In amongst all that east coast rain, a big Amazon storm hit over the Easter long weeekend. In an attempt to stop potentially offensive material popping up in the top spots of search results, Amazon stripped the sales rankings from over 57,000 books within specified "adult" metadata categories, effectively making the books invisible unless searched for by exact title. Problem was, the categories extended beyond "adult" to "even vaguely possibly offensive to certain subgroups", so that the well-known children’s book Heather has Two Mommies was included, along with Lady Chatterley’s Lover and books on surviving sexual assault.
Commentary on the snafu includes: a google-bombing revenge campaign by smart bitches, a glitch as reported in the New York Times, unintentional homophobia in cumbersome corporate culture as seen by Patrick at Making Light, and Richard Nash’s (formerly of Soft Skull Press) exceptionally cogent "guilty until proven innocent" argument on why it is always the non-normative books that get caught in the glitches.
Amazon has issued an apology for, and an intention to rectify, what they have termed an "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error", and aggrieved authors like Mark Probst are willing to forgive and forget. But given that this issue began at least in early February, when writer/photographer Craig Seymour documented his own Amazon-ranking wrangle, the whole #amazonfail debacle highlights the enormous control over authors, publishers, and readers that is increasingly flowing along Amazon’s corporate corridors. Brrr, makes me shiver to think of the power of that "buy" button. At least the Easter showdown has demonstrated the democratising checks and balances of life online can effectively fight the power, as bloggers and tweeters brought the issue to light.