back to article Conspiracy theories aplenty as Amazon delists gay books

Gay and lesbian advocates took umbrage at on Monday after the online seller removed sales rankings for hundreds of books that contained homosexual themes. The delisting, which affected books including James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, has been …


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  1. SisterClamp

    Not just homosexuality...

    ...but also anything tagged "erotic" or "sex" as one of its metadata categories. And also seemed to affect all worldwide sites. (I know, how will El Reg readers get their jollies now?) Also, this has been slowly happening for at least a couple of months, so any of the "sudden glitch" explanations sound more like CYA than the truth. Other than that, everything's peachy!

  2. Eric Hood

    Gay Blogosphere afire.

    Right. Handbags at dawn then.

  3. GFK1

    Oh dear

    Amazon is gonna get such a slapping for this one...

  4. Xander

    Not the Gay Blogosphere!

    We're all doomed now, I tells ya. Doomed!

  5. al
    Paris Hilton

    lesb*n books inappropriate ?

    WHAAT this world has come to. sheesh. baba ganush.

    PH, coz she better start compensating the world for this loss.

  6. Chris Haynes

    Longest book title ever?

    "You Don't Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is"

    Well, I use the term 'book' in the lightest possible sense. Right-wing toilet paper more likely.

    I wonder if the author is religious? Check.

    While you're reading this comment, why not check out my new book: "You Don't Have to Be Religious: Hope and Freedom for Anyone Struggling With Bonkers Religious Notions of Supernatural Sky Fairies, Supremacism and Downright Toss-pottedness or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is".

  7. David Wilkinson

    Its sex in general .....

    I tried finding a few sexually themed books I have looked up before ... and the problem is definitely not specific to books with homosexual themes.

    If this was intentional those responsible are not against sex in general rather than gays in particular.

    I wonder if this is some sort of censorship/filtering gone wrong.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No doubt they have a backup

    I mean, a company the size of Amazon takes a regular backup of their database(s), right?

  9. James Foreman


    Could it be the pendulum swinging the other way? Or am I the only one who remembered the good old days when typing 'pointers for C' into Amazon's search engine would get you something NSFW? Or if I'm not, did anyone buy a copy?

  10. Martin Lyne


    They did it for Scientologists, you think they wouldn't do it for His Popliness? At Eostre of all times..

  11. Ian McNee

    Oh, get over it!

    The spokesperson for Amazon clearly stated: "We f****d up", in the absence of any other actual evidence, as opposed to lots of people with too much time on their hands (oo-er!) virtually frothing at the mouth (again...oo-er!) on Web 2.oh-my-god, that's that.

    A quick search reveals that it's easy to find Jeanette Winterson's excellent "Oranges are not the only fruit" and a plethora of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographic work. Both of these people have been notorious in their own way for their sexuality and as such a likely target for right-wing/religious homophobes intent on mischief at Amazon.

    Move along, nothing to see here. No, really!

  12. Nigel Whitfield

    Support local bookshops

    For ages now, I've been urging friends to support local independent bookshops, if they have one. If you don't use them, they'll die out - and certainly my local one, the Stoke Newington Bookshop, can get just about anything within a couple of days.

    Why's it important? I've felt for a while that if the independents go, all we'll be left with is blockbusters on sale in supermarkets, and for everything else you'll have to go to Amazon, which means handing over your personal details whenever you want to buy anything that's out of the mainstream, including gay material, or political things. For whatever reason, some people just don't like the idea of that.

    If Amazon's now messing around and making certain types of book harder to find or buy, for whatever reason - they have form, after all, with claims from some POD companies that they would be dropped if they didn't use Amazon's BookSurge (see - it's not a good omen for the future.

  13. Alex Wichert

    It doesn't explain everything

    It does not explain why, for example, Craig Seymor has noticed a de-ranking and de-listing of his books several months back - he was told that that was Amazon "policy".

    Either their customer service is more than glitchy (and that of a company that "prides itself" on customer service) with no chance for affected authors to get changes on their books - or there *is* some manner of policy at work.

  14. Dave Harris

    Not just homosexuality II

    Apparently Stephen Fry, recognised National Treasure, was sandbagged by this as well: for some reason, the paperback version of Moab is my Washpot is tagged as Gay, while the hardback is memoir. Guess which one was de-listed?

  15. Dominic (The Pimp) Connor

    Amazon is lying

    I have studied cataloguing systems (Dewey et al) and am pretty confident that this was not an "accident" in the sense of some junior staff pressing the wrong button.I don't believe there is any catalogue that will link books on (for instance) gays in the US military with porn. Depending upon the system used, the political book will be under military history, law, etc.

    The only way for Amazon to have made this mistake is by a lot of work, since some books have been zapped which can only be recognised as gay with some effort.

    This was a manual "mistake" that must have required a serious number of man hours, and that neatly explains why Amazon can't fix it.

    If the mistake had been made of the form (in SQL)

    select from list where tag <> "adult" then it would have taken seconds to fix (OK a few hours to test), but a tagging / coding error of this form can be undone very quickly.

    Some Creationist dimwit applying their prejudices on and ad-hoc basis is harder to undo.

    There is a funny side effect (for a given value of "funny"). Books that include ordinary decent sexual violence against women were not zapped, for instance those covering the career of that well known campaigner for decency Hannibal Lechter. Thus the net effect of zapping books on politics (dull, opinionated and poorly researched) has been to promote exciting books on rape and murder (as long as the victims are female).

  16. Chronos


    ...this is what the Internet distribution model looks like, eh? Censorship and bigotry. Very nice. When does the burning of the dead trees start - just so I can hide mine, you understand. Now I know why they called that beastly thing "Kindle."

    Fire, woo hoo!

  17. Jolyon Ralph


    Obviously it only affects books on Amazon as there are still plenty of Apple Macs listed.

  18. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    Might be "honest" glich

    If they classified all gay stories as "adult", then the only books left about homosexuality are right wing anti gay propaganda, and "why Heather has two mommies" books for kids. They'd better fix it though. I understand the ire of the authors.

    PH, she's apparently classified as "adult"

  19. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Never blame on malice

    what can also be put down to incompetence

    (paraphrasing Napoleon, IIRC)

  20. Lukin Brewer
    Thumb Up

    Could be unofficial policy.

    There is often a generous gap in businesspeople's scales of principle, between the point at which they start objecting to something, and the point at which they refuse to have anything to do with it, even if it will make them money. A fair few newsagents are neither proud nor happy about the publications that they keep on their top shelves, but they carry on selling them nonetheless.

    On a similar note, there was a complaint in some Native American blogs a few years back, that people commenting on Native American titles on were allowed to flame away, but people attempting to make pro-Native American criticism of anti-Native American titles had their comments deleted. We'll have to see whether Native American authors get the delisting treatment as well. And keep an eye on Richard Dawkins and Michael Moore as well.

  21. dervheid

    the gay blogosphere?

    Oh please.

    Does this mean that the *ordinary* "blogosphere" is considered to be 'straight'?

    Are some 'non heterosexuals' so insecure that they feel the need for a 'gay' version of damn near everything?

    So you're gay.

    So Fuck What!

    Who cares?

    It's YOUR business.

    And no, I'm not going to say, "some of my best friends are gay" .


    Because if they are, I neither know, nor care. They're my friends. simple as that.

    Get over it.

    Get on with your life.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Nobody expects...

    ...The Gay Blogosphere!

    Our main weapon is...

    Discuss :)

  23. Trotsky
    Black Helicopters

    Google censors "homosexuality" too

    Go to the Google front page and try experimenting with the "suggested searches" that drop down from the search box. It censors the words "homosexual" and "bisexual" but allows "heterosexual", "transexual", "asexual" - and rather confusingly "pansexual".

  24. Stephane Mabille

    Amazon France


    There has been several allegations in the past of Amazon France CEO being a member of the Opus Dei (or to be very close to them). And at the time any book critical of the movement was out of stock on Amazon France, with delivery time of "more than 6 weeks" while Opus Dei published books were well in stock....

    So I'm not very surprised by this news :-(

  25. Toastan Buttar


    It's an outrage that people who want to make sexy with mint sweeties should be allowed to search for it on teh interwebz.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    All butt humping books should be burned

    Few want to see that deviant garbage. Good riddance. The lesbian stuff is ok though.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    @Nigel Whitfield

    "I've been urging friends to support local independent bookshops, if they have one. If you don't use them, they'll die out - and certainly my local one, the Stoke Newington Bookshop, can get just about anything within a couple of days."

    Sure... orders 'em from Amazon...

  28. Peyton

    hate to admit it

    But the "gay blogosphere is afire" remark made me think of the political rally in "A Confederacy of Dunces".

  29. Mike Crawshaw
    Thumb Down


    Like Nigel Whitfield above, I won't use Amazon. It was the POD / Booksurge debacle ( that did it for me, after a number of problems with wrong items being delivered, and it taking forever to get sorted out. I use Amazon now just to get the ISBNs of items I want, then order them elsewhere. Their e-mails begging me to buy things from them with "suggested titles" is often slightly less relevant than offers to help an exiled millionaire move his fortune...

    Whether this latest incident is a result of incompetence or malice, it doesn't make me want to rush back and give them my credit card details!

  30. Lukin Brewer

    Where the hell did that thumbs up icon come from?

    I didn't select it. If I had picked an icon, it would have been the unhappy or the !pling.


    Yes, there are blogs on gay issues. There are blogs on every sort of minority issue and on every political viewpoint. There are blogs on Christianity, Islam, Judaism and every other religion. In fact, I would imagine that every subject and interest out there has at least one blog or website dedicated to it, if not a whole community of them. Some of these communities perceive themselves as a target of attacks by others. In some cases, their perceptions are accurate. Some of these communities are constantly attacking each other. Some of this has been going on for a long time; pre-dating the internet, even. It's too bad that you don't like it - I don't think it's going away.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hand Bags at dawn?

    "Hand Bags at Dawn"

    @Eric Hood: Nice to see somebody with such stereotypes out in the wilds. I hope your species will become rarer as we others evolve.

  32. dervheid

    Point missed

    You so nearly get it, but you weren't lukin closely enough. (sorry about the pun, couldn't resist).

    My point being that we're all different, and the sooner we ALL learn to live with that fact, the better.

    Sure, there are all *sorts* of blogs, forums and whatnot out there. That's as it should be.

    But when you start using the term like "gay blogosphere", you're in danger of declaring "all this bit here is for <insert 'community' here> only".

    Which is part of what helps to perpetuate the situation described as;

    "Some of these communities perceive themselves as a target of attacks by others. In some cases, their perceptions are accurate. Some of these communities are constantly attacking each other. Some of this has been going on for a long time; pre-dating the internet, even."

    We're still stuck in a state of tribalism. Whether you call your tribe 'gay' or 'straight' or 'christian' or 'moslem' or 'buddhist' or 'aethiest' or even 'jedi' means nothing to me. It's your business.

    I am one thing, and one thing only, the only thing common to us all. Human Being (imperfect).

  33. Dave The Cardboard Box

    Maybe God did it

    He gets cranky every time the anniversary of his son's death comes around

  34. RW

    It's for the chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiil-dren!

    There can be no other possible explanation why Amazon should even hallucinate the meme "adult book". Time to haul out one's banner saying "The Internet wasn't built for children, isn't safe for children, and can't be made safe for children."

    Either that, or there's a homophobe high up in the Amazon management hierarchy. And we all know what homophobes really want to do...

    I will give Amazon credit for this: I found on an entry for an obscure and otherwise-expensive book on Georgian grammar at a price much lower than any other source, including It took a while, but eventually the book turned up in the mail and my cc bill showed the agreed-upon price.

    It seems to me if you are erecting a category "adult books", that books on Georgian grammar and cognate subjects would go in it; not exactly bedtime reading for junior, no?

    Why is there no "my eyes are crossed and I must scream" icon? Tux will have to do.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Daniel Palmer

    The "gay" community[1]..

    really do make quite considerable efforts to make themselves look A: Silly, B: "distinct" from "normal" people. Both of which are the reverse of what they would seem to be protesting for.

    The best thing I have seen in recent months is two women suing the NHS for not supplying them IVF or something..

    [1] Community meaning the loud minority that attempt to represent everyone with something in common, however minor.

  37. Eric Hood

    AC has hissy fit


    Since you are going to evolve perhaps you could evolve a sense of humour or perhaps some IQ so that you can comprehend humour.

  38. Pete
    Thumb Up

    @Jolyon Ralph


    iGerbils anyone?

  39. Throatwobbler Mangrove
    Thumb Down

    got it backwards

    "But when you start using the term like "gay blogosphere", you're in danger of declaring "all this bit here is for <insert 'community' here> only"."

    No, you buffoon, you're not. You're in danger of saying "all this bit here is about <subject x>, mostly".

    A blog about gay issues and lifestyle is in the gay blogosphere. A blog written by a gay person about cheese is in the food blogosphere, like all of the other blogs about cheese ( A blog about law is in the legal blogosphere ( )

    It doesn't depend on the identity of the person writing the blog (no-one knows that blogger is a dog on the internet), it depends on the subject matter of the blog. Got it?

  40. Lukin Brewer


    I do see your point, all the more clearly for being calmly put. You're right in what you say, but miss out a few important factors.

    Yes, identity politics can cause unnecessary divides in the greater community. At its worst extremes, you can get people falling out over ridiculously arbitrary things, like which football team they support, which postcode they live in, or what anime they watch. I wouldn't deny that some gay activists would like to separate themselves off from the straight world, and that this is not the way to go.

    However, there is also the matter of specialization. The amateur astronomy community aren't trying to divide society, but they do have their own magazines, websites, discussion boards, meets and conventions. This is because not everybody shares their interests. If you built a home-grown five telescope array up in the highlands of Scotland and spotted and plotted a 50-metre wide asteroid that wasn't on any of the official databases, the mainstream press would be seriously underwhelmed, and would be unlikely to cover you and your boring bit of rock. By contrast, Astronomy magazine would probably give you a two-page spread at least, along with an effusive write-up on "the advanced amateur matching the big, funded agencies at their own game".

    While the situation has improved over the years, there is still a lot of hostility towards homosexuals. It's been driven out of the mainstream a bit, and underground a bit, but it's still there. Hence a desire to create places where they don't have to worry about this, and support networks with supporting voices. Sometimes these don't need to be created - at our workplace we have had two parties for gay colleagues who were getting hitched to their partners. I don't know if there were any homophobes among our colleagues, but if there were, they kept quiet about it. There are plenty of places where homosexuals will get a hostile reaction, and there are also plenty of places where homophobes will get a hostile reaction. You can't really blame homosexuals for wanting to create more of the latter.

    It's not as if this applies to homosexuals alone. There are other people who have to watch where they hang out or reveal themselves. Cross-dressers, train-spotters, morris dancers, BDSMers, furries, philatelists (USA only) - they all have places where they would be subject to ridicule or hatred, and other places where any haters would find themselves outnumbered.

    Maybe, one day, Martin Luther King's dream will come true, and there will be no need for different groups to band together like this. Maybe the gay media and blogosphere will be able to shrink down and just cover the few items that are of interest to homosexuals only. Maybe the BDSMers will be able to go about their business in full bondage gear, and football hooliganism will stop through lack of interest. Maybe, one day, but it's a long way off. We still have people getting kicked to death by idiots because they look different, and people like Anonymous C***** Tuesday 14th April 2009 11:52 GMT calling for book burnings just because he/she/it doesn't like the material. While that goes on, there will be a gay blogosphere, and it will resist all attempts to make it go away.

    By the way, it's not a problem if you just don't like homosexuality - or Marmite, for that matter. You're not expect to partake of Marmite just because you're in a Marmite-loving crowd, or even look at Marmite if you don't want to. But verbally abusing or attacking someone because they have Marmite in their shopping trolley is right out. Not even if your church tells you that Marmite is the Devil's soil. (Although you are allowed to use reasonable force against anyone who smears Marmite on you without your consent.) Your friends ought to respect your preferences, and yes, they should choose whether to keep their preference in sandwich spread a private matter. However, as a rational adult in the modern world, you ought to be able to handle the knowledge that they have Marmite in their cupboard, provided they keep the door shut when you visit.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    1, 2, 3, 4 we want a flame war!

    Ok, if data was accidentally deleted (e.g. ratings data) then restoring it might require each book title to be individually examined. If its customer generated data ("rate this book", "customers also bought") then that might not be backed up as it is transient data.

    @AC 11:52 You know there is a "Joke alert" icon and still you persist! You're a very naughty boy! Please apologise for creating the Gay Blogosphere - and use a smiley next time!

    @Luken Brewer - I know its uncool but you really need to put Christians and Creationists first on your list of those are bound to suffer abuse. Pretty much everyone else on your list er, gets off lightly. Check the el reg archives if you want evidence.

  42. Raymond Cranfill

    Business As Usual

    It all boils down to dollars. Because gay and lesbian "themed" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) literature appears to appeal only to a miniority of the population, it's relatively easy for a corporation like Amazon to behave this way (if in fact the action was intentional).

    Thank "God" history is not with the bigots and panderers on this issue. Support for gay rights in employment and marriage has been steadily increasing year on year since the 1970's, notwithstanding the considerable political and financial efforts of american evangelical hate-mongerers. Thankfully, most are old, and their numbers are dwindling. We just have to wait a little longer for them to receive their last reward so that we can finally receive ours.

  43. Dan

    Obviously not accidental, nor inflicted by a third party.

    Since the PORN is not hidden as 'adult' material, the delisting is not due to an 'adult' filter.

    Since the world has retailiated against the presumed radical Christian instigator, every version of the Bible has been tagged with 'Adult, Hate, Hate Crimes, Genocide, Gay, Gay Porn' several thousand times. Yet they still show up in searches and rankings. Therefore, it is not an automatic response to users tagging books with 'adult' tags.

    Since the "Gay bashing" books^H^H^H^H^H works of hate of are not excluded, even though they have a particular synonym for 'happy' in their title, it wasn't due to a filter culling everything with 'gay' in the title or synopsis.

    Unless I see a more complete list of works that have been delisted, and it supports the theory of incompetence, I have to conclude that this is a malicious attack against gays. Incompetence is not a credible cause at this point.

    First they delisted the gays, and I DID speak up, because I am not a gay.

    -With profound respect for the intentions of the original author.

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