Erotica, the New Horse Meat Scandal.

Whether you’re in the UK or simply familiar with the current publishing world goings on, you’ll probably be aware of the backlash hitting WHSmith, Kobo, Amazon, and a number of other providers of Self-Published content. It started with an article in the Daily Mail, accusing WHSmith of offering ‘abuse porn’ next to the children’s books on their online website.

Like always, fire spreads, and it wasn’t long before WHSmith took down their entire online catalogue and shut down online business through their site. In fact, if you do try to click on them, you get a nice Holding Page like you’re trying to download a collection of every film ever released. The Metro (a London free newspaper) and the BBC have both jumped on board, and unsurprisingly, everyone is under fire.

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Yes, the titles we’re talking about are not nice. They feature stories about father/daughter rape, etc. However, as usual, the reaction of those in newspapers is to condemn everything even slightly related. Yes folks, that means that all erotica is now under fire in the UK.

Kobo, who I have a good relationship with (mostly via gratitude for their help on my part,) have made the decision to temporarily remove all self-published books. WHSmith’s online site is supplied exclusively by Kobo, so they are obviously very closely tied into the whole thing.

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Unfortunately, a number of authors are very upset by this turn of events. Words like censorship have been thrown around, and for the most part, the outrage seems to be that their titles have been removed as well as offending content. Cries of ‘but my book isn’t even erotica’ can be heard even off the internet. There is also the upset that this is confined to self-published books.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic to authors who have had content temporarily removed. This could have been a day where they made a sale or twenty. However, while I am sympathetic, I do stand firmly with Kobo and WHSmith’s reasoning.

If you’re in the UK, (and possibly even further away) you may remember the horse meat scandal. This scandal was thrown about for weeks, to the point that when my mother knitted my niece a toy horse, we could think of no other name than ‘Findus’ (one of the companies that had horse meat found in their lasagnes.)

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This scandal was that a number of supermarket chains were found to have horse meat traces in their beef products, lasagnes, beef burgers, etc. It raised cries of ‘only buy from your local butcher’ and ‘how can they possibly do this to people?’ Understandable, and probably a good idea, but the part I find funny is how people react when they try to fix it.

The automatic response to dealing with the horse meat scandal was to sweep everything that could possibly have been contaminated off the shelves, to do rigorous testing, and then only replace the items that passed said testing. Thousands, perhaps millions of samples were taken, and a few weeks later, our supermarkets were slowly stocked with Horse free products as each product was given the all clear.

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This is why I stand behind Kobo’s and WHSmith’s decision. They have swept the shelves of anything that has even a remote chance of being contaminated with horse/porn meat, and are testing. The traditionally published books have already been through this testing by going through, you guessed it, a publisher. Even some small presses have been removed by these companies so that they can be tested, or ‘quality assured’. Much better to sweep it all off the shelves and check it out the back than stand in the middle of the supermarket aisle with a syringe and a tester kit. Things will go back on the shelves, and I am sure that they will work to do that as quickly as possible…

Why? Because while authors are not making money from sales, guess what, neither are Kobo and WHSmith.

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About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
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4 Responses to Erotica, the New Horse Meat Scandal.

  1. DaPoet says:

    Rank Hypocrisy is rife within the publishing world when it comes to erotica or porn with erotica being just another word for porn that targets women as the audience. Books such as 50 of shades of gray and crime/horror books with graphic scenes of violence – which is illegal content under the guidelines – are left untouched. Publishers need readers to stay in business and since reading books isn’t a necessity perhaps it is time to cancel both my KDP and my Amazon account to send publishers a strong message in regards their recent efforts to censorship.

    • chelecooke says:

      Actually, I don’t believe Erotica or Horror books with graphic scenes are against Amazon et al’s TOS guidelines. It’s certainly not illegal, as otherwise movies like Saw and Hostel would never have been released and an entire industry would not rely on the creation of porn. However, the difference with the books being removes is that they involve the graphic depiction of non-consensual sex, such as incest, rape, and pedophilia, with the express purposes of titillation. I do believe that these types of books should be removed by companies who do not want to sell them, and have said as much via their TOS. Now, if the authors want to release these books via their own websites, etc, then that is their choice, and if the authorities get involved, it is not our right to argue, but the choice of these publishers is their own, just like it is my choice to write Sci-Fi and not historical fiction. You can be mad at a company for not stocking the books you want to read, but ultimately, it is their decision to make as they are a private company.

      • DaPoet says:

        I suggest that you go back and read the TOS agreements and the standards listed in regards to pornography. Erotic and romance books written with the express purpose of titillating female readers have for years been referred to as female porn. Amazons KDP TOS – like all TOS agreements – are written so broadly that if applied fairly in the same manner to all books instead of a select few very few books if any would ever be published. Last I heard deliberate acts of murder, sexual assault, terrorism etc. are all illegal acts and yet graphic scenes of these illegal acts are portrayed throughout all types of media. Ultimately those who justify censoring others they find offensive are in reality justifying the censoring of their own words and the silencing of their own voice when at last they find themselves targeted by moral dictators.

  2. chelecooke says:

    DaPoet, I do understand your standpoint, and I am sorry that we do not agree when it comes to this matter. I see censorship as when the government dictates what a person can talk about. I do not see this as the case in this instance. Amazon et al are private companies who have the right to decide what they do and do not sell. Just like a vegetarian restaurant makes the choice not to serve meat, these companies can decide whether or not they supply this type of material. They are big companies, yes, but they are still privately owned companies with every right to decide.

    Thank you for your comments, its a very interesting topic with many differing opinions.

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