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Self-Published Erotica is Being Singled Out For Sweeping Deletions From Major eBookstores

October 13th, 2013 by · 124 Comments · ebookstore news

Amazon,5001841627_fed12fba03[1] Barnes & Noble, and WH Smith are taking a radical response to last week’s “news” that they sell boundary-pushing adult content in their ebookstores. They are now deleting not just the questionable erotica but are also removing any ebooks that might even hint at violating cultural norms.

This story began when The Kernel discovered last week that, much to their dismay, Amazon was selling legal adult content:

The books are sold as Kindle Editions, the name Amazon gives to books that can be cheaply and quickly downloaded to its portable Kindle device. Available titles include Don’t Daddy (Forced Virgin Seduction) and Daddy’s Invisible Condom (Dumb Daughter Novelette).

As with “barely legal” pornographic films, which seek to satisfy base urges associated with illegal and immoral acts while circumventing laws against depictions of underage sex, many of the titles listed on Amazon protest loudly that rape victims are “over 18”.

Similarly, the “daddy” rapists in many incest stories are revealed in the small print to be “not blood related”. But few reading the titles of these books will be fooled about the supposed erotic intent of the volumes.

Again, this content is legal.

I had planned to simply ignore this as a non-news story, but the major ebookstores were more concerned about legal self-published erotica than I would have expected. The Daily Mail, On The Media, BBC News, and a couple dozen authors on KBoards are all reporting that content is being deleted right and left.

The ebookstores are sweeping a wide broom in the process, with WH Smith even going so far as to shut down their website. They have replaced it with a holder page that explains that:

Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours. This is an industry wide issue impacting retailers that sell self published eBooks due to the explosion of self publishing, which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get their content published. However we are disgusted by these particular titles, find this unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them.

Their statement ends with the conclusion that the website will be operational again “once all self published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available.” When that will be, they did not say.

Update: It appears that WH Smith wasn’t exaggerating when they said that all self-published ebooks were going to go; there are numerous reports that Kobo is removing most if not all of the self-pub titles in their UK ebookstore. Click here for more details.

WH Smith is not alone in their overreaction. Barnes & Noble was only peripherally mentioned in this story, but they too have started removing content and released an official statement:

When there are violations to the content policy that are brought to our attention, either through our internal process or from a customer or external source, we have a rapid response team in place to appropriately categorize or remove the content in accordance with our policy.

Amazon has not officially commented on the story, but I do have numerous confirmations from KBoards (I can’t figure out how to link to specific posts, sorry) that Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble have been removing whole swathes of self-published erotica from the Nook Store and Kindle Store. And they are not just deleting the more questionable titles; B&N and Amazon appear to be performing keyword searches in the erotica section and removing everything they find.

Many authors have reported that their titles had been pulled from the Kindle Store with little explanation beyond the statement that the titles in question violated Amazon’s policies on “Description, Cover Image”. Many don’t have a clue what that is supposed to mean, including the author who forwarded one of the emails to me.

For example, one self-published title that was swept up in the crowd was Babysitting the Baumgartners. This ebook was unquestionably erotica, but based on the listing on Goodreads it is not in the least bit questionable (other than the word babysitter in the title). This title is not listed in either the Kindle Store or Nook Store any more.

And then there is Riding the Big One, a gay novel which was originally published years ago and subsequently re-released by the author in 2010. And suddenly Amazon decided they won’t sell it anymore as an ebook, possibly because the description mentions the word teenager.

There is also The Nun’s Lover, which appears to have been removed simply because the description mentions the word sister.

Curiously enough, B&N and Amazon have yet to remove The Bible, V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic, Alyssa Nutting’s Tampa, Judy Blume’s Forever, or Lolita.  No, they’re just removing self-published erotica. And that brings me to what I see as the more important story.

This story has already gotten a lot of press, but so far as I can tell everyone from the journalists to the ebookstore staff has made the same assumption that only the self-published titles are an issue. As you can see from that list of titles above, that is simply not true.

Unfortunately, I may have been the only one who noticed. And I might be the one only one who cares about the authors who have been harmed in this moral panic.

It is not easy to get a title restored to the Kindle Store after the staff removed it. Said title has to be approved by some faceless drone inside Amazon before it can be sold again, and thanks to the minimalist explanations provided by Amazon it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for authors to comply.

And that means that this overreaction on the part of Amazon, B&N, and WH Smith is affecting the livelihoods of more than a few authors, none of whom have done anything worse than write and sell what readers want to buy. The overblown response to a couple of news stories is actually causing more damage than the content being vilified.

And that, frankly, is ridiculous.

Further Reading

  • Amazon removes abuse-themed e-books from store (BBC News)
  • Why Amazon Should Keep Publishing Rape and Incest Porn (On The Media)
  • Warning: KDP banning old and new erotica titles en masse from self-publishers (KBoards)
  • WHSmith removing all self-published titles; Offline Statement (Kboards)
  • How Amazon cashes in on Kindle filth – Jeremy Wilson (The Kernel)
  • WHSmith’s vile trade in online rape porn: Bookseller apologises after sales of sick ebooks are revealed (Mail Online)

 image by victoriapeckham

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124 Comments so far ↓

  • Felix

    Sounds like “questionable literature” is just a pretext. After all, banning “questionable” expression is called censorship, and that’s illegal. More likely, this is an attack on self-publishing itself. “Once all self published eBooks have been removed”, indeed.

    Publishers are panicking, that’s what happens. And they’re lashing at those who no longer need them.

    • Steven Zacharius

      This has nothing to do with publishers telling them to remove these titles. This is based on feedback from consumers who are upset with what they are seeing in their online stores. The same thing often happens in the printed retail space.

      • Felix

        I might accept that explanation if the deletions weren’t so sweeping, up to *all* self-pub titles in the case of Kobo and WH Smith… while leaving in place erotica from big publishers which is potentially just as questionable. (Lolita, anyone?) Complaints from customers should address specific books, which should be reviewed case-by-case. So I don’t buy that, especially considering what’s going on right now in the book market. The timing’s just too convenient.

      • celeste

        That’s a crock.
        They’re not getting these complaints, you’re pretty much just making that up.

      • Amy

        This is not caused by consumers. It’s by a select group originating in the U.K. who want to control what people can and cannot read. Many of these companies have stated that it is not because of customer feedback but because of that group who brought it to their attention as being “offensive”. No one is going to tell what I can and cannot read or write. The content is legal. The companies actions are illegal. They are violating civil rights…by censoring and taking away a person’s right to choose.

    • Andrew

      Wrong, Felix — censorship is only an issue when it’s done by government, and only illegal in countries where it’s deemed so. When it comes to private entities (which all of these are), there is no such thing as “censorship”; they are allowed to sell or not sell whatever they please (within the bounds of law). If you were running your own store, you’d expect the same privilege.

      • Travis Luedke

        Well, I bet a class action attorney firm might find a solid civil case for discrimination.

        When you offer the public a service for publishing/distribution, and yet you discriminate against a certain sector of publishers, that might be a good argument for a big, fat, nasty lawsuit.

        Now, that doesn’t make allowance for taboo subject matter such as incest and whatnot. But it does make allowance for your garden variety steamy romance or standard erotica material.

        I could be totally wrong, but it seems to me, there is a whole lot of discrimination going on right now, and a decent civil case could be made, especially since the discrimination is so blatantly targeted at self/Indie publishing. Its too well focused to be non-discriminatory.

        If the discrimination was truly about content-only considerations, then 50 Shades of Grey, Story of O, and a large number of traditionally published erotic titles would have to be pulled based on the same content criteria.

        This is targeted discrimination, with real measurable financial losses, and a quantifiable value could be established in those losses in a class action suit, especially for those titles that have been published and selling for YEARS, but now are pulled.

        • Andrew

          I can’t speak for the UK, but here in the US that would unlikely be grounds for discrimination. As with censorship, these are private companies, which have the right to refuse service as they choose — as long as it doesn’t violate *legally defined* categories of discrimination. And there are not very many of these… race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation… I can’t remember the others. So, yeah, they couldn’t refuse to sell books written by black people (specifically because they’re black), but they can refuse to sell categories of books. “Erotica authors” are not a Constitutionally protected group of people.

          • Celeste M. Bath

            Andrew,

            If they have one set of standards for one group of authors, but a separate set of standards for another (like say big 5 publishers) group of authors, THAT is illegal. They have to maintain the same set of standards across the board.

      • ePubNick

        The real 1st Amendment censorship issue is the infiltration of religious extremists at book publishers like Amazon, and as individuals and groups that cause these fake crises.

        The 1st Amendment also states that we are to be protected from religious persecution. We publishers of “erotica” are constantly bombarded by take down efforts by religious extremists, of all religions, world wide.

        While WH Smith is UK, and this publicized effort is based from the UK, Amazon and Kobo are very US in terms of the global Internet economy,

        Amazon first and foremost needs to clean out the religious extremists in its censorship unit, that targets anything erotic, because of their narrow religious beliefs. Amazon does more to censor in-house, than anyone else.

        Kobo and others needs to stand strong against this media campaign. The BBC should be very ashamed of itself for promoting this fake crusts, especially after the sex scandals that occurred on BBC property for decades. While there isn’t a “1st Amendment” in the UK, applying the US analogy: shame on the BBC for manufacturing a “don’t read this” campaign against anyone who publishes – other than them!

        • Andrew

          ePubNick:

          1. The First Amendment prohibits the making of a law that establishes a religion or impedes the free exercise of a religion. So, again, the protection is from the *government* — not free enterprise and private entities.

          2. Thinking this is all about religious extremists is misguided. I know many people who are non-religious who are offended or disturbed by certain sexual content. To think that opposition only comes from religious extremists is as much a blanket (and thus erroneous) statement as someone saying all erotica authors are pornographers.

  • Max

    Kobo just pulled all our titles. They show as published but none are actually available in the store. Ironically, the one title we published through Smashwords which was then republished by Kobo is our only title now listed.

    We’ve tweeted and emailed Writing Life for an explanation.

    With respect to Amazon, we’re very surprised by their overreaction. We know that nearly a third of our titles are not offered in the India Amazon store due to censorship, and we expected that if the UK went forward with blatant censorship then titles would be removed from the UK store only. We’re watching how this develops very closely because our investment in the erotica segment of the market is a considerable portion of our work.

    My sympathies to all the authors and publishers effected already. Perhaps this just points back to the problem of monopoly market holders and the need to establish an open marketing platform for literature of all types with a business commitment to fair trade rather than selective content.

    • Steven Zacharius

      First of all I am the CEO of a publishing company, so let me disclose that up front. I think the reason that the accounts would be removing all self-published titles; and believe me, I’m not saying that I agree with that decision……is that when a book comes from a publisher, they know that it has been edited and hopefully handled professionally. Of course that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have questionable content. It certainly can and as a romance publisher there is often a very fine line between erotica and what might be considered pornographic by some people.

      When it’s self-published, they have no way of knowing the content of the book. The retailers do not read the content so they can only rely on comments from users. I think the idea of a website to sell only self-published drm free self-published books is a great idea. There are numerous sites like iUniverse and others that are basically this model.

      • Kallypso Masters

        With all due respect, bull! Sorry, but I’m self-published and would put my books up against anything from ANY publisher ANY day–and mine would probably win. I have a team of six editors now (four of them trained professional editors and two others who are just damned good and worth every dollar I pay them). I hire a professional graphic artist to do my covers. I hire a professional book formatter (who some publishers should be paying to format for them, too–and that’s for you, New York Big Five!).

        So, no. I don’t accept that ALL indie books should be treated as pig fodder just because some people put up crappy books with disgusting subjects wanting to make a quick buck off unsuspecting (or uncaring) readers. MOST readers do care about content and when they find a typo, they report it. Then the bookseller gives the author 5 days to fix it (well, that’s how Amazon used to do it). Now it’s take down a book because the title used the word First Timer or Babysitter or whatever and review it later, if they feel like it. That just doesn’t fly with me. And Kobo UK takes down every freaking title in their inventory and close the store because they might have 50 titles they find objectionable. Really? How do they stay in business?

        I’ve sold more than a quarter million books by my own marketing strategies and word of mouth from my amazing fans. I have given away another 400,000 freebies of my first two titles, mostly via Amazon. You don’t have numbers like that if you are putting out crap. I have turned DOWN a Big Five editor because I don’t want anyone having control over my content. The buck stops with me (and I made six figures the last two years, so that’s a lot of bucks). I prefer to be Indie. It’s very much a point of pride with me that the only gatekeepers I have are the readers. And that’s how I intend to keep it, even if I have to sell my books from my own Kally Swag Store on my web site.

        Kally

        • Kat Hook

          Kally, even if I had to go back to reading paper books and not my kindle I would for your books. And I’m sure ALL of your fans would too.

        • Donna Grizzle

          Love you and your work, Kallypso Masters. I will buy any and everything you publish from wherever you make it available.

        • Destiny

          I totally agree with you. No ALL self published books are horrid with errors and not all Big 5 books have been well edited nor do they always have great content.

        • Karen Williams

          K. M.- I am a fan of yours and have purchased every book you’ve put out (As far as I know). I just want you to know I will continue to purchase erotica and indie publishers as long as I read. I think amazon and others are cutting off their nose to spite their face as probably 80% of what I read is erotica and/or indie publishing. I can’t help but think that they will reconsider this desision once they determine the loss of profit and consumer exposure. It would suite me, and those in my book club just fine to go elsewhere to get what we want. Perhaps a new site specifically for these author/publishers and a non-censurship of content is exactly what is needed. Why oh why is it so surprising to me that as a mostly free world we still must deal with hippocrocy and censorship like we are little children! Shame on those that do those things. The rest of us Will find a way over, under, around or through!

  • Esmeralda Greene

    Thank you for being on the side of truth and rationality on this, Nate.

  • Igor Borski

    No vacuum on the market.

    If it can make money it will make money.
    So prepare for rise of some self-pub platforms.
    Pandora’s box can’t be closed ;-)

    • pidgeon92

      I completely agree. This is a great opportunity for someone to make a boatload of money. A single site, selling to a specific market, selling multiple formats DRM free would be a cash cow.

  • Austin Mitchell

    The WH Smith UK website is now a holding page: http://www.whsmith.co.uk/

  • noko

    The UK is such a puritan country, I’m surprised they haven’t made sex illegal yet.

    I mean, at what point did they come to a big fork in the road where reality took a left but they hung a sharp right?

    If you can’t tell the difference between real child abuse and something that’s described in a work of fiction then you’re no different than the people who actually abuse children.

    • Arpad

      A Puritan country with legal “sex workers” and “rent boys”? You must be joking.

    • Pywackt

      “The UK is such a puritan country, I’m surprised they haven’t made sex illegal yet.”

      Considering the downward trend in population growth for most first world countries, what makes you think it hasn’t already happened? (Just kidding.)

      It’s not about the reasons for the ban, it’s about the effect. Once they can eliminate the self-published authors, they can start working on the minor and medium sized ones.
      It’s pure economics, and filthy morals on their part. They can’t uphold the inflated ebook prices for long, so, they do the next best thing. They eliminate the competition.

  • CJJ

    I’m sure the big publishing houses are loving the message- Self Published Literature= Paedophilia, Pornography and Raunch. They couldn’t have come up with a more marginalizing message if they tried. Of course maybe they did.

  • Will Entrekin

    The pearl-clutching in that Guardian article is insane.

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  • Ken Smith

    Since 1999 Amazon has sold my gay erotica when it was first published by Prowler. In all these years I’ve not been aware of any complaints. Amazon have done very nicely out of them I would think. The books I now publish with KDP are the very same books, with mostly the same covers, and often the same blurb. Can someone at Amazon explain why ‘teenager’ is now an offensive word and they must be withdrawn. Shame they are not paperback then you could have had a public burning.

    • Tammy Faris

      I’m surprised the media hasn’t shown these idiots trying to “burn Kindles”. I’m just waiting for it…*shaking my head*

  • Ed White

    So much for crime thrillers and the like. I guess Hannibal Lecter wont have a presence there or any other story where a rapist, pedophile etc is the villian and the act has to at least be mentioned. I guess that a tell all book about surviving incestuous rape named somethign like “Daddy only said he loved me” will be banned since it has the word Daddy even though its a book that would help many suffering to feel the bravery needed to come forward at last. If you don’t like something don’t freakin buy it (I don’t), BTW it’s a book, it’s not real!

  • Becca

    Kobo has even pulled my book of fairy tales, Dragons and Dreams. I understand that Kobo has pulled all books offered through Draft to Digital, no matter what the topic.

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  • Clair Louise Coult

    All six of my self published stories have been removed from the Kobo website. One of them was a short ghost story about a middle aged shop keeper so it’s not just erotic titles that are being removed. I am very disappointed at this knee jerk reaction.

  • Ken Smith

    Headless chickens springs to mind. Amazon sent me another mail and still failed to say what was wrong with my book. Do they know, I wonder.

  • Jenny

    This affects so many authors who were trying to eke out a meager living during hard economic times. The fact that sex sells, and has done so since the dawn of time, and that thousands of authors were able to live comfortably because of catering to the genre doesn’t seem to matter at all. For the last two years a lot of authors have mentioned the option of putting a content filter into place to solve the problem of exposing underage readers to questionable content, but it would seem these companies would rather cut off a huge leg of income rather than working with authors and readers.

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  • Lea Schizas

    Most of our traditionally published books have disappeared from Kobo. And they included everything from middle grade books to contemporary erotic romance.

    I do see Fifty Shades of Grey still up…is that questionable material?

    Right before the holidays wasn’t the best time for them to do this. Or at least to have began checking books and titles instead of wiping everything out.

  • Laura

    My brothers company was hit by this and I work for him. We are starting our own bookstore at Cryptobooks dot com Right now its erotica because that’s what we sell, but we plan on putting up titles for other things as well at some point. We’re doing this partially to give us another outlet to sell our books but also because we think it’s ridiculous that you can’t sell things that are perfectly legal because certain companies said so. It’s upsetting because we didn’t break any rules they just suddenly changed the rules. I understand them being upset that children could see it, but they can still get to many mainstream books from large publishers that are damn near as explicit as ours. It shouldn’t affect our finances just because they can’t be bothered to partition their sites.

  • Stevie

    Why are they attacking self-published authors when they allow you to self-publish on Amazon.com? That just doesn’t make sense and as for erotica being banned, that’s just stupid, it’s fictional writing meant for adults, to keep it out of kids’ hands, simply don’t let them use your e-reader and instead get them their own with parental controls on it.

  • Soon_to_be_famous

    I remember the flowers in the attic series in middle school. It was really popular with my classmates. I don’t remember the book that well. I thought it was in the ” horror, murder mystery category” that was the last I ever read in this category or of the series. I swear. I decided in middle school I did not want my mind to dwell in this area ever. I am now 38 and still haven’t changed my mind, though now as a writer I find the murder mystery horror authors discussions quite fascinating but personally cannot read anything in this genre! From my memory of middle school I don’t know if really understood ” flowers in the attic” was erotica. I just thought it was ****** sick and didn’t like it.

  • Soon_to_be_famous

    I am all for free speech within limits. I feel more for these authors pocket books than anything else. I sympathize with them extremely as I am an aspiring non-fiction author with some controversial topics and a memoirs who believes that you live and die by touching on the darkest parts of life and family. For some authors this is their only source of income. They should have a union or something. This is just an unacceptable act. It’s making clear how at mercy we are to these big publishing giants. They are now controlling the art world of literature and uhm who gave them the license to do that?

  • Celeste M. Bath

    Kobo has pulled ALL of my titles. This is going to cost me hundreds of dollars a month that in this economy I really need.
    But I still see a lot of other porn books there, with a lot more blatant content. How come those are okay and mine are not? They bribing somebody or something?

  • dee browns

    When does writing about raping children and animals become an acceptable form of entertainment deserving protection? Just trying to understand the rationale in defending certain types of books. And no, I’m not a prude, I love erotica between consenting adults of any kind, about pretty much anything. But the attempts to justify some of the materials that started this firestorm are bewildering. No one is suggesting that the vast majority of erotica be removed. But when books about raping minors (no matter how it’s set up, plotwise, to appear legal) or abusing animals are the subject, can you really expect a major retailer to defend your right to make a buck? By the way, they are businesses, they don’t owe you a living, they have the right to sell or not sell your product, and if you don’t like, go set up your own bookstore. It’s not censorship.

    • Basia Rose

      dee browns, I take it you didn’t bother to actually read about what is going on.

    • Felix

      “When does writing about raping children and animals become an acceptable form of entertainment deserving protection?”

      When any censorship at all is a slippery slope. Today, it’s “questionable” erotica (and where do you draw the line?) Tomorrow, it’s Nazi symbols. After-tomorrow, it’s *anything that criticizes the government*. And the trip is shorter than you think.

      Also, did you miss the part where at least two stores have removed *all* self-published books, regardless of content? That may not be censorship, but it sure is *breach of contract*. Sure, if you don’t like my products you don’t have to carry them, but don’t change the rules midway through the game!

    • Amy

      If you don’t want to read the material, then don’t buy it. But don’t tell me what I can and cannot read. No one has the right to tell me that. Unless you are paying my bills for me, taking care of me and my pre-teen child, you have no right to give me your opinion on what I do read. If some of those acts were actually committed, that would be illegal. But to write a fictional…or even non-fictional account…is not illegal. It is censorship.

  • Sarah Daltry

    I write romance and erotica. Every one of my titles was removed from Kobo. Amazon pulled several and I removed the rest of my erotic titles through KDP in order to prevent them from eventually blocking even my romance novels.

    I have never written rape or abuse or incest or bestiality. I do have a collection of BDSM erotica (pretty light BDSM) and the consenting adults are over 18. However the characters are 18 and virgins. Is it garbage? From a literary standpoint (and I have an MA in English), yes. However, are we now banning the Marquis de Sade? Anais Nin? EL James? Fifty Shades of Grey is not winning the Pulitzer. Yet people read it. As an author, marketability is a factor, especially for someone only a year into this publishing gig.

    One of my titles was blocked for the word babysitter. Another for daddy. The title? “Daddy’s Little Girl Gets Naughty.” The plot? An 18 year old girl decides to have sex (vanilla sex) with her father’s business partner. The blurb is clear. No fine print. The title isn’t referring to daddy but the idea that the good girl misbehaves.

    I don’t really mind but the principle bugs me. Because meanwhile dinosaur rape is still selling. The bestseller lists are flooded with rape and abdication novels. A fair and consistent plan would have been a smarter business move.

    Meanwhile my suggestion to supporters of indie writers is to spend your money on sites that don’t react like children. Apple, Smashwords, and Sony appear to have remained calm. But keep buying indies, to show that your money can be spent elsewhere. Because the authors are losing out here and it’s a bad sign for the industry.

  • Sarah Daltry

    That was supposed to say abduction. Abdication erotica is a niche that likely doesn’t exist. ;)

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  • Soon_to_be_famous

    This topic is adding an entirely new vocabulary and bringing a lot of publicity to my long ago forgotten and neglected erotica shelf. I suppose the ones that do “stay alive” will be doing exceptionally well.

  • Kallypso Masters

    Well stated. I and many other indie authors on Facebook unleashed our avid fans, the readers, on Corporate Headquarters at Amazon since last night via e-mail and all day via phone, causing them to send a whole bunch of people $5 store credit and a statement that taking spreading lies to new heights (I guess they had to pay them the $5 to read THAT crap) saying it wasn’t censorship. Here’s one someone shared privately with me on FB:

    Amazon
    Your Account Amazon.com
    Message From Customer Service
    Hello,
    I am sorry for the wrong information you heard.
    We are not censoring adult books or any other content however we have changed the recommendation pattern of our website so that customers not see Adult books as suggestion or recommendation. Before purchasing adult and romance books we will verify the age of customers.
    We’re constantly working to establish and enhance these agreements so we can offer the largest selection of books possible.
    Further to compensate your inconvenience I’ve issued a promotional certificate for $5.00 to your account, which will automatically apply the next time you order an item sold and shipped by Amazon.com.
    Promotions don’t apply to items offered by other sellers on our website or to gift cards and won’t cover the shipping costs of an order. When using a promotion to buy eligible Kindle books or other digital products sold by Amazon Digital Services, the promotional funds will apply to your order automatically before another payment method is charged.
    If you require further assistance, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you. You can reach us by email, chat or phone directly and toll-free from many countries by clicking the Contact Us option in the right-hand column of our Kindle Support pages at:
    http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport
    When you visit our website and select Contact Us, click on the “Phone” tab, enter your number, and we’ll call you right back. If your country isn’t listed or you’re unable to take advantage of the Contact Us feature, you can call us directly at 1-866-321-8851 or 1-206-266-2992 (if you’re calling from outside the U.S.).
    I hope this Helps.
    Best regards,
    Abhishek M”

    Oh, yeah, it’s all about keeping smut out of kiddie hands. Yeah, right. Lie, lie, lie. Total censorship. I’ll bet their PR firm is working overtime this week!

    Kally

  • Deanndra Hall

    As an Indie author, I am highly offended. Censorship runs rampant in this country, and this is just another example. Yes, at times when I visit Smashwords, I see titles that make me cringe. Then I remind myself that if I don’t want to read it, I don’t have to. Who am I to tell another person that they can’t publish what they want? Who am I to tell another person that they can’t READ what they want?

    As for the kiddies, well, where are their parents? When did it become the online retailers’ responsibility to make sure the children don’t get their hands on something to which their parents object? And what kid under the age of 18 has their own account with Amazon, B&N, etc.? I am constantly amazed at the parents who hand a child a computer or tablet and walk away. If erotica is babysitting your child, whose fault is that? Certainly not the writer’s.

    Which brings me back to a question I asked recently. I was met with curiosity and skepticism when I asked, and was told “it’s not like that anymore, Indie authors aren’t being discriminated against anymore,” but here it is: Is it better to publish under your person and/or the imprint of the retailer? Or should you form a corporation and create your own publishing arm? I think I’m going to get busy tomorrow filling out our state’s forms for an LLC and do just that. If they want to know about the publisher, they’ll have to ask. Otherwise, my ebooks won’t be “self published” anymore and perhaps they’ll leave me alone.

    Just one more case of discrimination against Indie authors. And I, for one, am getting really sick of it. They’d better watch out: Retailers like Smashwords (who, for the record, has virtually no rules except no depiction of sexual activity, either voluntary or forced, with minors) will gladly welcome the influx of customers they’ll get, and readers will be able to buy whatever they want there. And once a customer leaves, just try getting them back.

    Lotsa luck, Amazon, B&N, and WH Smith. You may have just stepped in it. I’ll gladly watch you try to put the hornets back into the nest you just kicked.

    • Basia Rose

      I just read a one star review of a BDSM book listed on Amazon. The reviewer complained her five-year-old daughter bought it by accident.
      My question: why should writing careers be destroyed because total idiots let their kindergarteners shop online?!

    • Kathlena Contreras

      As for the kiddies, well, where are their parents? When did it become the online retailers’ responsibility to make sure the children don’t get their hands on something to which their parents object? And what kid under the age of 18 has their own account with Amazon, B&N, etc.? I am constantly amazed at the parents who hand a child a computer or tablet and walk away. If erotica is babysitting your child, whose fault is that? Certainly not the writer’s.

      My thoughts exactly, Deanndra.

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  • Anita

    I am wondering how all this got started. I mean these questionable titles have been on Amazon for a food long while. Kobo has never been a Fan of Indie writers. That is why I bought a Kindle. Now this. Completely Unfair not only the Writers but to their Fans. It sounds totally like a form of Censorship to me.

  • The Rodent

    Another reason for Indies to walk away from the big stores and strike out on their own… And shows one reason I have never sold books through those outlets. You know know when they’ll have another knee-jerk reaction to something silly.

  • Ferdinand deMarco

    I don’t think this is too overblown if you look at it from Amazon’s point of view. They are based in the USA, home of the ultra conservatives. There is a possibility they can be nailed for selling child porn. Probably not, but if they had done nothing they would have faced a backlash. They might have even pushed to have executives arrested, and in some states that would be a real possibility. I’m not saying it’s right, and chances are in the end any charged would get off, but by that time it could be years, their careers and lives could be ruined.

    Lets face the facts, Amazon is a business, it’s not there to advocate free speech although it would be nice.
    Another business, probably dozens, maybe thousands will pop up to take advantage of this opportunity. The ones in countries with good freedom of speech laws, lax pornography laws and low age of consent will likely do best. And Amazon will lose out on revenue if they don’t distinguish.

    • Ken Smith

      Well mine was pulled in UK only.

      And the more you think of this the more it smacks of being preplanned, like they already had a list of who was going.

    • Alley Latham

      The U.S. has some of the most lax laws in regards to porn in the world, mainly because we have very strict freedom of speech guidelines. One of which is that fictional portrayals of illegal activity are protected by the Constitution. So fictional erotica, even involving minors, or illustrations/digital manipulations of minors involved in sexual activity are all legal. Our Supreme Court decided just a couple of years ago that “crush” videos (usually depicting women actually killing small animals with their high heels) are protected under the Constitution.

      The idea of an Amazon executive being arrested in the U.S. for something like this is just not realistic. No, I’m afraid this is driven by the UK. Unfortunately the freedom of speech protections in the UK are not as broad, and once you illegalize rape fiction or bestiality fiction, it’s only a matter of time before you restrict other things as well. Once you start making exceptions it’s hard to stop.

    • Inane Rambler

      Honestly I think you’re relying on a stereotype of America that just isn’t all that accurate.

  • Ken Smith

    Rumour has it that Amazon is to start a new online shop, Kindle’s Delicious Porn. Well, with all that homeless erotica floating about they could be onto a winner.
    I made changes to Riding the Big One by blanking the cover and replacing it with Censored by Amazon KDP. I also took away product description and replaced that with Censored by Amazon KDP, and resubmitted. They left the cover art alone, so far, but used the new product description. It is now up and running again. Erm!

  • Joanne Christenson

    Kobo has removed all self published authors. This whole thing is ridiculous. I can understand revamping amazons search function so that recommendations are age appropriate. ….but to remove content and tell me what I am allowed to read is preposterous. This truly is backwards book burning. Amazon removed some books from a friend in the U.K’s kindle and when she asked why….that she paid for them….they told her that she had permission to read them. …not keep them. If she wanted lifelong ownership she needed to purchase the paperback

    • M

      this is insane, I agree, bookburning all over again. If we are only paying for “permisson to read them” maybe they should be a heck of a lot cheaper, right? (someone should tell Amazon that) so adults like us cannot read a erotic romance, but a 7yr old can go online and find videos of absolutely ANYTHING, right? I just started to read after almost 10yrs of just not having the time, and have been enjoying one book after another from Amazon, spending extra money I saved or amazon cards I asked for as gifts, and some of the books were Kindle romances, it is enjoyable to read up and coming authors not yet published. Sounds like this will squash all of that.
      Is this our freedoms slowly being taken away?
      This angers me.

    • Soon_to_be_famous

      An ironic and strange twist that Kobo is the sponsor of the Self Publishing Book Expo in New York. The event is in November 9th, 2013. Can someone explain this to me? Kobo bans all self published titles yet one of representative is speaking at this expo for self publishing.

      http://selfpubbookexpo.com/panels/

  • A. H. De Carrasco

    My books were pulled by Kobo. No sex in either of them. I am never supporting Kobo again.
    –A. H.

  • M

    I understand not allowing content that is illegal, incest, rape, etc. But everything else should be protected under Freedom of Speech-right? It still is a free country, at least I thought…are we only allowed to read what someone deems proper? Will we burn books next? So, now I can’t buy an indie book online, but a child can go on YouTube and find any X-rated video he/she wants, with no regulations. I think this is ridiculous.
    I remember an author a good 25yrs ago that wrote and published a book with a rape scene in it, it was a romance novel. If you didn’t like it, you just didn’ t buy it. That simple.
    So now will this be stopping any up and coming author trying to get their name out there, just not able to get published?
    Not to mention if the writing vilolates the policy, dont put it on your site to begin with! Don’ t punish everyone becasue you didn’t follow your own policy when you let rape and incest writing on your page.

    • LS

      Although committing rape & incest may be illegal, writing or reading fictional accounts about it are not. I remember at least half of those really old romance books had arranged marriages in them where the husband had his wedding night whether his wife wanted it or not. She then magically fell in love with him, a reason I prefer more modern romances without the rape in it. Most serial killer fiction also contains rape. I agree this whole thing is ridiculous, they should just put an adult filter in the search function.

    • Andrew

      The First Amendment has nothing to do with what Amazon, B&N, etc. decide to sell. Those are private entities — and as such, they have the right to sell or not sell whatever they want (if it’s within the bounds of existing law). If you were running a bookstore, you’d have the same right (at least here in the US). So, again, this has nothing to do with the First Amendment — nor censorship, nor discrimination. Anyone on here raising these issues is barking up the wrong tree.

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  • SnowCat MacDobhran

    The only thing that is unclear to me is if the Giants are double dipping – removing the content from their sites *and* deleting the content from the e-readers a la the George Orwell novel it yanked a couple years ago.

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  • Celeste M. Bath

    I have seen my Barnes & Nobles online sales make a rather impressive jump over the last 24 hours. I guess Kobo’s customers have decided to take their money to a different seller? So far B&N hasn’t engaged in any of these censorship activities in the US.
    If they continue to hold out, they could very well see their profits start to rise.

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  • Soon_to_be_famous

    I’ve been thinking about my childhood and teenage reading and about the pop culture children and young teens are exposed to. They are bombarded by all sorts of visual pornography on television in movies, even you-tube ads have become incredibly hyper sexual, as well as the most main stream of music, hip hop, that every teenager has or knows which is often extremely explicit, and details abuse and victimization of women in a sexual way. I believe reading promotes creativity and problem solving. I do not believe that reading any sort of literature can prompt people to hurt or engage in acts that they have read of. Instead reading does the opposite. Reading promotes pondering the subject deeply and intellectually, unlike a hyped up you-tube advertisement forced upon viewers would. I am completely against this ban. My response is sparked by the fact that I actually do not read erotica at all and this whole conversation around it has been very theraputic. Yes, it is theraputic reading about erotica themes in this way. I would not be in favor of requiring kids or teens to read anything of adult nature, but that is not the issue. And as for adult readers and creators of taboo or unacceptable erotica topics, genres or mores, simply banning the reading is not going to solve any sort of societal problem, in fact I will go as far to say that it will make the ” problems and issues” even worse.

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  • RSWriter

    The more I hear about these online e booksellers, the more I’m convinced that they are scared and lazy. It’s easier to search for a few keywords and remove some titles willy nilly than to actually assess each book in a methodical way to be certain of its content. That would require their staff using their brains. Remember, there’s A LOT of self published stuff out there so it’s likely that booksellers don’t want to waste staff time which equals money. Problem is, from the public’s point of view these actions appear non sensical and stupid. The biggest crime is how hard it is for a wrongfully deleted book to be reinstated. That’s no way to treat what can be defined as a business relationship. Clearly these online booksellers/publishers have little respect for these relationships, just like many others do (whether justified or not) and its hypocritical for them to profit from authors at the same time as they play the big bad corporation versus the little guy with them. That attitude is for consumers!

    • Ken Smith

      So many guys on the forum don’t seem to grasp the hypocrisy of Amazon, and side with them. Well if you sell my book(s) for 13 years knowing what the content is, make a good deal of cash from it, then while I’m asleep in my bed remove my book because you are not sure if there is something bad between the sheets, then what other word would Amazon use. And there’s a nice bit of divide and rule going on here, where some of those not affected are happy to see the erotica go. After all, erotica writers are not real writers.

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  • ePubNick

    Someone needs to shine a light on those (consumers?) who started yelling Fire in this Theatre.

    No doubt, some fundie religious sect. What some can’t accomplish by infiltrating the employment ranks at publishing companies, others do by stirring up these Nazi-era book burnings.

  • Travis Luedke

    I think we need to form an erotic authors coalition, and look into the feasibility of a class action lawsuit for discrimination. Not sure if it can be done, but I feel like it should be done.

    And another thought for consideration: When WH Smith opens its site back up, do you think 50 Shades or any of the other traditionally published erotica/erotic romance will be removed?

    Hell no.

    This is a blatant attack on self-published erotica. Suspiciously timed for the holiday season book rush.

    I bet if an investigator dug through emails and other records, at the bottom of this media scare and all this posturing by British lawmakers, there is some major publishers lobbyist funds being flung around.

    Its way too convenient to have all this self-published erotica removed from the shelves right before the holiday rush. And the only erotica remaining is that from major publishers.

    Any time you want to get to the heart of the matter in these things, follow the trail of money and ask the question: Who benefits from this act?

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  • Andrew

    There is an abundance of misinformation in these comments about the First Amendment, censorship, and discrimination — which is sad given that these should be literate and educated people.

    The First Amendment and censorship do NOT apply to Amazon, B&N, or any of these other companies because they are PRIVATE entities. They are allowed to sell or not sell whatever they choose (as long as it’s within existing law). Please go to Wikipedia and read what the First Amendment is before professing how these companies are violating it.

    As for discrimination, (again, here in the US), there are legally defined categories of discrimination — against race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, for example — and the people within these groups are protected under specific circumstances. However, this has NOTHING to do with the actions of these companies. “Erotica authors” are not a Constitutionally protected group of people when it comes to discrimination. As such, Amazon, etc. can choose to “discriminate” against them all they want.

    So, all this talk about “rights” and lawsuits and such is totally off target.

    • Celeste M. Bath

      Andrew,

      As I mentioned above, they are only breaking the law if they apply these new ‘rules’ to one group, but not another. In business in most countries you can not ban a product by one group of people, but allow the same product to be sold by another.

      And this really is censorship, but yes, Kobo or WH Smith or Amazon are free to sell or not sell whatever they want, but again, as long as they apply the same standards evenly across the board.

      • Andrew

        Celeste,

        I think you’re confusing “fair” with “law” — which are not necessarily the same. I’m happy to be wrong, if I am, but I’m not aware of any law that you’re talking about that applies to booksellers in the U.S. There are laws of the kind you mention regarding housing, employment, and some other fields, but I don’t think it relates to book retailing. In almost every form of business, the same standards do not automatically or legally apply across the board; all vendors or providers are not treated the same. As a service-providing and product-creating entrepreneur since I was 18 (almost 30 years), I can tell you this from firsthand experience.

        I’ll give you a similar example… Let’s say that Walmart or Target carries a certain kind of chair that I also make and wholesale (a comparable model). Their chair comes from a huge furniture manufacturer. I ask if they’ll sell my chair and they say no. That’s it! They don’t need to give a reason. They can refuse me and anyone else all day and all night for whatever reason, as long as it’s not *legally* discriminating (e.g., they’re only refusing stuff from Hispanics).

        In fact, more on the topic… Walmart and Target would refuse to carry most of the erotica that Amazon has been carrying. And Walmart and Target already refuse to carry 99.9999% of self-published books, while carrying plenty of books from the big New York publishers.

        Again… nothing I’m saying has to do with whether this is all fair or not. I’m only talking legally, because if everyone is up in a storm about this being a legal issue — and it’s not — then everyone may as well be yelling at clouds.

        • Celeste M. Bath

          It’s called ‘Restraint of Trade’ if I remember correctly, IANAL, but I’ve dealt with things like this in other businesses. It is illegal in the US and some European countries.

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  • Travis Luedke

    Though I may have seemed to imply a right or some level of legal knowledge, I don’t have it.

    But I do know, and can see for my own two legally incompetent eyes, that there is widespread discrimination taking place.

    ALL SELF PUBLISHED EROTICA IS BEING REMOVED.

    You can sit around and quote laws and whip out legal dictionaries and whatever. None of that changes the plain truth that self-published erotica is being discriminated against. Is it a form of discrimination that can be sued for? Probably not.

    But it should be.

    Is it a form of discrimination against one’s rights? Not exactly no.

    But its still discrimination.

    So, there’s no point in debating whether or not its discrimination. The debate is what the hell can and should be done about it, if anything?

    Its high time for a Self-Published Erotic Authors Union, to create a united front, and start amassing clout and leverage in the world of publishing and distribution.

    But that would probably be like trying to herd cats. LOL.

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  • John Jorsett

    I wonder when Amazon will also ban rap songs with violent and/or misogynistic lyrics, such as “Cop Killer” which Amazon still has for sale. If you’re going to undertake the purging of the objectionable, don’t stop halfway:

    I got my twelve gauge sawed off.
    I got my headlights turned off.
    I’m ’bout to bust some shots off.
    I’m ’bout to dust some cops off.

    I’m a cop killer, better you than me.
    Cop killer, f**k police brutality!
    Cop killer, I know your family’s grieving,
    (f**k ‘em!)
    Cop killer, but tonight we get even, ha ha.

  • J. K.

    We had a good discussion about this going on KBoards, with lots of suggestions for improved filtering, and an adult only section…

    Only to have it censored. They don’t want solutions, they just want all of the Erotica writers and readers to vanish so they can forget this ever happened.

    Give it a few months, and the pain will hit their bottom line. THEN they will reconsider…

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  • Karen Victoria

    This whole thing is absolutely silly. PARENTS need to use PARENTAL CONTROLS and interact with their children on a regular basis. Help them choose their reading materials. As for those of us who are adults, we should be able to write, publish and read whatever type of material we wish. It has been my experience that the Authors are very conscientious about including “WARNINGS” that a specific book may not be suitable for certain ages and even certain adults who may be offended or even triggered by the books content. They even include descriptions of certain content so that a decision may be made as to whether a reader may find the book appropriate for themselves. Please don’t “BURN” books because you find them inappropriate. Let the reader decide that for themselves. If your issues include underage readers, utilize the PARENTAL CONTROLS and closely interact and monitor your child’s reading habits. It is my opinion that this is a PARENTAL ISSUE and we have moved past the point in our history that we CENSURE reading materials. I thought the whole point of history was to learn from our past and I think it is clear that CENSURSHIP AND BOOK BURNING was pointless and inappropriate. Grow up and invest time with your children as appropriate and get over it if you don’t like a specific gendre. You get to choose to read it or not. Read what makes you happy and pass on what doesn’t. Be an educated adult and reader and do not discriminate. Society will be a better place.

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  • James

    Amazon now also deleting associate accounts that may have been ok for years recently when they out of the blue changed their operating agreement to not allow associates who have adult sites to join the program any longer.

    What’s funny is they say associates sites may be inappropriate but yet when you search “porn” on their site you see they themselves still sell it porn related items ….conflicting isn’t it.

    So I lost my account I had for over 8 years that they approved originally and just got back a couple weeks ago after being deleted in their sales tax war with the state of Illinois that our Supreme Court ruled they did not have to collect sales tax so they sent e-mails inviting former Illinois associates such as me back, to now just get deleted again because they now feel my site not appropriate

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