I’ve confirmed that these two books don’t show their sales rank on Amazon; they’re not especially obscure, and I just checked a more obscure book–John Williams’ “Stoner”–and see that it has a sales rank of 10,521. I’m pretty sure that Forster and Baldwin sell circles around Williams (though I’m also pretty sure the Williams book holds its own as a piece of writing–more on that in a day or two).
Sales rank is one of the factors that goes into search results at Amazon, which has resulted in some weirdness. The first book that shows up for the Amazon search “homosexuality” is “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality”; of the first twelve results, ten are in the “cure for gayness” genre. At Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.com, zero to two of the top twelve results offered dubious “cures.”
An Amazon spokesperson has blamed the situation on a “glitch.” And we should probably give them the benefit of the doubt for now. But it’s certainly curious that of the first twelve Baldwin books that turn up on Amazon, only “Giovanni’s Room” is missing its sales rank.