Nearly 60,000 gay and lesbian novels and non-fiction were stripped from Amazon.com’s online charts and search pages over the weekend as the number one online retailer implemented new content restrictions that sparked boycott calls.
The company backed down on Monday following a backlash dubbed AmazonFail that spread quickly via online social networking sites. It appeared all products filed with the keyword gay or sexuality, such as the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, were being treated as adult material and hidden from searches.
Those affected included works by EM Forster, Jeanette Winterson and Stephen Fry, as well as the prize-winning The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proux.
Anti-gay books, such as A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by Joseph Nicolosi, were largely spared, as were Playboy centrefold collections filed as photography.
Amazon’s customer service representatives responded to some affected authors on Saturday stating the changes were a new policy to exclude adult material in consideration of our entire customer base. A contrary statement was issued a day later calling the reclassifications a glitch and a ham-fisted cataloging error and was not intentionally targeting gay books. It has since reversed most of the gay-related censorship.
Joel Derfner, author of Swish: My Quest To Become The Gayest Person Ever, wrote on his website that he was outraged and frightened by the move that disproportionately affected LGBT books, but was also concerned genuinely adult material was still being censored by policy.
Although Amazon.com is a private entity and entitled by law to sell the books it wishes to sell in the manner in which it wishes to sell them, it is also the first bookstore of choice for the plurality, if not the majority, of book buyers in the world, and for many of them it is also the last bookstore of choice, Derfner wrote in an open letter to Amazon.
More than 17,000 people have already signed an online petition against the changes at thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy