Amazon sends mixed messages with adult book policy

The Twitter hashtag buzzing this weekend -- a common word with a #, hashtag, sign in front signifying "file this under" -- was a devastating one for Amazon, long the darling of the social media crowd: #AmazonFail. At the heart of the failure was a sudden "delisting" of the vast majority of books categorized as gay, lesbian, or with adult content by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN)'s ranking system. The sales rankings on the books' pages had disappeared overnight, keeping them out of searches and bestseller lists.

One author who self-publishes his books, Mark Probst, wrote Amazon's Advantage program for clarification. He published the response on his blog; a company representative wrote, "In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature." Other books excluded, according to shocked fans of adult literature: gay-themed classics like James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, and Little Birds: Erotica by Anais Nin, as well as Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. So that sucks for authors of gay and lesbian-themed adult books, right? But here's the real #fail: Amazon denied the system change had been intentional in a statement to Publisher's Weekly, calling it a "glitch."Update: At the end of the day on the West Coast, an Amazon spokesperson called this an "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error" that "impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica," but did not apologize.