Nonetheless, the news is thus: Amazon.com has pulled primarily LGBT books from their sales ranking system. That might sound pretty harmless, until you realize that this is one of the ways that many people find books on the site because the sales ranking affects the site's search results. Go ahead, do a search for “homosexuality” on Amazon.com: as of 9:15am CST today, the search results in almost nothing but books on how to “cure” or “fix” homosexuality.
Adding insult to injury, Amazon has sent all sorts of mixed messages, calling this “removing adult titles” from the sales ranking-- but many of the books removed were not sexual in nature (such as the non-fiction “Homophobia: A History”), while many sexual books (like Playboy or Alan Moore's graphic novel Lost Girls, which even features primarily lesbian action!) were left on.
A lot of people are writing about this right now, as you might imagine, but true to form Erica Friedman offers the level-headed best response:
“This is not a crisis, nor should we run screaming, but I think it is important enough that every reader, writer, publisher, editor and all champions of freedom of expression should take note. Amazon has changed its policy and has de-ranked books that it deems "adult" in nature. This includes anything they count as erotica and many non-adult LGBT books, as well.
I do not advocate being outraged. Outrage accomplishes nothing. I *do* advocate a polite, but firm letter campaign asking that Amazon allow sales to indicate sales rank and nothing else.”
Now, Amazon has come out and called this a “glitch” to Publishers Weekly, but an earlier interaction with a customer service representative referred to it as part of the company's new policy to protect its userbase from accidentally finding adult materials.
Now, again, the effect on Japanese-related materials has been pretty minimal-- even yaoi titles with more generic names like “Love Circumstances” and “The Devil's Secret” and “Meeting You” have come up in search without much difficulty for me, although Simon refers to reports that some yaoi have proven more difficult to find. But if it's not nipped in the bud, as so many authors and readers are now working to do, it could definitely move that direction.
Besides which, it's bad policy in general to let companies get away with “protecting” the public from homosexuality, if you ask me. What do you think?
Sources: Okazu, Icarus Publishing, Mark Probst, Lilith Saint Crow, Meta Writer