Why We Should Not Forget #amazonfail

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Now, that Amazon has reinstated most of the 57,000 plus books that lost their rankings, their visibility, and their sales over the weekend, many people are letting #amazonfail die down. The twitter- verse has a very short attention span.

The backlash against the LGBTQ community and the “angry left” for making an “issue” out of a “technical glitch” has already begun.

However, this is not exclusively an LGBTQ issue. Many of the books that lost their ranking were heterosexual romances and non-fiction books on important issues such as surviving rape and preventing teen suicide. It’s not even an issue of what is and is not “adult” material. And, it doesn’t really matter if it was a “glitch” or a deliberate attempt by anyone inside or outside of Amazon to censor LGBTQ and adult material.

I have always maintained, while often taken to task for it by other authors, that Amazon is inherently evil for many reasons. Sunday, many of those authors and I joined forces to rally against a corporate behemoth that has, in my opinion, entirely too much power to decide what we can and cannot read and who profits from an author’s work.

But despite the fact that Amazon has not offered a consistent explanation or apologized for the negative impact this event had on many authors’ sales, most today return to business as usual, accepting the Amazon paradigm and its impact on what is available to read.

Other authors will argue that Amazon offers opportunities to small press and self-published authors that they wouldn’t otherwise have to reach readers. But those “opportunities” come at a very high price when you look at:

  1. the discounts Amazon demands (some of Amazon’s ability to offer reduced prices on books comes out of the pockets of authors and publishers);
  2. Amazon’s recent attempt to restrict access to its website by any POD publishers other than its own (See “Amazon Throws its Weight Around, Book Publishers Push Back” and BookLocker.com, class action antitrust lawsuit agasint Amazon) ;
  3. and the number of small independent bookstores for whom Amazon was the tipping stone that pushed them over the edge and out of business.

Like everyone else, I was angry Sunday. It was a righteous anger, one that for me doesn’t dissipate with Amazon’s lame and inconsistent excuses about glitches and a French employee not knowing the difference between “adult,””erotic,” and “sexuality.”

These arguments are particularly specious in light of Amazon reps telling Brooke Warner, Jessica Valenti’s editor at Seal Press, that Amazon “has been experimenting with the way they dole out content” and Mark R. Probst “In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists.”

In addition, Associate Professor of Journalism at Northern Illinois University Craig Seymour had his memoir removed from Amazon’s search results as early as February 2. (It was “mysteriously” restored after numerous complaints and endless correspondence on his part 25 days later.)

Personally, I was not adversely affected by the fiasco (well, except for the two days of productivity I lost to the battle). Rain and wind offered absolutely no temptation to venture outside my door. With one cat or the other curled up on my lap (and for a couple of hours both) I spent a good chunk of Sunday helping get the word out.

Although my books were also de-listed, they’re so far down in the Amazon stratosphere that I doubt if the few days of not being searchable noticeably impacted my sales. I encourage my readers to buy the books from other sources anyway and have removed links to Amazon from my website.

But, as stated in UK’s The Guardian: The move “highlights the extent to which Amazon has become one of the most powerful forces in the publishing industry – with the power to make or break a book.”

Buying books from Amazon gives the company that power. Saving a couple of dollars here and there has a VERY high long-term cost. Yes, the Twitter-verse, bloggers, and other authors united and perhaps forced Amazon to back pedal and/or fix the glitch — depending on who you believe — this time.

Keep in mind that Jeff Bezos is a large investor in Twitter. If you don’t want to see a repeat of this week’s ham-fisted (to use Amazon’s own word) attempt to control your world DO NOT BUY BOOKS from its websites.

Shop at your local independent bookstores (assuming they are not censoring erotic and LGBTQ material). If you are lucky enough to still have an independently owned brick & mortar bookstore in your town/city go spend your book money there. The staff should be able to order any book for you as long as it has an ISBN number.

If you don’t have access to a local independent or it censors what is available, I recommend Relatively Wilde and Powell’s of Portland, Oregon as online alternatives to shopping at Amazon.

I have no affiliation with either except as a book lover who appreciates a bookseller who truly cares about books and doesn’t view them as commodities. (Disclosure: I do know the owner of Relatively Wilde and he has been very supportive of my books.)

Some additional coverage if you’re interested:

Blogs and Twitter Coin “AmazonFail” (Wall Street Journal)

“Amazon Says Error Removed Listings” (New York Times)

“#Amazonfail and the politics of anti-corporate cyberactivism” (net.effect)

Amazon’s Conflicting Censorship Stories Show Problems

Lilith Saintcrow: “The biggest online retailer has been caught trying to tweak algorithms to place content it desires at the top of the lists. Not content the customers have desired, content Amazon desired.”

“Dear Jeff Bezos: Let’s be Adults, Shall We?” (Susie Bright)

Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes (Kassia Crosser)

“Amazonfail: A Call to Boycott Amazon” (Edward Champion).

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6 Responses to Why We Should Not Forget #amazonfail

  1. swingantho says:

    There’s a cute little independent brick and mortar bookstore in my neighborhood. (It seems to be doing fine and has been around for a long time.) Also plan on buying from e-book publishers like Logical-Lust. Sometimes books are given to me. (But then I’m expected to review them for Amazon. LOL) Or I’ll go to the library.

    Jolie du Pre

  2. Your points are well-taken. We have very little recourse against corporate behemoths such as Amazon, but I do think we need to vote with our wallets.

    This may be a boon for ebooks.

    Thanks for your efforts in this battle.

    Best,
    Lisabet

  3. Mel says:

    The only two books I still have linked to Amazon are books that are through a pub who uses Booksurge to print. I will no longer send people there. I have always listed my publishers and other bookstores, including Powell’s.
    I am prety easy to find on Anazon, so I see no reason to link. If my readers want to go there, let them, but I am so happy I got a Sony for my Bday this year and not a Kindle. I no longer buy print except for books not out in digital, and I definitely don’t want to send any money to Amazon. I have not trusted them for years, esp before the Kindle came out they tried to strong arm NY pubs into only allowing Kindle to release their digital copies and no one else.
    I would love to do more signings with Indies, but many places I live have indies who really could care less about romance and erotic romance.

  4. […] five: One of the affected authors makes a similar point. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Is poor easier than rich?Frugal Traveler: 3 […]

  5. And with the death of ALA First Amendement Rights advocate (and one of the founders of Banned Book Week), Judith Krug, we have lost a voice in this struggle.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/us/15krug.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

    We must be vigilate and, yes, occasionally loud because our voices, writing and otherwise, cannot be silenced.

  6. Mountie says:

    I too ran into the “No Buy Book… No Write Review” policy at Amazon a while back. I don’t buy books there because I dislike their policy of demanding cut rates from authors and publishers. These discounts often come directly out of the authors pockets so I buy as close to the authors as possible.

    I understand now that when searches are done for some authors a slew of previously unsearchable books are appearing, ones that we never even knew were there because when the authors name was entered they never came up. I just searched an author on Amazon.ca that I was told was a good example of this, BUT two of the four books are still unrated. And the books that come up as other suggestions are nothing like the book being looked at. This shows me that they haven’t fixed it all and has been over a week now.

    amazonfail continues.

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