amazonfail – 10 unanswered questions


If you’ve been asleep for the last two days, there’s a very handy #amazonfail flowchart over at the National Coalition Against Censorship to help you catch up.

But it’s over now, right? Amazon have said it was an error, they’re fixing it, it’s dropped from the top 10 trending topics on Twitter – get over it already. Right?

Wrong. Dear Author give a very good analysis of why Amazon’s explanation is none at all. Pandagon also explain why it doesn’t add up. And Patrick at Vroman’s Bookstore writes about the dangers of an Amazon monopoly on bookselling this highlights.

Given the media blackout at Amazon Towers, there are still a lot of unanswered, troubling questions. (For future reference, Amazon, here is some useful advice from Colin Roswell on dealing with a social media crisis.)

So, Team Amazon, here are your starters for ten, no conferring:

  1. What happened? Was this a) Policy b) Glitch or c) Error?
  2. Why were some titles de-ranked back in February?
  3. If this rogue ‘adult’ ranking affected “books in a number of broad categories“, why were LGBT ones very specifically stripped of their rankings while we could still find Playboy Centrefolds etc?
  4. Do you now realize that ‘Gay & Lesbian’ does not equal ‘adult material’? Some of these books are very tedious, and not at all sexy.
  5. Since sales are restricted to over-18s anyway, who are you protecting?
  6. Why did Lady Chatterley go MIA? Has she now safely returned to the potting shed?
  7. Why is our only news source a drip-feed of anonymous insiders? Do you have a PR department?
  8. Do you remember when Margaret Atwood and others boycotted The Dubai Festival in February, because one gay book was banned? Does this make the UAE more liberal than Amazon?
  9. How could you be so beastly to our very own Stephen Fry? Do you not like QI?
  10. Why do you need a secret cloaking device anyway? Are you Romulan?

I’m sure there are other questions I’ve overlooked. If you have more questions to put to Amazon, please do add them in the comments below. Meanwhile – stay vigilant!

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About Author

Jon Reed is an author, screenwriter, publisher and social media consultant. He is the author of Get Up to Speed With Online Marketing (2e, Pearson Business, 2013) and the the founder of social media consultancy Reed Media, which offers social media management, training and consultancy. Jon started Publishing Talk in 2007 following a 10-year career in publishing, including as publishing director for McGraw-Hill. More...


  1. 11. When are you going to say sorry?
    12. Did you know that I’ve just spent 20 quid at that would otherwise have come your way?

  2. 13. You said you had 57,310 books involved in the “cataloging error,” most of which were not LGBT specific. Prove it. Give us–readers, potential un-boycotters, publishers, and authors–the names of those books.

  3. >> Do you remember when Margaret Atwood and others boycotted The Dubai Festival in February, because one gay book was banned? Does this make the UAE more liberal than Amazon?

    Yea, easy with that, she later said she was mislead into believing the book was banned for a book which wasn’t even published. See every media reported she wasn’t participating, but only or two updated their readers with the latter incident of her apologies. the world we live in 🙁

  4. 11. When are you going to say sorry? (Worth repeating from karmacreep’s comment.)

    14. Some books on disability and sexuality were affected also, including a sociology textbook. Do you understand that, yes, people with disabilities do have sex too? And that consenting adults with disabilities have the right to have sex and to enjoy it on the same basis as anyone else (meaning, if they can find a consenting adult partner, etc.) Do you understand that people with disabilities are already incorrectly stereotyped as being necessarily asexual, uninterested in sex, unable to have sex, or as being people for whom it would be morally wrong to have sex? And that making it harder to locate accurate information on the subject really doesn’t help?

    More on the disability angle of the #amazonfail situation:

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