitation – to keep “adult” materials from children? Interesting that I can still see “Forever” and “Wifey” when I do a search under Judy Blume – and they are on the main page for her. AND you can still find “John Ringo” books immediately, as an example of violent, sexually-explicit book.

    And yes, Twitter is very, very awesome for quick information spread.

  • Leigh

    At one point it did appear that the limitations were only on GLBT books. That yours is there as well is – in a strange way – someone “more equal (?).” However, it is wrong of Amazon to limit information if people are looking for it. What’s the purpose of the limitation – to keep “adult” materials from children? Interesting that I can still see “Forever” and “Wifey” when I do a search under Judy Blume – and they are on the main page for her. AND you can still find “John Ringo” books immediately, as an example of violent, sexually-explicit book.

    And yes, Twitter is very, very awesome for quick information spread.