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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.