Internet book giant Amazon.com raised ire and eyebrows last week over a decision to simultaneously pull the rankings of dozens of gay and lesbian-themed books from its vaunted rankings algorithyms. The net result: Many mainstream books that happen to have gay characters and describe gay sex scenes are now ranked in the "adult" category, while equally racy heterosexual romance standards are left untouched and still maintain their ranking status. Gawker has a great description of the ironic decision by Amazon to re-categorize these books.
This decision seems like a dumb public affairs blunder by Amazon, one that could have probably been prevented. Did they think that such a move would not be noticed by the authors? If you have ever met an author, you know that for a time, they become mildly obsessed by the up-and-down seesaw of their books' rankings on Amazon.
This situation underscores perfectly the role of public relations professionals in the board room, or the obvious lack thereof in this situation. A good public relations professional would have recommended research on public perception of gay literature, and possibly even gathered some of the affected authors to warn them of the changes in advance. An even smarter move would have been to strongly recommend against the changes, citing a little thing we call the First Amendment to the Constitution.
To make matters worse, the response from Amazon was uncoordinated, with low-level customer sevice reps forced to cover Amazon's giant bee-hind with statements like the one Mark Probst got. Then, Google reps decided it was a "glitch." Make up your minds, people. As of Sunday night, there are still books that have not had their rankings restored.