When you're the marketplace giant, it's a mistake to imagine that you're going to be able to do anything quietly. That's a lesson that the folks at Amazon may have learned this weekend when much furor was unleashed over perceived changes in their ranking system.
It all started on Saturday when Mark R. Probst, a self-published author noticed that the Amazon ranking had disappeared from the young adult book he had written. Probst's book is a Western novel with gay characters intended for young adult readers. He wondered if its content had anything to do with the disappearance of the ranking number.
He began to check well-known titles with homosexual content ("Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel, "Maurice" by E.M. Forster) and discovered that they had all lost their rankings as well.
An Amazon ranking is, of course, very important to authors because it allows titles to show up on bestseller lists. Also, loss of ranking can make it more difficult for a book to show up in Amazon's search results.
Probst blogged on the topic and also contacted Amazon. The company explained to him that material classified by the company as "adult" does not receive sales rankings.
Meanwhile, other readers had picked up on Probst's blog. Book critic Bethanne Patrick posted on Twitter under the hashtag #amazonfail and the news began to spread like wildfire. An online petition was created.