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Amazon got hot under the collar; ended up in hot water

An Amazon spokesperson has now blamed ‘a glitch in the system’ after books containing lesbian, gay, and sexual content were removed from the rankings and therefore dramatically lowered in the search order at Amazon.com. Despite earlier responses to complainants stating that the decision was made consciously in an effort to ensure that the listings are suitable for the majority of their user base, the aforementioned spokesperson denies that this policy ever existed.

This apparent censorship caused a furor across many websites, with campaigns being launched which aimed to raise awareness of the issue and force Amazon to remove the new restrictions. Anger was already created at the censorship of books containing explicit sexual content. However, it also seems that books containing lesbian and gay themes were censored without consideration of content, inciting anger from various parties throughout the Internet at the perceived lack of foresight and double-standards.

Apart from the previously mentioned apparently unfair treatment of lesbian and gay books, there also appeared to be other unfairness in the change: the books’ rankings were changed based upon their category. Therefore a version of a book filed under the category ‘sexuality’ may be removed from the listings, whilst a different version of the same work filed under ‘memoir’ would remain in the listings. This would appear to be in conflict with an intention to protect shoppers.

‘Amazonfail’ seems to have become a tag which will haunt Amazon for quite sometime. One of the current most discussed subjects on the popular social networking website Twitter.com is Amazon’s actions during this fiasco. Users are also marking books which have been lowered in the rankings with the same aforementioned tag, making their anger clear. Even definitions have been created for ‘Amazon Rank‘ to be placed in online dictionaries.

Twitter has proved instrumental in the outrage which followed this change in policy. The issue would likely have not come to wide public attention without the multiple discussions and updates which were added by Twitterers. Articles were also written by many bloggers, bringing the matter to the forefront. It is becoming more and more apparent that businesses will have to listen to their customers if they don’t want to see an online circus of criticism like this occur again.

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Amazon Kindle setback

February 28, 2009 Leave a comment

After complaints by the Writer’s Guild of America, Amazon has caved in and left the text-to-speech feature of their portable book gadget at the discretion of the book’s author and publisher to decide whether the machine is able to read their book aloud to the owner or not.

The Kindle, which is not currently available in the United Kingdom, is a portable e-book reader which was originally released in 2007. The second version, which was released on the 23rd February, is more portable, has a longer battery life, in addition to the most talked-about new feature: the ability to read books aloud. This feature was going to be available for all books on the Kindle, however following complaints from the aforementioned Writers Guild, Amazon changed the feature to be optional for all books. This has prompted complaints from the hard of sight, for which a major appeal of the device is the ability to enjoy books through audio whilst travelling. The Authors Guild’s reasoning for the complaint was that there was a potential for the device to become the de-facto in audio-books, which may reduce the profit that publishers and authors make from releasing their books as audio-books themselves.