Okay, so a thing happened: WH Smith has taken their site offline after discovering that there’s some grody self-published erotica in its catalog. As of this time, they’re still offline. WH Smith apparently partners with Kobo. Oh and, from the WH Smith holding page:
Our website will become live again once all self published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available. When our website goes back online it will not display any self published material until we are completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.
Now, obviously the UK and US have very different laws in regards to porn, and I honestly have no idea what those differences are. (Though apparently, this isn’t an issue of things being legal or not even? Great.) Nor am I at all interested in writing a bombastic American defense of porn that makes people vomit into their mouths because first amendment and stuff. Not really the topic up for debate here.
What has my attention is that apparently, Kobo has pulled all of their self-published books for now. Not just the erotica ones. No regard for genre. See this post on the Digital Reader. And in the splash zone has been titles by my the small publisher I’m with–so possibly others as well.
I’m currently in the UK, so I get the UK kobo site by default even when I click through on my American Kobo links. Time for fun with screenshots! So here’s The Ugly Tin Orrery;
And I don’t currently exist in general as a searchable author. (Full disclosure: I have never had a reason to look for myself on the Kobo UK site before, so I can’t tell you with 100% certainty that I was searchable before… but the existence of the above “currently unavailable” book is a thing that makes me go hmmmm.)
And while I’m posting screenshots, just for the record I did once exist on the WH Smith site. (Google cache is a magical thing.)
So we’ll see if I’m still around after they bring their website back up.
Anyone in the US want to check and see if I still exist on Kobo there? I’m curious due to some comments on the Digital Reader post. ETA: A couple people have let me know that I’m still available on Kobo in the US, so that’s a relief. Thank you!
I don’t write rapey incest bestiality erotica. I don’t write erotica at all. I write Steampunk, and the steamiest that’s ever gotten is two women kissing. (Shock! Scandal!) No, really. I’m also not self-published. All of my ebooks are published through Musa Publishing. (Always time for a little self-promotion, eh?)
Now, if I’ve ever gotten any sales from Kobo UK or WH Smith isn’t something I can tell you, since I think those go under the Smashwords umbrella on my statements. But frankly, it’s in the interest of any writer to want their titles available in as many places as humanly possible, just in case some reader will stumble across them and fall in love. Will the “non-objectionable” books get brought back eventually? I hope so. But there’s been no word from Kobo thus far. And why is “self-published” in general being equated with incestuous dog-raping erotica?
(And of course this doesn’t even touch on the idea of books that are “objectionable” being blanket removed from catalogs and how deeply it disturbs my little American soul.)
One of the reasons I find this all really disturbing is that it’s a reminder of one of the creepier major drawbacks of ebooks: It’s laughably easy to make them vanish. And to do so in a massive blanket that drags up a ton of people who are unrelated to whatever “problem” this supposedly will fix. Particularly for ebooks (we can’t even get dead tree copies of our own work to hump around in a suitcase and sell if it comes to that) we are incredibly dependent on these websites, and have no defense at all when it comes to our titles being removed.
And apparently being with a publisher isn’t an automatic defense either. So that’s fun.
I wanted to get this out there because I think it’s important, and I hadn’t even heard of the issue until someone mentioned it on a mailing list of which I’m a member. I think this is a thing that really deserves more attention, because there are so many issues to be unpacked in it and I’m just not capable right now because it’s three in the morning and seriously I only got up to pee and that was like an hour again and fuck my life, hahaha, etc. But anyway. I swear I’m going back to bed for real now. BELIEVE ME.