13 April 2009

Sad Day for Queers

Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick, pioneering queer theorist, is dead. (Duke University Press has an obituary here.) And amazon.com is claiming it's a software "glitch" that has taking sales rankings off her books, and others with gay and lesbian content, so that they won't appear on any bestseller lists and are harder to find in searches.

Amazon's initial response to an author's question about the removal of sales rankings from books indicated that they wanted to protect some readers from books with "adult comment." But after a tempest of comment from bloggers and Twitterers (who pointed out that books detailing heterosexual acts), the sales giant started to backpedal.

PCWorld is now reporting that a hacker is taking credit for spamming amazon.com with complaints about books with gay or lesbian content to get their sales rankings removed.

At any rate -- whether it was a glitch, a bad decision that's now being covered up, or the result of a malicious attack -- it's the end of the day Monday and amazon still hasn't restored the books' sales rankings. Barnes and Noble will still tell you that Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet ranks 75,086 -- behind Judith Butler's Gender Trouble at 29,031 and Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 at 15,613.

What power does Amazon have in the marketplace of ideas? What power might it acquire as newspapers fold and bricks-and-mortar stores disappear? Frightening thoughts.