Why Did Amazon.com Get Rid of the Atheism Section? June 14, 2011

Why Did Amazon.com Get Rid of the Atheism Section?

A while back, in order to find books about atheism on Amazon, you could click through the following links:

Amazon –> Books –> Religion & Spirituality –> Spirituality –> Atheism

(You could argue that atheism doesn’t belong in a Spirituality section — and you’d be right — but that’s another debate.)

Now, the atheism section is gone.

The new pathway looks like this:

Amazon –> Books –> Religion & Spirituality –> Spirituality

Not only is “atheism” gone, the only subcategory under Spirituality is “Personal Transformation.”

So instead of Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion being (perhaps) #1 in “Atheism,” it’s #63 in “Spirituality.”

Why is this an issue? Simple. It makes it more difficult to find books about atheism in one location on the site.

I never knew why it was so hard to put an “Atheism” section along with the other Religion subcategories before… but to get rid of it altogether? I don’t understand why. Are there not enough books to justify it? I would find that hard to believe… (Hell, there used to be a “Top 100 in Atheism.”)

I asked Amazon about it via their livechat function. Here’s how that went down:

In summary:

“… This section is no longer available.”

No word yet on when they’re “taking care” of this.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • We can’t have it every way.

    Is there a section under hobbies called ‘Non-Stamp Collecting’?

  • Joshua

    @David McNerney

    That’s not a fair justification. I bet you would be hard pressed to find a lot of books about “Non-Stamp Collecting”

    Quantity and Quality of subject matter is a qualification of said subject matter having it’s own section. Atheism fulfills these qualifications, “Non-Stamp Collecting” does not

  • Pam Ellis

    I can tell a copy and paste chat session a mile away.

  • jarppu

    @David
    Well, there are no websites about ‘Non-Stamp Collecting’ either. So by your logic all the atheists websites (including this one) should shut down?

  • beanfeast

    On amazon.co.uk there is a “Books › Religion & Spirituality › Other Religions › Agnosticism & Atheism” section

  • fea24

    lol, I just got:

    Books › Religion & Spirituality › Spirituality ›
    “atheism”

    *snort*
    that sort of says it all, doesn’t it? But maybe some other set of atheists complained about it being under spirituality?

  • G Wiz

    Are there enough books written on Non-stamp Collecting to qualify for that category?

  • I think a well coordinated web campaign is in order 🙂 First of all though, what category do we want atheism filed under? Philosophy maybe? or theology? Waterstones often put it with popular science on the shelves.

  • Roentgen

    No, but I bet that under the Cancer section there are books on living Cancer-free.

  • we should all go and chat them up 🙂

    the more of us ask the sooner they will bring it back

  • @David McNerney: are there books about non-collecting stamps?

    are there books about atheism?

  • @David McNerney: are there books about non-collecting stamps?

    Are there books about non-smoking? About non-drinking?

  • Rich h

    No word yet on when they’re “taking care” of this.

    Jerry Pournelle in his computer column in Byte magazine (why, yes, I am old…why do you ask?) said about bug fixes, next versions and Duke Nukem Forever….

    “That fix will happen ‘Real Soon Now'”

  • Glenn Davey

    Books about atheism rightly belong in the Self-Help section along with books about quitting smoking and drinking and other bad habits 😉

  • Here in Canada at amazon.ca:

    Books > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Atheism

  • sailor

    But if you just do an amazon search on books ad put in “atheism”, all the atheist books comes up. Why would I want to go through spirituality first, it does not makes sense.

  • Stacey

    I just went and submitted some feedback to the website asking them to place bring back the Atheism section. I suggested that if they could not have an atheist section, maybe make it a sub-category of philosophy.
    Hopefully more of us will do the same and they will listen to our voices. Thanks for sharing so we can take action!

  • Trace

    The important thing is that Tajul cares…

  • @anybody

    Sure, there are more books about atheism than non-stamp collecting – so the criteria is therefore is not based on atheism deserving recognition because of its legitimacy but because of its popularity.

    So if Amazon decide atheism is not popular enough, then that’s their business – you can’t really complain. They don’t have a section on Pastafarianism either.

    If they were categorizing books in contradiction of their business policy just to promote religion then I’d take issue with that – but there’s no evidence for this.

  • Luther

    Actually it should be:

    Books > Myths >Religion & Spirituality
    > Religion

    And

    Books > Myths >Religion & Spirituality
    > non-Religion/Debunking (aka Atheism)

  • I noticed the atheism section missing and swore it was there before also. I actually went there for new reading material and couldn’t find the section.

  • jemand

    I sent them an email asking where I could find all the atheist books together in a group. We’ll see what they say back.

  • Jenny Wren

    I found atheist books at my local Borders a few weeks ago in the General Religion section. A few days ago, I couldn’t find them there anymore. On a whim, I checked the Philosophy section. They were all moved there and “Philosophy” was hand-written on the price stickers. I think it’s a good change and think that Amazon should switch over to that format as well.

  • Pammy

    This really annoys me. The fact that it was there before and was now removed for whatever reason does not make any sense. There are still the same number of books written on the subject. I also tried the Amazon chat to find out why, and didn’t get much of an answer, I was just told to “keep coming back to find the books you are looking for, we update frequently.” This didn’t answer my question at all. I took a screen grab of the chat. Then I sent them an email asking the question again, since it wasn’t answered. I love Amazon and this is just obnoxious.

  • A lot of places have a hard time categorizing books on atheism, so they do tend to get shuffled around a bit. Often times they were categorized under “Philosophy”, since that was the principle tool for discovering it before the strong natural evidence reared it’s head (evolution, cosmology, etc). For a while, my local B&N had them all in “Science”, probably just sticking them next to ‘other books by Richard Dawkins’. They eventually started an “Atheism” section at the end of the Religion aisle.

  • ACN

    So if Amazon decide atheism is not popular enough, then that’s their business – you can’t really complain

    ……

    Of course he can complain. He’s a bloody customer.

  • I don’t think they are going to add the atheism sub-category back unless we show strength in numbers.

    I am going to send my feedback to Amazon and let them know I appreciated having all of the atheism literature in one place –

    Who’s with me?!

  • Cortex

    I wonder how Tajul would feel if they got rid of the “Books > Computers & Internet > Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence” section?

  • Jerry Pournelle in his computer column in Byte magazine (why, yes, I am old…why do you ask?) said about bug fixes, next versions and Duke Nukem Forever….

    “That fix will happen ‘Real Soon Now’”

    I do have a copy of Duke Nukem in my hands, though. Sure, it’s disappointing and it took more than a decade, but hey, hope springs eternal. Regarding whether or not it should be listed in spirituality, I’m torn..well, more slightly ripped; They belong more under a philosophy or even theology section for sure, but listed in spirituality, they may bring more traffic and thus more readers. Still, at this point any designation is better than none.

  • Marcie

    I think I’ll go on and complain to Amazon too. Maybe if we flood them with complaints they’ll bring it back.

  • Greg

    I still see this category in the US if I go to a specific book.
    Books > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Atheism
    But if you just browse from the Amazon main page to the categories, indeed only a vague “Personal Transformation” category is displayed. My guess (or hope) is this is something related to an algorithm and not a conscious decision to exclude.

  • Pammy

    I received a response to my email… they say “they are testing this category to determine which features drive customer purchases and satisfaction” They said that during this test period, the category will show up for some customers, and not for others. Okay, well, of everyone i’ve asked, the category doesn’t show up. If hey are trying to make it *easier* for customers to find books, then why remove a category previously in place? Of course, I responded again, letting them know I wasn’t satisfied with their answer.. We’ll see if I hear back.

  • The Other Tom

    I posted a link to this page to their facebook page. I suggest politely contacting their customer service. Amazon is very customer service focused and enough complaints will bring attention.

  • Zarathustra

    I’m with Keith. Though in a technical sense atheism books should probably be categorized with philosophy (many of the great books on the topic are by philosophers anyway), I like that it is in the religion section because it is this little reminder to the religious that there are people who don’t believe that stuff. However, I understand the concern that it could make it seem like “just another cooky religion” to those people. Maybe it should just be in both sections 🙂

  • Amazon better get their act together. It’s miscategorized from the start. Going by the Book Industry Study Group’s BISAC subject headings list (and being alphabetical, “agnosticism” and “atheism” are on top), Atheism is subject code “REL004000” and needs to be a sub-group of Religion, and not buried under Spirituality.

  • Michelle

    Amazon.ca still has “atheism” in the “spirituality” section. Agnosticism is there too.

  • Dan

    I sent them an email. I wrote the following

    Why is there no section on “Atheism”? It makes it much more difficult to browse books now. Wouldn’t you like your customers to be able to explore and find more books thus buying from your site more often? I’d like to see what the top sellers in the atheist section are to get recommendations. Doing a search for “Atheism” brings up books, but I have no idea their popularity compared to the others.

    And it’s just a little bit offensive that books regarding that view of reality has been removed, as if Amazon is taking a position on whether or not Atheism is valid.

    Thank you for your time.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Books about atheism typically deal with the topic of religion and religious beliefs, so they should be in the religion section.

    Also, as others have noted, I like the idea that believers may stumble upon non-religion as an alternative view.

    Also, since they list the subcategories ALPHABETICALLY, it would be cool that ATHEISM would actually be listed FIRST! 🙂

    Religion & Spirituality, with the following sub-categories:
    Bible & Other Sacred Texts (72,740)
    Buddhism (13,033)
    Christianity (506,139)
    Earth-Based Religions (8,868)
    Fiction (20,357)
    Hinduism (14,282)
    Islam (12,900)
    Judaism (32,427)
    New Age (49,916)
    Occult (70,134)
    Other Eastern Religions (4,928)
    Other Practices (24,290)
    Religious Art (2,080)
    Religious Studies (97,013)
    Spirituality (124,512)

  • JenniferT

    Tajul is terrible. Even Eliza was better than that.

  • As Brenda posted above, the amazon.ca site still has a separate Atheism category. Wonder why the US site changed (curious minds would like to know)

  • Annie

    It appears it has its own section. I just looked for “atheism” under books, and got 2,984 results. (The God Delusion, by the way, is number 5). No need to go through the spirituality section… I think of that as a good thing.

  • Max Exter

    Perhaps I’m missing something obvious, but how exactly does one leave feedback at amazon.com? I’ve looked around the site, and so far haven’t found any way to submit feedback.

  • Pammy

    On the top left, click on “Help,” and then, “Contact Us.” You can either do the instant chat feature, or email them.

  • Soon™

  • Noigiler

    Interestingly, the link is still available in the Kindle store:
    Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Religion & Spirituality › Spirituality › Atheism

    I guess they’ve concluded that we are a virtual force hence only need virtual books…

  • Marian

    Atheists are my favorite kind of victims.

  • I chatted with Vijay and he gave me these links:

    http://www.amazon.com/atheism-books/lm/FNUAQL42AWHW

    http://www.amazon.com/Best-Books-about-Atheism/lm/R1NMS6E44N2BMR

    http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=Atheism&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3AAtheism&page=1

    After explaining why I like having an atheism category he said he would pass on the feedback “to the right people”.

  • Librarian

    This shows up under Kindle Books:

    Department
    ‹ Any Department
    ‹ Kindle Store
    ‹ Kindle eBooks
    ‹ Religion & Spirituality
    ‹ Spirituality
    Atheism

    I agree though, Atheism should be under philosophy.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Isn’t a book about “atheism” inherently about the topic of religion (even if it is presenting a critique or alternative to religion)?
    Thus, I think it should go in the religion section.

    I also think that strategically for promoting atheism it should go in the religion section, where it would be stumbled upon by theists looking for books on their beliefs.

  • Larry Meredith

    “books about Atheism”?
    What is this Atheism, and why is it capitalized?

  • Alex

    Something tells me that Hemant’s request will not go any further than Tajul. Typical customer service story.

  • “books about Atheism”?
    What is this Atheism, and why is it capitalized?

    Because a scarlet small-a just wouldn’t look half as awesome.

  • Steve

    I just chatted with Manikandan from Amazon support and provided my feedback on the issue.

    I did also find an interesting subsection I hadn’t seen before when poking around just now.

    Books › Religion & Spirituality › Religious Studies › Science & Religion

    Dawkins is the first result. This section also contains all the BS “science points to a god” books like those from Collins and Strobel. It’s a useful category.

  • Togii

    It seems like it’s back now… or maybe it just shows up on my computer.
    I’ve never read the book that’s currently #1. Having this list available makes me want to buy things. Imagine that.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/12764/