Posted on 2013-Oct-16
One Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch
Over the course of this week, if you follow the news closely, several self-published titles have been removed from major eBook online vendors’ catalog. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, WH Smith joined forces in the removal process acting in defense of the direct accusation of a whistleblower website, The Kernel. In one of their blogs that you will find here, their harsh criticism seasoned with controversial use of language ousted several books that have inappropriate content to be easily found in several online stores. Based on their investigation tipped by a spy novelist who tweeted his surprise how freely the “barely legal” books were available, several search results about “daddy” would not exactly define the kind of father you and me look up to.
Media Fanning the Flame
Following suit of the previously mentioned investigation, The Daily Mail took one step further to graphically reveal what could be the worst case scenario when disturbing eBooks appear freely alongside with children’s literature. The British rag came up with a number of books with various price tags ranging from £0 to £11.35 throughout several vendors—WHSmith, Amazon UK, Waterstones, and Barnes and Noble—that were available in the UK. There was a major concern from The National Crime Agency that these kinds of materials appear to “legitimize” child abuse.
The Need to be Offline
Being pressured by heavy criticism, WHSmith took the most serious measure to take their website offline and work closely with Kobo to have the titles in question removed. If you happen to check their website today, their holding page is still there to make an official apology and direct all queries to their customer support team. They became the overnight phenomenon to take a serious step backward and clean their storefront.
Theoretically, everything sounds optimistic that we will not have to bear with pornography any longer now that booksellers will prevent their users from accessing inappropriate content. There is a darker side of this story when most of the books that have been removed belong to self-publishers. David Gaughran, self-publishing evangelist, delineates the “media firestorm” that has led up to the removing of self-publishers even those who do not write erotic content. As far as he is aware of, all 7,883 self-published titles distributed to Kobo from Draft2Digital are all gone according to its CEO’s email to the authors. Not only self-publishers are victimized by this incident, small publishers that upload their books via distributors like Smashwords or upload via Kobo Writing Life shares the same fate. David explained about the coverage of the removal that spans across the UK, especially in the Kobo Store. People accessing the store outside the UK might not see the problem as big as the British residents. Additionally, his books are pulled from the store regardless of his non-erotica genres. Surprisingly, even Kobo’s eBook partner store in New Zealand, Whitcoulls, is affected by the incident.
Filtering the Content
Now that the reality sinks in, lots of self-publishers must have felt the worst impact upon their works especially when double standards are applied in full force. You can research by yourself which traditionally published titles are safe for the elimination. If the retailer wants to set up a controlling system to protect minors from accessing “objectionable” content, they could fix whatever system they are using as David points out. One commenter said that eBook vendors need the ‘ability to filter content’. With that being said, users need to log in and verify their age with a credit card. Authors themselves must be responsible for providing accurate information about the theme of their books and self-proclaim the age of their audience.
Food for Thought
As a self-publisher, what’s left for you to keep your faith in the current method of distribution when your life solely depends on the major bookstores? Nate of The Digital Reader suggests that you can possibly look for other alternatives as he lists a few names on the blog. BB eBooks voices our concern through immediate press release that the major vendors must come up with a solution to prevent this from happening. Update: Kobo released a statement to inform their clients that they will put the books back in one to two weeks.
Perhaps, the whole incident can be a wake-up call for all parties involved in the publishing industry to be responsible for their actions. Having courted self-publishers to join the various programs that will increase revenue stream, what message will the major bookstores give to their clients now that they are treated like second-class citizens? I found an interesting piece of article posted by Nathan Bransford three years ago about violence in books. Although it may not directly touch upon the “objectionable” topic, the open-ended title drew 172 comments that had engaged in thought-provoking food for thought.
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