Why is anyone surprised by this? Aside from whether or not there was a “glitch” or an “error” or the determined efforts of an individual who figured out how to game the system (or, as Amazon now claims, a single employee in France who didn’t understand the difference between “adult” and “erotic”), I have a hard time understanding how anyone can be surprised that a company this large, vested with this much sales power, could have something like this happen to them.
And online petitions? Five million Twitterers tweeting away? Do you think they care?
No, seriously, think about the numbers involved, the dollars, and think about whether or not they care. For every one of those five million people spreading the word of Amazon’s Great PR Failure, how many more millions of average consumers the world over who plug into Amazon and Amazon only couldn’t care less so long as they get their SuperSaver free shipping? Amazon probably took a sales hit in the wake of this fiasco, and a year from now their numbers are going to be up and people are going to be shopping with them the same way they buy Tylenol despite a bad case of tampering a few decades ago. And pretty much the same way: they’ll introduce “tamper-proof” packaging to make everyone feel more secure, send out a bushel of PR (and coupons), and then go about pretending like the incident was a bad case of gas.
The thing is, the sales ranks and searches, they never meant anything to me. I don’t trust Amazon to feed me information I need to make decisions because they’re in the business of making money for themselves, they have a vested interest in how their proprietary information is handled. I find what I need through local library services, or other sites, compare against Amazon and then usually buy elsewhere. They’re a great place to double-check ISBNs or publication dates or to cross-reference a plot summary, but not to go in blindly asking for their help finding something. You don’t walk onto a car lot and ask the commissioned salesperson to recommend the best car and deal available and expect to be guided to another dealership down the street.
So while I do find it distressing that suddenly a large portion of Amazon-ranked titles with gay or lesbian themes temporarily disappeared from searches, and that lame excuses were doled out in the wake of this issue, I don’t find this de facto “censorship” any more troubling than the rest of the country when they accepted the government “restricting” reporters from reporting on the Gulf War without military approval. Different meaning of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” going on there, that’s for sure.
In fact, what troubles me more is Amazon’s move to crush the publishing industry altogether through it’s Kindle platform. Man, people are drinking the Kool-Aid on that one like there’s no tomorrow.
Folks, listen, I’m not a rah-rah Amazon supporter, I just think that Amazon has failed on so many fronts that to hit them with this one seems… weak? This is the result of a capitalist republic, the law of the business jungle. Amazon will make blunders, but ehy will recover because we are Americans and we shop! Allowed to grow unfettered into the behemoth it now is, nothing can fell the Amazonmonster short of a totalitarian takeover of government, and even then I suspect they have a better approval rating than most politicians. Amazon didn’t fail, it picked up five million people speaking its name in public, drawing attention to itself, drawing visitors to their site to check it out for themselves. And if they lost five million customers, are they really going to hurt in the long run?
David didn’t pull down Goliath by aiming at his ankles. #amazonfailfail, it’s double-plus good.