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Amazon Turns Up The Gaydar?

Last week a friend joked that, based on her Caucasian husband’s onetime purchase of a novel by bestselling author Toni Morrison as a gift on, the site now “thinks he’s an African-American lesbian,” and we had a laugh about the advantages (and drawbacks) of collaborative filtering software.

So, I was unaware of the furor surrounding an apparent change in amazon’s search protocol, until the twittersphere caught fire over the weekend. Some say that a de-ranking of certain titles has led to certain books being omitted from searches, or ranked lower than they’d otherwise be.  To hear them tell it, some books are affected more than others.  Books about sexuality. In particular, books with gay themes.

If true, it seems a curious strategy. To be fair, when I tried to test this by searching for well-known books with gay themes, I had no trouble locating the titles, so it may be that the glitch is nothing more than that. Being more family-friendly is one thing, but appearing to exclude adult themes in the post-culture-wars, Adam-Lambert-crazed era makes no sense.

Look for amazon to address the issue proactively, both from a technology standpoint and in its communications, particularly now that it’s hit the mainstream press.   Given the e-tailers’s longstanding commitment to both customer service and customization, I’d bet on a quick fix.

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