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Tuesday News: Kobo and WH Smith overreact to the porn titles...

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Yesterday, Kobo pulled all the content from the distributor Draft 2 Digital in response to the complaints retailers were receiving about the incest and beastiality books being self published. Authors refer to this content as Psuedo Incest because it is really about step brothers and step fathers, not blood relatives, but because Daddy PI was showing up in the children’s literature section, WH Smith went to the drastic step of shutting down its website (which is likely costing them thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a day) and Kobo pulled all the D2D content. Much of the D2D content is not “porn” but YA, sweet romance, and the like.

Part of the problem is that authors who are writing PI stuff will relabel their content in order to get around the filters. I think the extreme reaction is due to a few authors trying to mess with the system and reducing the efficacy of filters. For instance, authors would change the title of their book to get through the filter but the cover would have a different title – one that is disallowed. Authors would use the names of famous authors in their tags or descriptions so that the books would show up when someone was searching for other things. I can’t tell you how irksome it was that one author’s porn books kept showing up when I was trying to compile a new release list for “Forever Romance.”

Other authors were putting up excerpts in the description area that were full on sex scenes.

At Kobo, their search function is even worse.  Search a middle grade author name and a bunch of porn titles show up because Kobo can’t get its search feature to work correctly.

What is clear is that Direct 2 Digital uses no filters unlike Smashwords. None of the Smashwords titles were taken down but the ones from D2D were, likely because D2D had no way of filtering out the questionable content.

There’s been a great deal of panic and accusations flying but the actions appear to be taken primarily by Kobo and WH Smith. For now, it appears the following is true:

  • Kobo is removing self published content in addition to the Draft 2 Digital stuff. If a book was part of an indie consortium that Kobo doesn’t like, then the whole consortium’s books were removed. No update as to when this will be resolved.
  • No content has been removed from any reader’s Kindle. Lots of readers seem to be in a tizzy about this but I have seen zero evidence of this. – Indie authors have been whispering this into indie bloggers’ ears and it was all over facebook last night. Removing content from the store (or in Amazon’s case, putting the content into draft status) is not the same thing as taking stuff away from your Kindle account. Amazon won’t even remove plagiarized crap from your Kindle account. Seriously I had to restrain myself from using allcaps all over the Internet yesterday and it wasn’t easy.
  • Amazon is not going to war against self published erotica. Given that the dino porn is still up as is tons of other porn, the evidence is strongly against any war against indies and/or erotica. What they don’t want is a bunch of in your face incest, rape and child porn stuff showing up in regular searches but when authors keep trying to futz with the filter, the banhammer comes down hard and broad. They appear to be putting any erotica author’s work into draft if it contains “sister, brother, child, babysitter, daddy, mother” and the like.  The author will then have to go back to Amazon and republish the work. Some authors reported that working within hours while others were still being vetted.
  • Amazon is going through and putting authors’ titles to “draft” status which means that the content isn’t deleted, but rather it can’t be purchased until Amazon determines that the content doesn’t violate its anti porn clause (which it selectively enforces).
  • Authors having their content removed is a bigger deal than readers having their content removed. Or do Kobo and other retailers not have the right to enforce their content policies just like Goodreads? Or is somehow constraining commercial speech and the sale of porn more concerning than critical speech?

Anyway, I digress. Enough people complained and media sat up and now the retailers are doing something. Does this mean that the content is never coming back? Doubtful. Right now it means that Amazon and Kobo are vetting content that they pulled which is likely going to take a really long time.

 The good news is that libraries have a plan to fix the problem. This weekend, the Times Higher Education website published a feature that looks at Perma CC, a site that is creating etched-in-stone digital references for scholars and lawyers. It works like this: a scholar (or anyone else) can submit a link to Perma CC, which is managed by a coalition that includes universities, libraries and the Internet Archive. According to Perma CC, the group will create a permanent URL and store the page on its servers and on mirror sites around the world. Readers who encounter Perma.cc links can click on them like ordinary URLs. This takes them to the Perma.cc site where they are presented with a page that has links both to the original web source (along with some information, including the date of the Perma.cc link’s creation) and to the archived version stored by Perma.cc. There is also a process for scholars and librarians to “vest” certain URLs so that they become an official, permanent citation for law and science journals. This process appears to be a long overdue solution. Here are some more stats cited by the Times Higher Education feature: Link rot at influential science journals rises from 4 percent at three months to 10 percent at 15 months to 13 percent after 27 months. 98.3 percent of web pages change in some way within six months, while 99.1 percent do within a year At three Harvard legal journals, over a 12-year period, 70 percent of the links no longer worked.

Amy brought up the recent Zoë Heller’s recent article in The New York Times, which encouraged novelists to review because “their contributions help maintain the rigor and vitality of the public conversation about books.” And further, “Whenever a novelist wades into the critical fray, he is not only helping to explain and maintain literary standards, but also, in some important sense, defending the value of his vocation.” It would take a huge sea change for authors to feel safe in reviewing and frankly I don’t foresee that change happening soon. Indie Authors & Paid Reviews – IndieReader

For those who can’t read the screencap, the first person asks what “her Goodreads or Librarything identity? I have a group of three dozen authors who have collected and compiled the real life addresses and email address of those trolls through their free book giveaways.  We also know 3 friends who are dormant friends in stalker circles.”

But it’s the Goodreads readers who are the problem, right?

Goodreads stalking readers

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Kaetrin
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 05:59:08

    The Internet Archive? Is that like the NetMind? :P

  2. Deborah Nam-Krane
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 07:17:42

    They can censor all they want on their site; it’s private and they’re within their rights. It’s that they are doing it so capriciously and erratically that’s making me roll my eyes. My stuff hasn’t been taken down, but indie books I’ve read that don’t come anywhere close to those themes have been (Paranormal Chick Lit mysteries, among others). And yet Kobo is still selling titles like The Amateurs, Girl Talk: Massage Party, The Good Wife: Stephanie’s First Punishment – BDSM Erotica story and Naked Adventures. I know this because all of those titles showed up as Related Titles under a friend’s book which, oddly enough, has nothing to do with erotica or BDSM.

    Whatever, Kobo.

  3. Deborah Nam-Krane
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 07:23:49

    And the stalking thing? What the bleep?! Isn’t that illegal?

  4. Estara Swanberg
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 07:36:54

    From the Soapboxing link I already gathered that the review deletions are a witch hunt (possibly in collusion with STGB, considering who the people are whose comment threads were attacked/deleted) – and now they are actively datamining under false pretenses? Wow.

    I ran a non-widget ebook giveaway on Goodreads once. The winners sent me a contact e-mail and I sent them a Smashwords gift e-mail of the book. That was it (admittedly it didn’t have many entries ^^, and because the author had put the introductory price very cheap I simply sent a link to everyone who had participated).

  5. Ros
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 07:39:24

    My books are gone from Kobo and I’m with Smashwords. As far as I can work out, it’s only affecting content in the UK. That is, people in the US tell me they can still see my titles. I can’t see ANY self-published books on Kobo in the UK, including D2D and directly uploaded titles.

  6. Lynnd
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 09:32:04

    @Ros: Your books are still all on sale in Canada as well.

  7. azteclady
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 09:52:48

    The STGRB people are scary indeed. And what they are doing is probably illegal in some jurisdictions. I hope that eventually what they are doing does catch up to them, but I have little faith it will–cheaters and asshats seem to consistently get away with it, don’t they?

  8. willaful
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 10:38:23

    Thanks for the reasoned comments on the Kobo thing. I have a clearer picture of the issue now. And for publicizing the stalker info, which people really need to know about.

  9. MaryK
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 14:45:27

    @Deborah Nam-Krane: I’m guessing that they’re looking for the hidden/mislabeled stuff which necessitates taking down the seemingly innocent to check it and that they don’t care about the titles you mention because they’re properly labeled.

  10. Andrea K
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 19:12:07

    With Goodreads giveaways you receive the contact details of the winners only, not everyone who entered (fortunately!). My gosh, I can’t believe they’re compiling details like that!

  11. azteclady
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 00:33:21

    On the STGRB creepiness: the more I think of the quoted bit, the more outraged I feel. “Dormant friends”? Does this sound akin to “sleeper (terrorist) cells” to anyone else?

    How on earth can any rational person not see how paranoid and downright batshit crazy this behaviour is?

  12. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 16, 2013 @ 17:07:04

    I really GR would step in and see the issues with the stalker thing.

    I have run author-sponsored giveaways but I’ve since shut my Shiloh Walker & J.C. Daniels author accounts there and won’t be running giveaways any more. Since Goodreads isn’t changing, I can’t see me going back.

    When you run a giveaway, the addies you get are the names of the winners as far as I can tell, but you do get their names, their addies, etc.
    :(

  13. Tracey Morait
    Oct 18, 2013 @ 00:52:32

    WH Smith have taken ALL my books off, those in print and the one Kobo title I had which I published through D2D, all harmless children and young adult books. Before they redesigned their site I had four titles on the Smith’s catalogue, then I had one, the current title. That’s gone, too, now.

    And yeah, I’m pretty hacked off about it. If this isn’t the excuse they’ve been looking for to get rid of the SP and small presses from their listings then I’m Marilyn Monroe. Let them come out and deny it if I’m wrong.

    They’re still listing the erotica from the mainstream publishers. What does that tell you?

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