How news of the Amazon de-ranking spread, and perspectives on where it's at
Discussion continues, on Twitter and elsewhere, about what the de-ranking of certain books on Amazon might mean. Twitter is where Jacket Copy first learned of the de-rankings, which is being called #amazonfail — from a journalist who had circulated a tweet by Bethanne Patrick, former books editor at AOL who spent two years at Publishers Weekly. She now writes about books and interviews authors for WETA in Washington, D.C. At midday Monday, Patrick told Jacket Copy:
I think that there's much more going on than a simple administrative glitch. My perspective on that also comes from being part of AOL. I know that glitches happen, and that there are all kind of things that can go wrong with coding. But my thing here is if it were just a certain category of books — let's say, hard-core erotic how-to manuals — then I might believe them. But the sales rankings were removed from things like "Lady Chatterley's Lover," from "Maurice" by E.M. Forster, from all kinds of books: classics, children's books, sex manuals, romance books, YA novels. To me, that is not an administrative glitch. This is just an outside view, and I think we have to get a real response from Amazon before anyone takes any kind of hard line, judgmental stance.... We see a problem, and hey, let's get some momentum behind it and get the problem addressed. That's what I think is important about the Twitter storm; it's not a witchhunt, it's not trying to get Jeff Bezos out of there. It's 'gosh, we saw this — we're here, we're the blogosphere — get used to it.'
Patrick had heard about the de-ranking from someone else — Sarah Wendell, a founder of Trashy Books, a sassy romance website. Although we now know that some authors had been de-ranked earlier in the year, Wendell came across the news via Storm Grant, who discovered that his ranking disappeared sometime Friday morning. She's following the story — and didn't quite believe it when someone surfaced claiming that the delisting was the result of a prank he'd pulled (that's a claim some have questioned). She spoke to us on Monday as well:
Knowing what little I do about publicity, I imagine that Amazon is not sure what to do to respond, except to put it all back. That would be the ideal solution, that they reverse what they did and put these books back.... There are some books that are more explicit that are older romances that are still ranked on Amazon. Authors Jaci Burton and Maya Banks had their most recent books stripped of their sales ranking while older books were still available. It seemed to be mostly books that were on the more erotica end of the spectrum [were de-ranked] — it certainly didn't happen to any Christian inspirational romances; for example, I don't think anything from Harlequin's Steeple Hill Line was stripped of its ranking.... It's amazing to see what Twitter can actually do, especially on a Sunday when you don't think anyone is at the computer.... I am basically just waiting for a bigger press response from Amazon answering the accusations.
We also look forward to hearing more from Amazon.
— Carolyn Kellogg
Image: Twitter tweets