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Update: Amazon has called this a “glitch in its sales ranking feature” and that there is “no new adult policy”. Read the full story at Publisher’s Weekly, but feel free to still be suspicious (as I am).

The Fail Whale: An Easter present for Amazon

The Twitterverse has been all a-flutter this fine Easter Sunday as Amazon has unexpectedly removed sales rankings, listings, and search functionality of books with themes relating to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. The hashtag #amazonfail has been used in tweets to document this event and is currently the second highest trend on Twitter, following after “Happy Easter”.

Author Mark R. Probst, a gay romance young adult novelist (thanks for the clarification, Maggie!) whose book The Filly suffered from this mass removal, wrote about this incident on his LiveJournal blog this morning and the news has spread like wildfire ever since. After noticing the removal of hundreds of gay and lesbian romance novels, Probst contacted Amazon and received the following reply:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

The problems with this mass action by Amazon are endless. For the company to claim that this act is to protect their customer base is ridiculous. This brilliantly-written “open letter” on Booksquare points out that Mein Kampf and a book on how to train fighting dogs are exempt from this discrimination, despite the fact that many Amazon customers may be offended by such titles. Also, it’s been noted on several blogs that some classic novels, including D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, have fallen victim to Amazon’s “adult” distinction.

Amazon, when you’re done stuffing yourselves at Easter dinner, a public response on this would be appreciated. I’d do it sooner rather than later, before the verb “amazon rank” becomes more prevalent and much more naughty than it seems you’re into.

Addition: A great list of books/authors affected can be found here. Also, if anyone finds additional interesting info about this issue as it progresses, please comment!