Kobo is still trying to make up for their purge of self-published ebooks a couple weeks ago, and on Friday Michael Tamblyn sent out an email to Kobo Writing Life authors.
As you probably recall, “news” broke a couple weeks that Amazon, B&N, and Kobo (Google somehow managed to escape scrutiny) were selling adult content, including thinly disguised rape and incest erotica (and some not so thinly disguised).
Amazon and B&N responded by purging their erotica titles based on keyword searches (including babysitter, teen, and other innocuous words), while Kobo chose to remove titles with wild abandon, extending their purge far beyond the erotica section to include even nonfiction titles like David Guaghran’s guides for indie authors as well as all 7800 titles distributed by Draft2Digital and quite a few titles distributed via Smashwords.
Kobo is still feeling the afte affects of their over response, and the following email was sent out on Friday. In the email Michael Tamblyn explains that, when it comes to certain types of erotica, authors are more than welcome to write them but Kobo doesn’t “feel compelled to sell them”:
As you may be aware, in the face of some fairly intense media scrutiny, we launched a major review of the books we offer for sale to make sure they comply with our content policy on offensive material. We cast a wide net across our catalogue that included genres and books coming from self-published authors, aggregators, and publishers, and we quarantined many of these while we conducted the review which made them unavailable in the UK during that time. The review had to happen fast, and we didn’t enjoy it, but with our esteemed 300-year-old retail partner on the front page of major newspapers and some content clearly in violation of our posted standards, we needed to move quickly. Almost everyone on the Kobo Content Team, spread across a dozen countries and time zones, was involved at one point or another. The urgency was driven by our desire to make sure we were running a store that met our own expectations and equally by the need to get our authors back up and available for sale again in the UK as fast as possible.
The good news is that the vast majority of self-published Kobo Writing Life titles are once again available on Kobo.com in the UK, with most authors experiencing a gap of only a few days before their books were once again in the catalogue. As well, we have been working closely with our self-publishing aggregation partners. Most of their titles are once again available in the UK or will be in the coming hours. If your book is still unavailable and you think it shouldn’t be, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and the team will get on it.
For those few titles that remain unavailable, some feel that we chose a path of censorship. All I can say is that if your dream is to publish “barely legal” erotica or exploitative rape fantasies, distribution is probably going to be a struggle for you. We aren’t saying you can’t write them. But we don’t feel compelled to sell them. And yes, many titles live in a grey zone with far more shades than the fifty that sold so well in the past year, but that is what makes this all so challenging and so interesting. Many of our readers have no problem with an erotic title in their library next to their romance, literary fiction, investing or high-energy physics books. And we are here for the readers, so erotica stays, a small but interesting part of a multi-million-title catalogue, in all of its grey-shaded glory. My thanks go out to Mark Lefebvre and the whole Kobo Writing Life team and to all of our authors who have been so supportive and understanding in the past two weeks. We will continue to work on reviewing processes and author education about what we can take and what we can’t. It will never be perfect, but our belief continues to be that if we focus on readers and growing our business around them, we will get it right much more often than not.