"NEW YORK (AP) — Two days after Amazon said a "glitch" had caused the sales rank to be dropped from thousands of books, the numbers returned Tuesday for Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room and other notable titles.
"The online retailer issued a promise on Sunday that the numbers would be restored. But it was Tuesday morning before sales numbers were back in place for such recent works as Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life and from such classics as Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room.
"'What kind of a childish game is this?' Vidal said Monday. 'Why don't they just burn the books? They'd be better off and it's very visual on television.'"
(I often ask "what kind of childish game is this?" The most satisfactory replies usually come from my three-and-a-half-year-old niece.)
By now, most of us know that Amazon said on April 14th that the brouhaha was caused by "an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error," adding that they were "in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future." From what Amazon has said so far, there's no real way of knowing whether this event was the result of an error in programming or one based more on the errant thinking of an employee. It does seem unlikley that Jeff Bezos would've made such a decision.
Several other Red Roomers weighed in on this last week:
- Jeffrey Ricker was outraged, and coined a new word
- Louise Marley was outraged as well as she reported on the event itself, and followed up with the reaction of the American Booksellers' Association
- Amy King compiled the experiences of several authors directly affected, including Red Room's Catherine Lundoff, who was the first author here to report on the matter while advocating for independent booksellers.
The first thing I thought of when I read about this was when Red Room was running ad banners from a third-party service right before last November's elections. One of the ads was by a group in favor of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that (temporarily, we hope) overturned the California Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality. A Red Room author spotted the ad even before we did, rightly questioned it, and we took it down immediately. The point is that it was an error: Red Room is absolutely committed to human rights for everybody, and that ad appeared in spite of our support of equality for lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgendered people.
Again, it's hard to believe anyone in the higher leadership at Amazon would've given the go-ahead to the miscataloguing of hundreds of books, especially by authors from populations whose obstacles are already more difficult than usual. It would be nice if Amazon gave more details about the event, and whether they too support human rights. Until they do, though, I'm glad they apologized, and remain agnostic about what actually happened.
(By the way, if you wrote something on Red Room about the controversy, please let me knowand I'll add a link to the list in this post.)
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