Censorship: where does it end?

Today, because of a furor started by one vindictive author over “books with questionable content,” A Silence Kept was removed for sale from Kobo and their outlets. This is the only book I had placed there through D2D, and if they don’t get their shit together, it may well be the last.

“To our Kobo Writing Life and self-publishing partners:

As you may be aware, there has been a significant amount of negative media attention in the UK regarding offensive material that became available across a number of eBook platforms. Kobo was included in the reports from media and we are taking immediate action to resolve an issue that is the 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 Kobo platform.

2. We are quarantining and reviewing titles to ensure that compliance to our policies is met by all authors and publishers. We will ensure that content meeting the policy is made available online as soon as possible.

3. 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. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

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. You have our promise that we will do all we can 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.”

Many many authors today suffered the indignity of having their titles yanked from sale. And guess what? They were all self-published. Yup, trad published books weren’t touched, and likely won’t be, but all indie authors were targeted because of a few trashy titles someone objected to.

I have no interest in reading books about necrophilia, pseudo incest, bestiality, or the like, but these are popular with certain readers and they shouldn’t be denied because conservatives don’t approve. It’s censorship, pure and simple.

It started with erotica and quickly encompassed everything indie! All YA, SF, mainstream, westerns, fantasies… everything! has been pulled from sale at Kobo and those they distribute to until they figure out what to remove permanently.

But what do you wanna bet Lolita is still available at Kobo? The premier pedophile book of the century! But it was trad published so that makes it okay.

Am I pissed right now? Yes, and I’m also scared, because where does it end? First this is deemed unacceptable, then that is, and before you know it, our choices have been whittled down to a very narrow focus. A small, noisy group of people have decided to kid-proof the world, and I’m not having it.

None of us want children getting their hands on adult material. but I am an adult and I don’t want anyone dictating to me what I shall and shall not buy and read.

Amazon, Kobo, et al have to invest in filters that prevent kids from buying books meant for adults. It really is that simple. Then everyone is happy, everyone makes a little money, and the world is proclaimed safe again.

In the meantime, I will write what I want to write and buy what I want to read and hope the world becomes sane again one day soon. As of this moment, you can still find all my titles at Amazon and ARe. I really, really hope I can say that again tomorrow. And next week. And next month.

 

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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38 Responses to Censorship: where does it end?

  1. Tina Marie says:

    Censorship by any name is still unacceptable.

    • I just received this email from D2D:

      Late yesterday we received some initial communication concerning the titles Kobo removed from distribution.

      Kobo confirmed that the bulk removal was conducted in reaction to a spate of recent negative media attention. Their initial solution was to immediately remove from sale books from self-published authors and small presses as well as from digital aggregators like Draft2Digital until they pass an additional review by Kobo.

      To our knowledge, Kobo has not yet begun the review process to reinstate any books. This matter could take some time. However, they insist that they have a strong commitment to free expression and to the self-publishing community as well. They have assured us that all titles that comply with their content guidelines will be fully reinstated.

      We will continue to do everything we can to bring this matter to a timely and satisfying conclusion. In the meantime you have our sincerest sympathy for the interruption of your business and our gratitude for your continuing patience. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

  2. I got this e-mail also. I’d been so wrapped up in writing, IRL work, and planning for Walker Stalker Convention, that I hadn’t really caught up on the hubbub. Scary times! I checked my story on Amazon after I started reading all of this, and it also still appears to be there. *Fingers crossed for all of us.*

  3. W. Lotus says:

    What? The? Hell?

    This is why having an e-commerce widget attached to one’s own self-hosted domain is important: when the e-commerce sites you are using do boneheaded things like this, you don’t have to worry whether you work will be available.

    Speaking of which, I need to research e-commerce widgets to use for my photography. My current photos are not objectionable to special, precious snowflakes, but depending on the direction my work takes in the future, it may be.

  4. bevsutherland2306 says:

    OK Theo, I’m puzzled…have I been whisked away to a desert island in the last few weeks…how have I missed all of this happening ‘in the UK’…the arbiter of what’s right and wrong, what’s allowed and what isn’t in the e-book publishing world?? Have just nipped away to study today’s ‘The Kernel’ (it’s so famous, I’ve never heard of it) – that ‘breaker’ of newsworthy stories…it has to be said that the ‘smut’ list as they call it features 5 stories, all ‘written’ (and I use that word very advisedly) by women (at least they have female nom de plumes), they all feature non-con rape, incest and stuff like that, none of which you put in your books anyway!! What the hell have they decided is wrong with ‘A Silence Kept’ (I really liked it as you know on Goodreads) other than the fact that it’s m/m and self-pubbed…both of which are HUGE plusses in my book…hot and less errors all around!! I despair of what the world is coming to…Big Brother certainly seems to be waving his big stick around lately, and I for one, am sick and tired of it!! I AM an adult and I WILL choose what I want to read…and those who don’t like it can go forth and multiply!! I know of a lot of authors on Goodreads who will be very nervous indeed at the moment!! Apologies for any indiscreet language I may have used or been tempted to use in this posting….this message will self-destruct in 30 seconds. x

    • It was definitely a knee-jerk reaction, but putting everything back the way it was is going to take forever. It’s unacceptable, but writers and readers have no recourse. They must know we’re up in arms about this. There are people who depend on the income from their books to live; this is screwing with them badly.

      I am so, so disgusted right now.

      • bevsutherland2306 says:

        Have re-blogged this on Goodreads Theo….it’ll be very interesting indeed to see the reactions of some people, particularly authors who do self-pub at the moment, assuming they have the courage to react to what’s going on. And I totally agree about the filters…why don’t Amazon for example use some of the tax money they DON’T pay in the UK to upgrade their systems??

      • I totally agree- it’s making people who depend on this income ill, myself included. Their ‘knee-jerk’ reaction is asinine and they are clueless if they think it isn’t have a huge effect on writers whose livelihood is hinging on the royalties. I reblogged your story to facebook…hopefully the petitions going around will stop this insanity.

  5. Christine J. says:

    You are absolutely right, Fen. As a teacher and a parent, I am deeply concerned about what’s possibly accessible to children. However, there are excellent filters available to help prevent accidental exposure to inappropriate material. These same children also have been guaranteed basics rights and freedoms which are being jeopardized when censorship rears its ugly head. That is more frightening in my opinion.

  6. ameliabishop says:

    At least it was only Kobo, which has pretty low sales numbers overall. And perhaps because of this, and the backlash, Amazon will be more circumspect in pulling “questionable” (read: self-published) titles in the future. I have been following a few threads/posts about this, and one commenter made a good point – what are these vendors doing with all the sales commissions they have earned on these “unacceptable” works? Giving them back? Yeah, right.

    As a parent I think the whole thing is ridiculous. Any kid old enough to navigate an e-bookstore unsupervised is probably old enough to see whatever is there. I have a bigger problem with the rampant and gratuitous violence that is purposefully presented to children on a regular basis. Killing and bloody/gory zombies and “horror” are everywhere (especially this time of year). It’s gross, and way more disturbing than nudity or sex, in my opinion.

    As a writer (and a reader, and a citizen, actually) I’m concerned about the fact that a large company would bow to the pressure of a small vocal group. It’s kind of scary, because I wonder who is deciding what’s “acceptable”? While it’s not technically “censorship”, it’s a slippery slope, and certainly worrisome.

    • Not all parents are as reasonable and fair-minded as you are, and I agree violence is worse for kids than sex.

      It was not, however, only Kobo. Amazon has removed various titles giving no reason for that removal, and WHSmith, a huge booksellers in the UK pulled ALL the indie books. Since yesterday, this has spread to a bookseller in New Zealand, who did the same thing. It’s like a damn plague!

      • ameliabishop says:

        What’s actually kind of funny (not funny “ha ha”, but odd) is that because it was such a knee-jerk, automated removal, all my romance titles were pulled (pubbed via draft2digital) but my actual erotica-romances (via smashwords) are still available. For how long, I don’t know, but in my case at least, the porn-culling has backfired 😦

  7. Brenna Lyons says:

    http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/15/porn-hunt-2013-gossip-boys-researching-porn-real-hard/

    This is another great article on the subject. It has a lot of other links that show the progression of this witch hunt. Well worth a read for anyone interested. For one thing, it shows that some of the books in the initial complaints are NOT what they were reported to be. One reported as containing bestiality does not. In fact, it barely has any sex in it. It’s a romance where someone falls for someone else, and it’s the old dog brought us together thing. Common enough. But, based on nothing more than a dog on the cover, it was reported for bestiality. Brilliant detective work!

    Theo does raise a subject I often do. Big sites like Amazon and Kobo are well known for “cracking down” on indie-published and self-published books that contain the SAME content that appears in conglomerate books they don’t dare touch. They say (now) that incest and pseudo incest is “offensive” and should not be included in books. Hmmm…interesting,because VC Andrews has one or both in almost every book, and VC’s books are still selling strong. In fact, in at least two of those books I can name, VC Andrews portrays incest or pseudo incest (one to each book) as a POSITIVE, LOVING RELATIONSHIP. It’s not treated as a bad thing at all. Another example is rape between H&H. Okay, I can see how that would bother some people, but what about those three Claudia Dain books I know that include it…hero rapes heroine, but that’s okay, they fall in love later anyway? What are the odds they’ll take those off sale? Not that I WANT them to, of course. Like Theo, I don’t want anyone playing nanny to what I’m allowed to read or write, even if what they are playing nanny with is not what I read or write. I just want to see common sense and an even playing field. Treat them all the same, one way or the other. Then watch the conglomerates scream with us. That will change a few tunes quickly enough.

    • Very true. If trad published books were pulled off the shelves as indie books have been, the screaming would be heard around the world. The Big Six won’t lift a finger to help us; they hate and fear our power. No doubt, they’re cheering in their expensive offices (paid for off sales of their authors), glad about our temporary downfall.

  8. bevsutherland2306 says:

    Have had quite a few comments already on my GR post, none of whom as you would expect, support the providers of e-books. I’ll keep the post going for a couple of days and get back to you. x

  9. I oppose censorship . I personally choose not to read Erotica or things that are too violent or view in movies because it is not my thing. That being said censorship is not acceptable. If Lolita is still on KOBO then this is an absurd and questionable practice.

    • It’s still there, and so is Flowers in the Attic, which we know contains sibling incest. But hey! Trad published, makes a lot of money, let’s leave that series alone…

      Disgusting is right.

  10. steelwhisper says:

    Reblogged this on Steelwhisper and commented:
    And another good article on this censorship craze…

  11. Reblogged this on Official Site of Alex Laybourne – Author and commented:
    What are your thoughts on the rumblings in the Indie world. I have my own views, but will refrain from airing them at this time… unless involved in discussion of course.

  12. Karen says:

    Hey Theo, not sure if you are aware of this but ironically Goodreads is having it’s own censorship issues, there have been reviews deleted and book shelves deleted because again a small group of people made a big noise. I basically agree with what everyone has said here. The fact that I can go to Kobo and buy V.C. Andrews and not your book shows that somebody is using judgement to determine what I should read that is morally unsound in my world and yet ironically I never thought that her books should be removed from the marked I simply chose not to buy them. Just like I choose not to buy from companies that put the demands of a few over the rights of many. So to Kobo, Amazon and any other retailer who heads down this road I say put a good description on it, warnings if appropriate and you’ve done your job buying or not buying is the decision of the individual. I’m 54 years old I don’t need anyone deciding what is or isn’t appropriate for me to read.

    • They need to strengthen their filters, too. Amazon has tons of money; surely they can afford to revamp their system ala Smashwords, which offers an on/off adult filter. Readers shouldn’t have to go searching for the books they want. It should be a simple matter of software programming.

      I never sold much at Kobo or B&N, but Amazon is where I make most of my royalties. If they yank my titles–if they do this to most or all self-published authors–it will be a travesty for everyone. And there are plenty of writers who do make money at Kobo and B&N, and they are suffering needlessly from this unbelievable hysteria.

      As for what is happening at GR… I understood they were removing reviews that attacked the authors, not the book, and so they should. The trolls there should have long since been shut down.

      • Karen says:

        I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding companies such as Amazon and Kobo, they need to consider how they do these things if they have such a huge concern then use better filters or put major warnings up for people to check content before buying but don’t randomly yank books and prevent authors from earning a living based on someone’s random accusations.
        Goodreads is a little more complicated if it was just reviews being yanked that were based on personal attacks towards the author I would say knock yourself out Goodreads because those aren’t really book reviews those are nasty people amusing themselves and I have no interest in that kind of entertainment. Unfortunately even if that is how it started that’s not what’s happening now and unfortunately it’s turned into a clusterfuck (excuse my language) and there is wrong being committed on both sides of the argument at this point in time. To be honest I’m trying really hard to stay away from any of the mudslinging and just carry on with reading/talking/reviewing books and not stirring any pots. I wish I could explain it better but unfortunately I’m not silly enough to think that I have all the facts and I don’t want to add any drama to an already volatile situation. I just know I’ve seen and heard enough from both sides to understand that at this point there is no clearly defined right or wrong in the situation and unless somebody does something soon it’s only going to get worse. The whole situation saddens me as I joined Goodreads about 4 years ago because it seemed like a place where I could discuss books I enjoyed reading and find out about authors that I might like to read with people who shared my love of reading and for a long time that’s what it has been and now it’s starting to become a website that at times I either leave because of the drama or some days I just don’t want to bother going too. Anyways that’s all the babbling I want to do on that topic. I really hope Kobo gets their act together soon and puts the books that they randomly and inappropriately pulled back up for sale and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the same thing doesn’t happen over on Amazon.

        • I just checked: Kobo offers my Dreamspinner-published books but they refuse to offer my self-published story. Double-standard much? It’s insane and stupid and really, really pisses me off.

  13. Lindsaysf says:

    I found a name if folks here want to complain in a way that might help: Kobo-owner Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. On twitter he’s @hmikitani_e. website: global.rakuten.com. Turns out he’s one of the richest men in the world so you can bet he has minions monitoring his twitter feed.

  14. CaryLory says:

    Don’t buy any books from Kobo but just bought your book from AMAzon.

  15. Karen says:

    Hey Theo, one of the other authors I follow over on Goodreads has posted that Amazon pulled one of her books. I’m hoping this hasn’t happened to you too but just thought I’d drop by and give you a heads up. Take care.

  16. I am so cross about this. It is my choice to buy the reading material I desire. I am not purchasing anything more from Kobo. Perhaps certain authors can get a website together to make their ebooks available for purchase. I would def purchase from their shop.

    • It’s been discussed. The problem is, everyone is busy, authors are writing, and it takes time to put such a thing together. I’m done with Kobo. They’re over-reaction to one man’s complaint tells me they’re too stupid to live. As has been pointed out, they didn’t touch trad published books that contain the same content being complained about. Only indie writers got nailed.

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