Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Or should I call it the Amazon Grease Fire. It flared hot for a short time, then someone at Amazon found the baking soda. Now all that remains is a charred frying p--

Oh wait. That metaphor sucks. So let's move on.

As opposed to earlier telling concerned correspondents that many titles (over 57,000) had been reclassified due to "adult content," and then shrugging it off as a "glitch," Amazon now terms what happened "embarrassing and ham-fisted." That is an acknowledgment I can and do readily accept.

While I do not consider the ensuing firestorm (or at least my little part of it) to be embarrassing or ham-fisted, a few notes are in order:

1. Admittedly, I (and thousands of others) first thought this problem mainly affected LGBT books, when there were many other titles that fell into the void. Therefore, while it did effectively wipe LGBT books off the radar for four or five days, I should not have called it "discriminatory."

2. Since Amazon customer service representatives were the first to claim this was the result of corporate policy, I do not regret using words like "idiotic" and "inconsistent." The fact that those representatives passed along bad information is Amazon's fault; not mine.

3. I also don't regret being angry, or writing that the "glitch" excuse was bullshit. I was, and it was.

4. If you have reading comprehension problems (and I think some people do), please read the following words slooooowly:

I. Never. Called. For. A. Boycott.

I. Never. Joined. A. Boycott.

All I wanted was an explanation, and for the problem to be fixed right away. That happened.

5. To the extent anyone didn't know about the problem before I did, I have no regrets about informing them. Writers and publishing professionals should have been clued in -- this directly affected us in the wallet -- and LGBT advocates should also be notified.

6. All in all, the firestorm was worth it. Yes, many people lost their shit over this, but you know what? If people hadn't complained en masse, Amazon might not have felt the necessity and urgency to get to the bottom of the problem... and make sure it doesn't happen again.

7. The victim thing? Yeah, that is totally overplayed these days.

8. I don't consider Amazon to be the enemy. Amazon is a great resource for many people who'd otherwise have no access to LGBT books. (By the same token, not every gay independent bookstore deserves your love. But, again, I'm keeping that rant to myself for now.)

9. And finally... Maybe a few good lessons came out of this. Advocates (of all stripes) can be effective agents for change, but everyone -- including myself -- might want to take a few deep breaths before firing up the torch and storming the castle. Corporate responsiveness -- which, in the end, Amazon demonstrated -- is an effective tool to retain customer; corporate dismissiveness -- which was Amazon's initial response -- is not.

Oh, and the most important thing we learned? After being blacked out since last Thursday, Straight Lies has a sales rank of 30,074 as of this moment.

That's news you can use.