Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My #Amazonfail Theory

Do I have to explain the background, two days later? (OK, you get two links -- one, two.)

I have no outside knowledge, first of all. (Or inside knowledge, either -- I haven't been at work for two days, so I don't even know what the people in my office are saying about this. And I've mostly been away from the Internet, too, so I've only seen a few of the accounts.) But I do have the ability to believe that Amazon's public statements are all true...more or less, and that they're not necessarily completely true.

So: here's what I think.

1) Amazon does have a system to mark some books as "adult," and thus keep them from coming up in most searches. I don't expect that they intended to apply those tags to major-publisher books (due to not-pissing-off-major-partners reasons), but I imagine they would be quite willing to have the books from small presses -- particularly presses focusing on gay erotica -- categorized that way. And so what they said to Mark Probst might have been exactly correct -- that the books that he published were marked "adult" and put into this semi-visible status.

2) Amazon's final explanation -- see this Seattle Times article -- is more or less correct; someone, somewhere, in the vast Amazon empire, did flip a switch and throw a whole lot of books with "adult" content (as expressed in their categorization meta-data) into the semi-visible status. And Amazon did not in fact intend for that to happen -- it was a conflation of two very different definitions of "adult" content.

3) But I do believe that Amazon has a number of books -- who knows how many? -- in that status as a matter of policy. And they're trying not to focus attention on that fact.

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