Strange tidings from the UK
I stumbled over a blog post named Self-Published Erotica is Being Singled Out For Sweeping Deletions From Major eBookstores. When I read the title I didn't think all that much about it, but then my brain grasped what it really said.
According to that blog post, the whole debacle with deletions of books started with Amazon selling legal adult content, which led to an article named, "Amazon cashes in on Kindle filth." I have tried to access the article, but their servers appear to be down at the moment, which leads me to believe that millions of other curious writers also want to read it.
I was able to read some other articles. Like this one in The Mail Online which mentions - in a horrified tone - how "Writers can self-publish using the Kindle Direct service, which allows them to put titles online within minutes."
The website On the Media has a more balanced point of view. They mention that the books which originally started the debate are "Leagues worse than pornography. They're written to give the reader pleasure while imagining someone raping a child."
I'm sure most people don't want to read books like that. The material is probably illegal in many countries, and I absolutely agree that retailers have a choice in what they want to sell.
The article continues with pointing out, "As for the idea that these books are just in bad taste, well, absolutely. They're the worst. But you won't find these books unless you're looking for them." Good point. One can wonder how the writers of the original article found them...
I understand that book sellers want to remove material that's outright illegal, or borderline so. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. It is impossible to single out which books break the rules without reading them all.
Sure, one can write computer algorithms that will search for keywords, phrases, and similar clever things, but I doubt we have artificial intelligences able to make informed decisions on when certain words can be close together and be okay and when they're wrong. Thus, the solution becomes to delete everything.
Right now, as I write this, retailers work on removing all self-published erotica. Is that really the right way to deal with a problem caused by a handful of books/writers/activists?
Here's a shocker: authors need to sell books to make a living. Authors of books with adult content need to buy food and pay their bills just like everyone else. Punishing them through pulling their books hardly seems fair. They didn't do or write anything illegal.
Also, today, erotica is targeted, but it won't stop there. I'm already hearing about authors in other categories whose books are removed from large retailers.
Thus far the hubbub has been on British websites, but even though the country is located on an island, nothing is isolated in the world of the Internet.
I went to the website of British bookseller whsmith.co.uk, and their page is closed down, with a message saying the page will be closed until "all self published eBooks have been removed. 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."
Retailers are apparently attacking self-published books, because that's easy. The blog points at some works by major publishing houses that definitely break the rules, but they're not touched, because they're not self published.
I wasn't familiar with any of the titles mentioned, so I looked a few of them up. The book Tampa by Alissa Nutting is published by Harper Collins. It is about "Celeste Price, a smoldering 26-year-old middle-school teacher in Florida, unrepentantly recounts her elaborate and sociopathically determined seduction of a 14-year-old student."
That's okay, but all self published books must go?
Don't get me wrong. I don't hold a personal grudge against Alissa Nutting - I had never heard of her or the book until an hour ago - but if the object of the game really was to remove books with objectionable content, how can it be okay to keep a book where a 14 year old is seduced by a teacher while removing innocent YA books because they're self published?
The result of this is easy to sum up: Writers aren't happy. Readers aren't happy.
This might all blow over. Similar things have happened before and just gone away. However, do you know who is happy and who wins on all this? Traditional, big publishing houses.