Home > American Culture, Society > Amazon Isn’t a Library

Amazon Isn’t a Library

Apparently, it recently came to light that Amazon has removed GLBT books from their online ranking system.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t find a GLBT book if you are looking for it though.  I checked myself this morning, so I wouldn’t be going on hearsay.  When I typed in “heather has,” the auto-completion drop down box immediately completed it with “heather has two mommies.”

Another complaint people are putting forward is that a search for “homosexuality” pulls up books that are against the homosexual lifestyle higher in the rankings than supportive books.  I checked this.  The first result I got for “homosexuality” was Dark Obsession: The Tragedy and Threat of  the Homosexual Lifestyle.  The second result was a genre tag for “homosexuality, ” and a choice of fiction or nonfiction.  I clicked on nonfiction and was immediately led to a result page consisting entirely of books supportive of GLBT people, including Gay America: Struggle for Equality.  Back to my original results page, the third hit was a book from a gay erotica series.

Ok, so Amazon is still selling and displaying books supportive of the GLBT lifestyle.  No, they aren’t the first hit.  No, they aren’t included in the selling rankings.

Newsflash:  Amazon isn’t a library.  Amazon has no ethical responsibility to fairly and equally display both (or multiple) sides of controversial issues.  Amazon is a private retailer.  Whoever owns Amazon can choose what stock to carry, as long as it is legal.  They clearly cannot sell pot, for instance.  Amazon may also choose how prominently to display their stock.  Imagine a traditional bookstore.  They choose what books to place in the windows to draw people in.  I view the sales rankings as similar to this.

What it all boils down to is that Amazon has the right, as a bookstore, to choose what books to stock and how prominently to display them.  Even if they flat-out refused to sell GLBT books, that isn’t “book banning.”  Amazon is not the government.  For comparison, a couple of GLBT friends could start their own bookstore and decide that they didn’t want to carry anything anti-GLBT or pro-fundamentalist Christianity.  Do you think the whole nation would be up in arms about this?  No, it wouldn’t be.  They would say “good on them, overcoming that adversity.”  Well, the fact of the matter is, if we’re talking rights, anti-GLBT people have rights too.

Amazon isn’t breaking any laws.  Amazon didn’t make some hit-list of gay people to refuse to sell to.  That legally would be considered discrimination.  Amazon isn’t even refusing to sell GLBT books.  It simply isn’t displaying them as prominently.  Well, they are a private business, and that’s their right.  If you have a problem with it, feel free to boycot them and send them a letter explaining why you will no longer be buying from them.  However, stop with all the hate and fear-mongering against them.  Quit making a mountain out of a mole-hill.  Quit being a wanna-be martyr.  There are far bigger issues in the world than where Amazon ranks GLBT books.  If you have a problem with it, boycot them and move on.

For the record, I won’t be boycotting Amazon, as I like them, and I don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.  Odd stance for a libertarian librarian, I know.

  1. April 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I am sure that Amazon’s decision wasn’t made arbitrarily by any means, and really I doubt it was intended to upset people, likely it was an attempt to lessen already existing complaints. You make the good point that Amazon isn’t a library, it is an independent business and thus free to act as it so chooses. Working in a library I am well aware of some of the complaints that can be made in regards to materials available (I’m sure you’re familiar with this too). Amazon has the leisure to act in what it considers its best interest, all in pursuit of the capitalist dream. Will it hurt to company’s sales? Possibly, but probably not enough for it to really matter. People should just settle down and not get so worked up about every little choice that other people make. Nice thoughtful post, I enjoyed it.

  2. April 14, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Nathaniel–Hey! Thanks for stopping by. It never ceases to amaze me how worked up people, both liberal and conservative, can get over books. They’re just books; they’re not gonna climb off the nightstand into your bed at night and kill you!

  3. April 14, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Agreed . . . seriously, nobody is forcing anybody to read or believe anything. And if you can’t find what you are looking for one place there are plenty of other outlets to look. Personally I think people need to all just take a colloquial “chill pill” and simmer down. Or drink a good beer and, in the words of the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr, utter a simple “so it goes.”

  4. April 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Ah, Vonnegut. Such a wise man.

    So it goes.

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