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?