Amazon’s De-Ranking & Struggling Independent Bookstores: Bye Bye Diversity

By Leroy Moore Jr.Sins Invalid’s Community Relations DirectorLeroy MooreIt was quite a trip for me to hear about Amazon’s recent removal of sales rankings for many lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender titles from their website, supposedly because these books are deemed “adult” in nature. This de-ranking means that many books by gay and lesbian authors will not show up on Amazon’s bestsellers list. It also means that these books will no longer come up in search results. So, although these books will still be on Amazon’s website, and Amazon will still sell them, the de-ranking of these books will make it harder for e-customers to find them, and we all know that our society has a drive-through mind-set. If consumers can’t find titles quickly, they are less likely to buy them.Before I go on, it is only fair for me to lay out my politics on Amazon and independent book chains. I am totally dedicated to independent bookstores, and I look at Amazon as one of the monopolies that are helping to kill bookstores, just like other sites on the internet are killing the music industry and record stores. Yes, I know there is a good side to internet shopping – hell, I do it some times, too. That all being said, I’ll try to be balanced.So, on one hand, you have independent bookstores, like San Francisco based Modern Times, that carry more minority authors but who are struggling to stay open. Even big bookstore chains are feeling the pain of this new way of buying books and also of the changes that the internet has brought to how we read, in general. In April 2009, Barnes & Nobles in Montgomery, Alabama reported that they were planning to close. Here in the Bay Area, we have seen the disappearance of many of independent bookstores. And on the other hand, with the recent action by Amazon, we have one of the biggest booksellers on the internet making it harder for consumers to find many books by lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender authors. So where can the public find and buy these books, then?Amazon has had a similar policy around titles by authors with disabilities. It was reported that books like Tom Shakespeare’s "The Sexual Politics of Disability" were also de-ranked, which placed the subject of disability on the same cutting block that gay and lesbian titles are on now. The publishing world have opened their minds to writings by authors with disabilities only in the last ten or fifteen years. Amazon’s actions narrow the opportunities for authors with disabilities as well as for gay and lesbian authors.The Sins Invalid community includes up and coming writers, poets and visual artists, as well as artists and writers who have cracked the mainstream walls of publishing. So what do the recent actions of Amazon and the struggling state of independent bookstores and even bookstore chains mean to our work?The catch 22 is that, if you are a supporter of independent bookstores, do you write a letter to Amazon to advocate for them to drop their de-ranking policy and make them more accessible to minority authors, or do you put your energy into saving independent bookstores?  I’ll leave that dilemma up to you, but all I know is that the mainstream publishing world, as well as the music industry, is getting narrower and narrower, and that doesn’t look good for Sins Invalid’s community!