Shortly after PW’s report went live that Target.com had been redacting certain key words in the product descriptions of a number of books from small and university presses, company spokesperson Jenna Reck assured PW that corrections have been made or are in the process of being made in book descriptions, and provided PW with Target's response to publisher and author complaints.
The Minneapolis-based chain retailer states, “Like most online retailers, Target doesn’t want profanity and other select words to appear on our website in an effort to ensure a positive shopping experience. We recently learned that a small number of words were being inadvertently removed from book descriptions on Target.com. This was an oversight on our part and they should be included. We’re working to update our site with the descriptions that were provided to Target by the book publishers. As always, we appreciate the feedback and will use it to continue to improve the experience we offer our guests."
Target also disputes Nina Packebush’s assertion that a company representative had told her that the word “queer” had been redacted from the product description of her YA novel, Girls Like Me (Bedazzled Ink, 2017) because it was considered “a slur.” According to Reck, Target does not take the position that the word “queer” is scurrilous or offensive. Packebush, however, stands behind her recollection of that interaction with a Target representative.
While Target promises to review and update the book descriptions that contain redactions that publishers and authors recently brought to its attention, PW continues to receive complaints regarding Target’s redactions of the data submitted to it by Baker & Taylor. B&T, which provides both book metadata and fulfillment for Target.com, confirmed this morning that it does not edit metadata for content. Kell Andrews said that Target.com replaced the word “snatch” with asterisks in the description of her children’s picture book, The Book Dragon (Sterling, Oct.), about a book-hoarding dragon.
"I was embarrassed that my book was censored for vulgarity, and I thought the asterisks made the possible omission look even worse -- as if the book might not be appropriate for children," Andrews said. "I let my editor know, and we changed the description to "steal" -- which is both less accurate to the story and less evocative. Unfortunately, that change to the data changed the book description for all vendors." Target.com's filter for questionable words, Andrews says,"is not neutral or benign at all." And to make matters worse, after the publisher's tweak of the data, the word "steal" currently is redacted in the book's product description on Target.com.
Update: The word "transgender" was not included in the metadata sent to Target concerning the middle grade novel, A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers, and thus not redacted, as was reported in a previous version of this story. This error has been corrected.