Monday, October 14, 2013

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, 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.


  1. As I understand it--and mind you, I just found out about all of this a couple of hours ago--the problem was that erotica titles like "Pregnant by Daddy" were showing up on pages for children's books in places where there were no parental controls. To me that sounds more like some kind of metadata or coding error. If they could fix the coding of how erotica is listed on the sites, then it seems like the problem would resolve itself. Maybe that's what they're doing by shutting everything down temporarily. I sympathize with authors trying to sell books, but I also sympathize with parents whose unchaperoned children have been able to download inappropriate books because of metadata errors.

    Also, people obviously don't read books before talking about them. I was surprised to find one of my romance novels featured on a site that prides itself on helping readers find clean romance. Their site was explicit (no pun intended) that all sex in the books they promote happens behind closed doors. Um, actually, there are two graphic sex scenes in the book of mine they were promoting. Go figure.

    Interesting points though!

    1. I absolutely understand that parents worry about what material their children see, and the metadata coding has been insufficient to say the least. I hope you're right and this is all just an easily resolved metadata error.

      It will be interesting to see how it plays out, and if whsmith ever puts back all the self-published books they're taking down now.

      That's funny about your book! It would help if people would read before talking. (I usually get critique for having too little sex in the books, LOL!)


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