The sudden popularity of Twitter has been difficult for media types to process—is it the “ultimate in solipsism,” as Michael Kinsley complained, or a powerful generator of information and fun (as I would argue)?— but one thing became clear yesterday: It can turn a spark into a brushfire. That spark came from the author Mark R. Probst, who noted on his blog about the Amazon sales rankings for two new gay romance books—Erastes’ Transgressions and Alex Beecroft’s False Colors—had mysteriously disappeared from the site. From there, he discovered that hundreds of other gay and lesbian titles had also lost their rankings; when he queried Amazon’s customer service, he got this alarming response:
“In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”
Under the hashtag #amazonfail, Twitter users spent much of the day registering their disgust, which in turn radiated out into other blogs and finally to mainstream media. Amazon’s official response to the controversy is to call the gay-and-lesbian lockout a “computer glitch,” which we’re guessing is its version of “wardrobe malfunction.” As of this morning, the company was working to fix the problem, though its image among the LGBT community may take a bit longer to restore.