Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon rank

If you haven't noticed, Amazon is getting itself into a pretty serious PR fiasco. Web 2.0 is in a tizzy. For a little more background, have a look at Dear Author's excellent explanation. The wonder of hyperlinking: I don't have to explain this full issue because lots of people have done it better than I have.

As a librarian, I have issues with censorship. And to me, what Amazon is doing is tantamount to censorship. So I'm joining the Smart Bitches in their effort to sabotage the term amazon rank.

My policy, and our library's policy, and the sane thing to do, is to let parents decide what "adult content" is -- this means parents have to be aware of what their kids are surfing. And then buying online. Hard work, being a parent. You have kids, you have responsibilities. Don't expect the world to police itself because the world won't always agree with you on what is appropriate.

Censorship is worse than pretty much anything. To me, it doesn't matter what is being censored. It prevents people from becoming informed and making their own decisions. It eliminates choice. It is an insidious attack on freedom of thought and freedom of expression in the name of "decency." Censorship makes me sick.

Now, I know Amazon isn't a library. Amazon is a company. Amazon can do whatever the hell they like with their rankings, and as long as consumers keep supporting them they'll continue to do whatever they like. Either someone has made a really stupid decision, or Amazon thinks this is what their consumers want. But I won't be buying anything from them until they stop being evil (which, being an optimist, I'm sure they will shortly because I'm sure it was some stupid automated oversight), and I intend to politely suggest that everyone I know does the same.


Anonymous said...

Found you via twitter #amazonfail - agree 100%! Censorship when it comes to information like this is dangerous. If they start here, where do they stop?

Yes, they're a company but they supply information. They walk a fine line. And now they overstepped.

Let's hope that tomorrow morning, they have a good apology and a fix STAT.

Unknown said...

I'm sure they will. Part of me wonders if it's just some rogue programmer or someone out to make a point -- I guess I just can't believe that it would be a deliberate policy on their part. I'm also amazed at how quickly things spread through twitter! What a powerful social tool.

Another thing though -- it probably should make us all realize just how careful we have to be not to put too much power to disseminate information in the hands of one company.

On a different note, I love your blog. Thanks for commenting!

Ana S. said...

Very well said. I want to believe this was a glitch like they claim, because honestly, it's just too disturbing to think it was deliberate. But there are glbtq authors who say they noticed their ranks were removed a month ago or so...that makes it harder to believe.

Unknown said...

I know, doesn't it? But as you say, the fact that it might be deliberate just staggers me. I can't imagine it makes sense as a business move, either. I'm very curious to see how this all plays out for Amazon over the next couple of days.

Jill said...

Kiirstin, this is very upsetting! Thanks for pointing it out. I've always been a fairly dedicated and content Amazon customer, so I will be watching closely to see how they deal with this issue. Hmmph. :-<

Unknown said...

As far as I can tell, they still haven't actually issued a formal apology. I know it was a mistake, but it still smacks of censorship because they're obviously trying to find ways to prevent certain books (deemed by "someone" to be inappropriate) from showing up in their searches. And they really do owe consumers an official apology for the error, and explanation for all the conflicting spokespeople and reports. That just seems to me to be good business.