Kobo and WH Smith Pull Self-Published Booksp

16 Oct

After moral uproar, mobile-device giant Kobo and its partner UK vendor WH Smith culled thousands of self-published works from their service and website (respectively). A single tabloid article touched off the furor that then lead to the cull. Self-published authors publishing through Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Kobo’s direct upload service Kobo Writing Life (KWL) were affected.


The tabloid article focused its moral outrage on the (disturbingly quickly) growing number of erotica selections available from self-published, e-book authors being available for purchase alongside children’s books in WH Smith’s e-bookstore. WH Smith responded by apologizing and taking down their website until they can remove every self-published book from their online store (not just the “offensive” ones). The company now has a holding page in place of their website.

Instead of fighting WH Smith’s decision, Kobo has pulled ALL self-published works from its UK e-bookstore.  This decision affects not only self-published authors, but small publishers who use Smashwords or KWL for electronic upload of legitimate (sorry, erotica writers) books. This seems like a harsh limitation of free speech, even if it is happening 3,000 miles away.

The author of the infamous tabloid article typed “daddy” into the search box on WH Smith’s website and came up with a varied selection of books from different genres (like adult, juvenile, children’s, etc.).  That issue could be dealt with by insisting on genre-specifications during book search. Remove the “show all books” option. The end. Why remove all self-published material when what WH Smith had was a sorting issue??

Here’s the scary (scarier) part: the trend has spread. Whitcoulls, a Kobo partner in New Zealand, has taken down its ebook website until Kobo removes all self-published, inappropriate material. And Amazon and Barnes and Noble have apparently quietly taken down the targeted, offending material from their sites as well.

I can’t help but draw parallels between WH Smith and, say, Walmart.  Walmart, an originally southern, Christian, family company, refuses to carry certain music albums (unless edited for content) or movies, but even there you can pick up 50 Shades of Grey from their shelves, or order erotica on their online store. Society, lately anyway, has generally balked at censoring distribution of the written word – no matter how asinine that word is.  But a response like this in the UK does not bode well for the US. We kinda corner the market on moral outrage. Fox News could pick up the story, extend it to Walmart (“I thought you were a Christian, family company!”), and I can imagine they would go to the same extreme of shutting down the self-published book-smut trade on their website.

But WH Smith is a BOOKSTORE. I can’t imagine a company whose sole purpose is to disseminate the written word folding like a house of cards over one article.  There must have been other pressures I am not aware of.  There HAD to be, right? The only appropriate response right now is vigilance, in case the same issue comes to the surface here in the US. Self-published authors and small publishing houses should be ready.

UPDATE: Looks like Kobo is taking down all self-published works while they enact a “thorough review” to make sure authors and publishers are in compliance with their policies. They will definitely be removing the material directly in question by the media, and, depending on these review criteria, more may be removed from their service. It’s a wait-and-see situation right now.


3 Responses to “Kobo and WH Smith Pull Self-Published Booksp”


  1. Kobo Update | Exploration in Digital Publishing Innovations - October 28, 2013

    […] you may have read, Kobo pulled all self-published e-books from its UK store following a public outcry for decency on the e-shelves of WH […]

  2. Excitica - New Erotica and Erotic Romance Distributor! | One Handed Writers - March 13, 2014

    […] so the perfect storm developed. The Kernel posted their click-bait, Kobo capitulated, and distributors everywhere started to ban erotica. Again. Still. More. […]

  3. Excitica – New Erotica and Erotic Romance Distributor! - March 13, 2014

    […] so the perfect storm developed. The Kernel posted their click-bait, Kobo capitulated, and distributors everywhere started to ban erotica. Again. Still. More. […]

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