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It Appears Online Bookstores Have Gone Slightly Crazy

14 Oct 2013
So I'm assuming by now that you must have heard at least some of what is going on with self-published ebooks and online book retailers - most specifically kobo. If like me you are confused with how it started here is a little summary. The Kernel posted on October 9th about "depraved amateur literature that glorifies rape, incest and child abuse" being available on Amazon (see the full post here ). Online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Kobo then started removing the so-called offensive material which led to some discussion about if these books should be deleted or allowed to stay (source.)

All of the drama remained mostly hidden until today when several retailers over reacted BIG TIME. After The Mail On Sunday wrote an article shaming UK bookseller WHSmiths for stocking these titles the bookselling giant decided it had to act. And what is the best thing to do when you stock 60 titles online that have been deemed unsuitable by the media (source) ? Apparently it is to close down your website whilst you remove EVERY SINGLE SELF PUBLISHED BOOK CURRENTLY AVAILABLE.

WHSmith Website

Kobo appears to follow this massive over-reaction and is deleting all self-published books regardless of genre or content. Amazon have taken the slightly calmer route of only deleting books that contain particular keywords though they are still getting a few innocent books in the process (source). *Update* Books that were incorrectly removed from sale such as Creed by Kristen Ashley have now been put back up on Amazon.

Kobo REALLY needs to rethink how it reacts to issues. Removing all self-published books is simply going to cause a large number of people to move to amazon and leave many authors unwilling to have their books on there in the future.

I am so glad I have a kindle and get all my books from Amazon and I hope they don't start removing all self-published books also.

One thing that ISN'T happening despite rumours is pulled books disappearing from peoples kindles. Amazon isn't legally allowed to do this so stop worrying.

As for the issue these few erotica novels that were the original source of the problem, if they truly do violate the terms and conditions then it is within the rights of the bookstores to remove them from sale though it does of course bring up issues of censorship.

The biggest concern is (other than all the self-pubs being deleted) is where exactly will they draw the line on what "erotica" is inappropriate? Will they end up deleting everything that even remotely hints at one of these "taboo" topics? If so I foresee many greatly loved books being deleted and a lot of book lovers being very angry.

If Amazon, B&N and Kobo know what is good for them they will be very careful with what they choose to do next. This doesn't appear to be an attack or ban on indie authors (though on the surface it may seem that way), they are simply trying to remove the few books that were flagged in the initial article and prevent books like that appearing in the future. Unfortunately this means closing sales for now, hopefully all the books will be back up soon!

The majority of self-published books including most erotica SHOULD apparently be still available. It is just those with content that violates the terms of amazon (eg. erotica with incest, underage characters and rape such as those mentioned here) and everything else should be safe. Lets just wait and see what truly does happen.


Kobo have now issued a statement explaining what they are doing.

“As you may be aware, there has been a significant amount of negative attention in the UK regarding offensive material that became available across a number of ebook platforms. Kobo is taking immediate action to resolve this issue which is a direct result of a select few authors and publishers violating Kobo’s content policies.

In order to address the situation Kobo is taking the following steps:

1. We are removing titles in question from the global Kobo platform.
2. We are completing a thorough review to ensure that compliance to our policies is met by authors and publishers.  As a result we are quarantining and reviewing additional titles.
3. During this process, we have removed all self-published titles from the UK store. We expect titles that comply with our policy to be returned to the store within the week.
4. We are reviewing our policies and procedures to implement safeguards that will ensure this situation does not happen in the future.

We are working hard to get back to business as usual, as quickly as possible.
Our goal at Kobo is not to censor material; we support freedom of expression. Further, we want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole. While some may find our measures extreme, we are confident that we are taking the necessary measures to  ensure the exceptions that have caused this current situation will not have a lasting effect on what is an exciting new channel that connects readers to a wealth of books.”


  1. Deleting books is just over reacting. You would expect at least book stores/retailers will be broad minded enough to continue making 'taboo' books available. What a a shame.

  2. Wow. Censorship at its finest! This is a huge overreaction and I hope Kobo realised the mistake they made. I dont understand what is the issue; 50 shades and the like are in all the supermarkets, why cant they be on websites?


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