Monday, April 13, 2009

Epic Fail

Dear No One in Particular,

I arrived rather late to the "AmazonFail" party. I spent most of Easter Sunday either completely unconscious or feverishly delirious. When I became lucid enough to actually read up on the scandal, there were still few facts and a whole lot of theories floating about on the Twitterverse.

For those still unaware, news broke this weekend that online bookstore behemoth was systematically pulling the sales rank numbers from gay and lesbian books, labelling them "adult", thus excluding them from searches and best seller lists. The ramifications of such an action are massive. First of all, labelling such material as "adult" is patently ridiculous, especially since vibrators are available with sales ranks intact. How is a butt plug less "adult" than Ellen Degeneres's biography? Second, due to the massive stripping of sales ranks, when you enter "homosexuality" into Amazon's search engine, the first title that pops up is "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality"*. I'm not linking to that mess, but as of 7:53 pm Hawaii Time on Monday, 13 April, it was still the #1 spot.

I can't begin to express my rage and bitter sadness. I can do what Amazon claimed they were doing and think of the children. The tortured, scared queer youth who desperately want help coming out to their friends and family that click onto Amazon to find some literature and instead of finding something empowering, like the The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, they're bombarded with homophobic tripe. That won't just send people back into the closet, it sets them up for a lifetime of depression and intense self-loathing.

This goes beyond Amazon trying to make a statement about homosexuality -- some books, such as Full Frontal Feminism and Chelsea Handler's memoirs don't quite fit the anti-gay purge -- which fits the original excuse offered by Amazon: that this is nothing more than a "glitch". But this fails to address the fact that author Craig Seymour's books were stripped of their sales ranks in FEBRUARY. This is not a weekend "oopsies", like Amazon would have us believe. There's something systematic about this, and it feels slightly sinister.

Amazon controls a LOT of data. They sell more than just books; they're becoming more and more of a lifestyle company: selling you stuff from conception to coffin, and everything in between. I don't believe that this is part of a grand scheme to bring an end to homosexuality (*snort*), but rather, a powerful, persistent push to further the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) and devastating homophobia that pervades societies world wide. And that is incredibly damaging.

Normally, I would give Amazon the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, they control a ton and a half of data: cataloging errors, as they later labelled the issue, are expected, and are expected to wreak utter havoc with the system. But again: this is not the work of a single, slightly inept man in France who mislabelled something during a long weekend. This has been going on for months. And I have no patience for Amazon's shady side-stepping and complete inability to apologize. Their PR department totally mucked this up, making it seem like the company really was up to something nasty, and the hesitation on Amazon's part was more than enough to send the rumour mills a-turning.
Really, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt if it weren't for the fact that Seymour's books were stripped months ago. That, coupled with the non-responses issued by various representatives and total lack of a formal apology, was enough for me to boycott Amazon.

This is a little painful on my end, since I've been a loyal Amazon customer for years. I've purchased many a textbook from them, and I buy at least one Kindlebook every two weeks. Hell, I've even bought lip balm and music through Amazon. I know it's folly to think that my tiny contribution to their bottom line will hurt them, but I can't give my money to a company I can't trust. I'm heading to my local library and independent used bookstores.

Now. If anyone knows how to get e-books for the Kindle without going through Amazon: I'll send you cupcakes and/or brownies. Seriously. The Kindle changed the way I read books, and I almost flipped when I realised that I'd have to tote around a 600 page hardback.


*Let me answer this oh so pressing issue of how parents can prevent homosexuality: don't breed, you homophobic hate-mongers. You're welcome. You may now send me the money you would have spent on the book. Spoiler alert: I'll donate that money to a local LGBT advocacy group!


Vanessa said...

I hadn't heard about this before this post, but that's awful! I can't believe that at the very least they wouldn't issue some kind of apology to all the people they've offended, including myself. Someone needs to fire their PR people....

mighty jo said...

i only found out yesterday by reading blogs about this. amazon was my #1 place to shop--not now!

Diana said...

I read about this and i would still not give up amazon, sadly. I buy my gluten-free and organic groceries and yes, i agree, it's hard to look down on them when they made the amazing kindle!