Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Illegal Sex in Fiction

In my last post on the subject of sex in fiction I hope I made my position clear. I've no interest myself but see no reason why readers who want access to erotic material should have a problem buying. For retailers the solution to avoiding offence to those who might find erotica offensive is simple and employed on sites such as Smashwords. A filter that has to be actively switched by the reader to access erotica. Mine is left in the default position, off, simply because it's not my market and I have no particular interest.

WH smith and Kobo could have instigated the same system easily. It isn't complicated. They did not do so.

Because some people who can string a sentence together see the ebook market as a quick hit get rich scheme and have less than scrupulous morals, material that is both offensive and in some countries illegal was deliberately placed to maximise exposure. Had WH Smith and Kobo paid enough attention to their own business – rather than grabbed the milk-cow and start pumping – then this would have been impossible. The material – forced sex, incest, bestiality, sex with minors, and so forth – appeared on the retailers sites. People complained – and that's no surprise, and I would have done exactly that had I be one to stumble across this kind of garbage. Not erotica, not tasteless for some, not okay for the reasonable individual, but flat out illegal.

WH Smith panicked. Instead of taking ownership of the problem – we messed up, our filters aren't up to the job, we weren't paying attention, we didn't care as long as we were making money and we were wrong – they shifted the blame, closed the site, pointed at the evil writers. I think the possibility that they did not realise that this kind of objectionable material existed so remote that it is not worthy of consideration. That no one thought of it is not implausible, however. Competence is a rare commodity and under-appreciated in every organization of ever been exposed to. The incompetent don't like it and good people get eased out the door. But that's another subject.

Kobo panicked also, because the mainstream media pointed to them as the source of the illegal material. Just as WH Smith tried to shift the blame to Kobo, Kobo decided to shift the blame to independent writers and remove ALL content not traditionally published from their site.

This is what Kobo are saying: "We want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole," a spokeswoman said, adding that the problem was limited to a minority of publishers and authors who had violated content policies.

"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."

Indeed, indeed. They use the word wealth with no sense of irony... had they and Smiths been paying attention to anything other than the money they were making then this issue would not have arisen. They are responsible for what they sell, just as every other retailer in any other business.

I'm going to swear mildly now, so any who might be offended can simply look away. What pisses me off is the contempt with which writers are held by the retailers. Kobo did not notify Draft2Digitial of the action they had taken – this from D2D: “We have discovered that over the weekend Kobo removed all books published through our account. While we have received no official word concerning this issue, we believe this is related to recent articles in the media concerning erotica titles available at WH Smith and Kobo’s storefronts.” Consequently Draft2Digital could not notify writers.

On a related subject, I personally sent two emails to those who distribute my work, namely draft2Digital and Smashwords. I find the responses illuminating. Draft2Digital responded promptly and have responded three times with updates on their communications with Kobo and the current situation. Smashwords (and yes, I keep all emails) have just responded with a link to my Kobo page (empty) and the shocking information that I have opted out of Kobo via Smashwords.... and they probably will wonder why I opted out of some channels until the end of time. There is just no telling some people because they aren't listening. The message from Draft2Digital is clear – we are on it, we are all over it, we will resolve it. The message from Smashwords is equally clear – we have no clue and could care less.

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