Couple pay off $46,000 in debt, throw party

American novelist Gore Vidal has long been known as a liberal intellectual.
For Sherrie Muldoon, the credit card debt was $46,244.

On Sunday, a number of distinguished writers, including Gore Vidal, Annie Proulx and E.M. Forster, suddenly lost their best-seller ranking — which is the number that Amazon uses to show how well one title sells compared with another. As a result, famous novels such as Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” and Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar” were unranked Tuesday morning. Craig Seymour, author of gay memoir “All I Could Bare,” wrote in his blog, “craigspoplife,” that his sales rank was dropped earlier this year, only to be restored after a month. Amazon said his book had been classified as an “adult product.” “I brought this to the attention of my publisher, and they started looking into it,” Seymour wrote. “I also did some snooping around and it turned out that the only books I could find without a “sales rank” had gay content like mine.” Thousands of users have voiced their concerns online, with many accusing the retail giant of blatant censorship. This prompted Amazon to deny the move was part of a strategy to make the chart more “family friendly.” It said the changes were caused by a “glitch” in the system. Spokesman Andrew Herdener was quoted by Sky News as saying an “embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error,” was responsible. The ranking removal appeared to depend on how Amazon originally categorized each book. According to the Guardian newspaper, a paperback edition of British broadcaster and actor Stephen Fry’s autobiography “Moab Is My Washpot,” which Amazon tags as “gay,” is unranked, whereas the original hardback, filed under “memoir,” is.

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The issue quickly became a hot topic over the weekend among Twitter users. In conversations under the hash tag “#amazonfail,” people tagged hundreds of titles affected by the apparent glitch. Others simply mocked the e-tailer. Share your views here “Looks like Amazon did a government style u-turn. Of course it was an error, yes,” was the sardonic response from Jonnyp. Houseinrlyeh, meanwhile, said “apologies work best when they contain an actual apology and not just an explanation.” Nara Filippon was one of the many outraged Facebook users to make their feelings known on various discussion boards. After describing herself as a loyal customer she said: “Unfortunately your new policy to ban LGBT books has disappointed me and I won’t be buying anything else from your Web site from now onwards.” Wendy Sumner Winter, who described herself as a straight college professor, said: “I am sickened to see that the powers-that-be have de-ranked some of my favorite authors and their books, including James Baldwin (are you serious!), Mark Doty and Paul Lisicky.” The move means the unranked titles will no longer appear in the site’s most prominent areas — most likely affecting sales of the product.