Why care about Amazon sales rank?

I’ve seen a few tweets from people who wonder why it matters that Amazon removes a sales ranking for a book.  So there’s no sales rank when you look at the book; so what? Isn’t the Amazon Rank just one number on a page?

It wouldn’t matter, if all a sales rank was on Amazon was just one number on a page.  But it is not just one number on a page; Amazon’s ranking system is the key to Amazon’s dominance in the internet marketplace.  It makes Amazon function more like a brick-and-mortar store, which you can browse and enjoy, and less like a sales outlet where you have to type in a title to get what you want.  Sales rank determines where you show up on a customer’s search list, and in some instances, whether you show up at all.

The search feature is implemented differently if you search on “All Departments” or just “Books,” so you can get some idea of the effect that the sales rank has.  So go to Amazon’s page and search “All Departments” for “homosexuality.”  Now search “Books” for homosexuality.  Notice what’s different?

Books #3 and #4 in the “Books” search have been deranked, and do not appear on the “All Departments” search.  One of these books is “101 Frequently Asked Questions about Homosexuality,” written by Mike Haley–who happens to be a pastor, and from comments and reviews from “Focus on the Family,” it seems that he writes from the point of view that homosexuality is a choice, and one that the Bible does not support.  (I could be wrong about this; I haven’t read the book).  The second book is “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality,” and it argues that the oft-quoted passages of the Bible that are cited as proof that homosexuality is a sin have been mistranslated.  Two very different points of view.

Both of these books appear to have been removed from the table and the conversation by Amazon’s deranking.  Someone who is curious, or thinking about the matter, who doesn’t think to limit her search to just “Books” will not see these.  No matter what you think about homosexuality itself, Amazon made a decision to remove books that had certain indicators–and as a result, they’ve made it that much harder for people to find these contributions to a very important debate.

5 thoughts on “Why care about Amazon sales rank?

  1. There is no possibility of that. The “hacker” is a known troll, and the exploit he claimed would work in fact did not, and furthermore, the works that he claims he targeted were not the ones targeted by Amazon.

    Besides, Amazon has already said that it was the result of a “cataloguing error” today–not a hacker.


  2. What’s the status? Because, you know, CM is my only source of “market” and wereruminant info. Do we need to complain or is it being fixed?

    I wrote papers on Fanny Hill in grad school. Let me tell you how hard it was to find ten years ago. Whether people like it or not, porn is a part of the social fabric of a time and place, and studying how people and sex acts are represented in a time and place is another window into a culture.

    I’m just saying.

  3. Hmm….yeah, I guess I agree with that. 🙂 Goodness, I’ve heard so many different reasons for what happened that it’s all starting to sound suspicious. I would assume that it is indeed a glitch on Amazon’s part. It makes no sense to me that Amazon would suddenly start tinkering with its censorship when it makes little business sense to do so, and when it will clearly meet with a resounding backlash.

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