I asked Rick Reed to write a post about something that was important to him which of course left the door wide open. 🙂 As usual he’s fighting on behalf of someone else.
The way that Amos Lassen has been treated by Amazon is something that’s obviously a sore subject, and as someone who occasionally posts her reviews on Amazon, I can empathize. I haven’t posted reviews on Amazon in months because I hate the dirty politicking and backbiting that goes on there. Here’s Rick’s post.
So this morning, I’m thinking about Amazon. “Um,” you say, rolling your eyes, “This is a review site about m/m romance, not booksellers…” thinking you’re goading me away from traveling down the wrong path.
But I’ll get there.
If you’re not aware, Amazon has been making lots of news lately. Cries of censorship and foul play abound, what with their recent decision to pull certain titles that contain material they, or some of their customers, found offensive. Personally, I feel Amazon is treading into dangerous waters, but also feel they are a business and not a governmental entity. They are not set up to provide civil rights; they are set up to make money, which they’re doing, quite admirably.
Which brings me to my second bit of news–and one that does very much affect m/m romance. Have you heard of Amos Lassen? He is (or was…hang on, I’m getting there) one of Amazon’s Top 50 reviewers. You have to review a ton of products to get that designation and Amos has–roughly nearly four thousand reviews over the past several years–many of those reviews devoted to m/m romance by authors you know and love. Amos is probably the most widely-read Amazon reviewer who has consistently been a champion for LGBT literature and film.
And now Amazon has pulled all of his reviews, including many of the wonderful five-star reviews he gave my own work.
“Why?” You are probably shouting at your screen. “That hardly seems fair!” You cry, bouncing up and down petulantly in your desk chair.
A lot of people agree with you. There’s even a Facebook page set up, We Proudly Support Amos Lassen. As of this writing, it was nearing 200 fans and is awash with messages of support and a glimpse into the other side–Amos’s detractors. If you’re on Facebook and want to show your support for Amos, click the link above and “like” the page.
“What are his detractors saying?” You might wonder, nervously gnawing at a hangnail and seriously considering taking up smoking again.
They say that Amos has plagiarized many of his reviews. They say that he–in a rush to keep his Amazon standing and to get free merchandise–has hustled reviews though the pipeline too quickly and that many of them bear the stamp of bad paraphrasing of other reviews or, in some cases, that he repurposes synopses and calls them reviews.
I don’t have access to Amos’s thousands of reviews to see if these claims are true. Nor do I have much access to his detractors or their claims, so it’s impossible for me to present a balanced view of this odd circus that has sprung up recently on one of the world’s largest booksellers. If you want to see what the detractors are saying, you can search for Amos Lassen in the Amazon discussion forums and you should get a picture, but I warn you, it will be a muddied picture, distorted by innuendo, name-calling, and just plain bad manners.
Amazon itself is staying mum on the matter. Even Amos Lassen himself has not heard from them, despite hundreds of e-mails to the bookseller.
What I do know is that Amos Lassen has been one of the greatest friends of LGBT literature we’ve probably ever seen. He has been a tireless champion of books and movies that are often marginalized, shining a positive light on many works that might otherwise go unnoticed. I know that, personally, I could always count on him for quick and thoughtful reviews of my work, both on Amazon and on Eureka Pride, the other site for which he reviews. And I know that hundreds of other m/m authors could make the same claim about Amos.
I wrote to Amos yesterday, offering my support and he quickly got back to me with this response:
“To those of you who want to know what happened at Amazon: a group of jealous reviewers who felt I reviewed too much and had risen too fast decided to accuse me of plagiarism and mocked up reviews that I did not write and used them for evidence. Amazon believed them and decided to delete all of my reviews and take away posting privileges. This means that I will not be posting on Amazon again but on my own review blog at http://amoslassen.wordpress.com/
as well as my home board eurekapride.com, tla.com, and Facebook. Your reviews on Amazon were not lost—they are all on eurekapride.com which is in the process of moving to a new server and will be down for a few more days. None of the reviews are lost. Eventually they will find their way to my review blog but there are 5000+ reviews to move.
This is nowhere near over. I am working with Lambda Legal and we are slapping these people with a slander/libel suit and charging them with a hate crime. We are also suing Amazon for non-protection of a top reviewer since I notified them the day this started and not one of my emails was answered. These people called the universities here in Arkansas, wrote to Lambda Literary, contacted publishing houses and authors and showed them that I am a plagiarizer. They have pulled part of my world from under me and broken my spirit—I am a good man devoted to seeing GLBT culture move forward but not everyone feels it should. Look at DADT and here it happened in our own house. I am really sorry for those of you who wanted Amazon reviews but we now know how Amazon feels about us.
You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
I look forward to a balanced accounting of the events that led up to Amazon pulling thousands of reviews (most of them about LGBT literature). In the meantime, I hope you will keep Amos Lassen in your thoughts and offer him your support in a time that must be incredibly stressful for him. Whatever the whole truth is at the bottom of this mess, one thing cannot be denied and that is that Amos Lassen is a great and loyal friend of LGBT books and the people who read them.