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Amazon.com under criticism for de-ranking gay-themed books

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An uproar began on the Internet on Sunday after writer Mark R. Probst posted on his blog that he’d noticed the sales rankings on hundreds of gay and lesbian books — including the newly released Transgressions by Erastes and False Colors by AlexBeecroft — had suddenly disappeared on Amazon.com. The rankings (and placement on best-seller lists) often help produce more sales. In response to a note Probst sent the online retailer, a customer service rep said, “In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists.”

Information Week and CNET, however, are reporting that the “adult” tag is also being given to Heather Has Two Mommies (a children’s book that explains homosexuality) and Ellen DeGeneres’ autobiography — neither of which include explicit or racy content. Meanwhile, a raunchy memoir by porn star Ron Jeremy and Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds, which includes pictures of more than 600 naked women, are still being ranked.

A blowup over this “adult” policy continued on Twitter where users, using the hash tag “#amazonfail,” discussed a perceived bias by Amazon against books with gay, lesbian, and transgendered themes. On Sunday night, however, Amazon spokesperson Patty Smith told the L.A. Times that it wasn’t a bias, that it was merely a glitchthat had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process ofbeing fixed.

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