Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999
April 12th, 2009

This is a fucking outrage.

So, it appears that Amazon.com has decided that some books now belong in their version of the back room.  In other words, some books, which they state they consider “adult” now are no longer listed in sales rankings or topical lists of subjects.

My book — a young adult book, one right on the shelves with everything else in the young adult section at the library, for crying out loud — is among them.

So are: Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti, Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler, Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein and too many others to count.

What CAN I still find in the rankings, which apparently now cannot, according to Amazon, include “adult” material?  Girls Gone Wild: Girls on Girls, Surrender the Booty 3: The Search for More Arse, Jenna Jameson: Ultimate Collection, Playboy: the Complete Centerfolds, Girls Kissing: Volume One, Hot BabesI don’t think I need to go on.

In other words, what it’s looking like is this:  It’s NOT “adult” and not deranked, so long as it’s porn, or salacious, or for the sexual entertainment of “normal” people. And possibly also simply not adult if it’s heterosexual or heteronormative (or tagged to the contrary).  It IS likely to be considered adult and stripped of its ranking if it’s queer (or written by a GLBT author), not hetero/gendernormative, feminist or about any aspect of sexuality for young people (though oddly, some YA sexuality guides were spared, and of the ones I am familiar with, they aren’t outrightly queer-inclusive or sex-positive, either of which may be why).

To be clear, if a person searches for one of these books by title or author, they will find it.  However, that’s only so useful.  Many people find books on a given subject by browsing the subject listings, not knowing what is available by title or author, or by seeing what books are most popular per sales: these derankings remove us from those listings, no matter our book’s popularity or relevance in a given subject.  What this also results in is a given subject, like say, homosexuality, showing books which aren’t actually relevant unless you are looking to “cure” yourself of the apparent affliction of your own identity (today, post-deranking, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality was the top book under homosexuality, and most other books in that topic are of that ilk.)  In other words, many of the listings by subject in these kinds of subject areas, have been replaced with books which, well…either aren’t really about the subject, which are protests to these subjects or are somebody’s idea of what is an acceptable approach to these oh-so-unacceptable topics.

I sent a letter, a far calmer one than I wanted to, to their executive office this morning, which looked like this:

To whom it may concern,

It has recently come to my attention that the topical listings and sales rank for my book, a young adult sexuality and reproductive health guide, “S.E.X.: The  All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College,” are now gone on Amazon, despite having active sales, and usually being very well ranked.

I have also noticed several other reproductive health guides for young people, such as Toni Weschler’s “Cycle Savvy,” and The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives,” have had the same treatment.  And yet, other books similar to ours, such as Michael J. Basso’s “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality,” have retained their rank and listings.  Why?  Who is making these decisions, and where might any of us who are authors find the clear criteria or standard on which these decisions are being made?

My understanding is that Amazon is now hiding what it considers to be  “adult” (or rather, SOME “adult”) material from its rankings and listings,  While I strongly disagree with this practice as a whole — and the arbitrary standards clearly being applied, particularly as Amazon appears to be especially targeting gay and lesbian material — I feel all the more strongly about my book and some of these others being classed as adult, as they are expressly young adult books.

I can go to any library who has my book — and that is hundreds of libraries — and see my book right on the shelves, in the young adult section, unhidden.  Why has it been relegated at Amazon to the back room?

Thank you,
Heather Corinna

Who knows if I’ll get a response, or if the response I get will…well, contain any actual information.  Clearly, an arbitrary standard is being applied here, but I have a hard time envisioning them earnestly copping to it.  After all, what exactly are they going to say?  “Yes, we do find sexual health information for young people, particularly if it addresses queer youth or is written by a queer author, obscene and do NOT feel that Girls Gone Wild is, because…well, it’s not gay, even when the girls are macking down in it because we all know that’s just for the guys watching?”

(Is it perhaps worth my pointing out that the girls who appear in GGW really NEED to be able to find books like mine?)

Edited to add this.  If they can make money off of my book, one supposes I ought to be able to voice my objections at their front door.

4/14 Update: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/14/amazon-derank-books-sexuality

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