opinion

Censorship News: Adult eBooks took the hit this week in an awful way.

Colin Rowntree

Yes. We knew this was coming.  Once mainstream got done gutting the porn industry for search engine results and any chance of mainstream placement, talented folks (mostly women)  that write saucy sex novels for a living were next in line to be lead into the "porn ghetto" like a post modern porn scene from Schindler's List.

As of yesteday, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, WH Smith and other eBook stores are taking a radical response to last week’s “news” that they sell boundary-pushing adult content in their ebookstores. They are now deleting not just the questionable erotica but are also removing any ebooks that might even hint at violating cultural norms. I sort of could see this coming in the wake of some censorship developments in the porn industry's newly stoked interest in eBook publishing to bypass Google filtering. This new story twist began when The Kernel discovered last week that, much to their dismay, Amazon was selling legal adult content!

The books are sold as Kindle Editions, the name Amazon gives to books that can be cheaply and quickly downloaded to its portable Kindle device. Available titles include Don’t Daddy (Forced Virgin Seduction) and Daddy’s Invisible Condom (Dumb Daughter Novelette). As with “barely legal” pornographic films, which seek to satisfy base urges associated with illegal and immoral acts while circumventing laws against depictions of underage sex, many of the titles listed on Amazon protest loudly that rape victims are “over 18”. Similarly, the “daddy” rapists in many incest stories are revealed in the small print to be “not blood related”. But few reading the titles of these books will be fooled about the supposed erotic intent of the volumes.

Now, anyone that has ever wandered into the Kindle Store's "erotica" section knows that Amazon has long been probably the biggest seller of smut for years.  Type in a Kindle-only search for "Erotica" (that's code for "Porn") and get 118,662 prurient and steamy results (1,056 of these being totally FREE)!  Has Kernel author Jeremy Wilson been living in a cave and just now discovered porny text, or is he simply pulling a "David Cameron" act to get some page views by yelling fire in a crowded sexually-phobic theater?

Regardless of his motivation, the frantic damage control at Amazon and the others was swift and is resembling wholesale slaughter of erotic fiction authors that, up until this point, could make a decent living by publishing naughty fare in eBook format. But, as with so many other forms of media these days, censorship is digging in its corporate cowardice claws once again.

U.K. bookseller W.H. Smith didn't even bother to start sifting through their eBook library to quarantine steamy sex books.  They simply TOOK THE ENTIRE SITE offline! Here's what you get today if you go the their website:

A statement from WHSmith: Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours. This is an industry wide issue impacting retailers that sell self published eBooks due to the explosion of self publishing, which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get their content published. However we are disgusted by these particular titles, find this unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them. It is our policy not to feature titles like those highlighted and we have processes in place to screen them out. We offer over one million titles through our eBooks partner Kobo, many of which are self-published titles. Due to the massive amount of self publishing a number of these titles have got through the screening process. We are taking immediate steps to have them all removed. While we are doing this we have decided to take our website off-line to best protect our customers and the public. Our website will become live again once all self published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available. When our website goes back online it will not display any self published material until we are completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again. We sincerely apologise for any offence caused. In the mean time if you have any questions for our customer support team you can contact then here (customer.relations@whsmith.co.uk).

Okay, that's all very polite and British sounding, but is this limited to some "self published" authors that took one step over the line of what's "sexually acceptable" these days?  No way! Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble have been removing whole swathes of erotica from the Nook Store and Kindle Store. And they are not just deleting the more questionable titles; B&N and Amazon appear to be performing keyword searches in the erotica section and removing everything they find.

Many authors have reported that their titles had been quarantined into censorship and pulled from the Kindle Store with little explanation beyond the statement that the titles in question violated Amazon’s policies on “Description, Cover Image”. Many don’t have a clue what that is supposed to mean and the guidelines for authors are not real clear as to what's acceptable.  And, don't even bother trying to get in touch with a representative to assist you.  You might as well try to make a phone call to Google to ask them. Good luck with that!


Babysitting the Baumgartners Censorship

Sounds more like a romantic comedy to me! This one got banned, but Fifty Shades of Grey and The Bible are still available at Amazon! Go figure...

For example, one title that was swept up in the malstrom was Babysitting the Baumgartners. This ebook was unquestionably erotica, but based on the listing on Goodreads,  it is not in the least bit questionable (other than the word babysitter in the title). This title is not listed in either the Kindle Store or Nook Store any more after previously being on the bestseller charts.

We're not talking about "illegal" content here gang.  You know, Mexican Donkey Porn Stories and underaged characters.  We're talking about totally legal erotic lit niches that some people really enjoy.  Spanking and BDSM and Kinky Role-playing and such.  

So, in one fell swoop, the retail outlets through outright censorship have taken us back to the 1950s when "Romance Lit" stayed within the parameters of hunky sea captains and damsels in distress, having sex in an "implied way" similar to Rob and Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show (one foot must remain on the floor at all times, and it better be pretty NORMAL sex, please!)

Once your book gets kicked off of Amazon and the other shopping sites, it's not easy to get a title restored. Each banned title has to be approved by someone inside Amazon before it can be sold again. And due to the minimalist explanations provided by Amazon it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for authors to comply. Add to that if your re-submitted book with the now PG-Rated title and no "dirty words" in it gets rejected, there is a very good chance that the author's entire library will be kicked off and their publisher account closed.

}The_Babysitter

As the word "Babysitting" seems to be on the death list at Amazon, I checked in with the publisher of Blushing Books who confirmed that one of their titles on Amazon, "The Babysitter" also hit Jeff Bezos' censorship trash can.  The synopsis of the story reads, "Kate Mitchell, a rising star in the newly established branch of homeland security, is dismayed to learn her new assignment is nothing more than "babysitting" a wayward daughter of a US Senator. Her charge, Abby McDaniel is 'more than a handful', but Kate is determined to keep her safe, no matter how difficult it proves to be. Kate will do whatever is necessary to ensure her safety, including spanking her sexy little bottom.  Abby McDaniel does NOT want a glorified "babysitter" in her life... even one as strikingly beautiful as Kate Mitchell. Determined to live on her own terms, she refuses to obey the rules of the sexy bodyguard even when her recklessness results in "discussions" over Kate's knee. Abby has a dark secret and is determined to keep it buried in the past. However, when a stalker threatens her future happiness and possibly her very life, only her beautiful and tough bodyguard stands between Abby and her stalker. Will Kate keep her safe or will Abby's rebellious antics get them both killed?" Reviewer: Aida

07/22/2013 10:43am 
Fun, hot, and a genuine feel to this book. I was surprised by the plot which is well written, twists and turns and keeps you very interested. The 'spank' part of the story fits in naturally and if this is your scene you will be very turned on between the sex and the action.

Okay. A merry romp through Homeland Security, featuring two adult women, one of which gets some spankings for being a bratty intel officer trainee.  The first 10 pages of the Book Of Genesis is a whole lot naughtier than THAT! Bethany Burke, CEO of Blushing Books chimes in with this observation:

This purge of Amazon's is rendered even more absurd when you consider not what's gone, but what's still there.   "The Babysitter" contains absolutely no mention or even suggestion of children in the description, and no children as characters.  Yet POOF - its gone.   Now, go to Amazon and type in "butt plug."  You'll get an impressive-display of explicitly-illustrated and (in some cases) reviewed products, with no attempt to restrict access to any surfers whatsoever.    I'd say your average ten year old could get a lot better "education" by perusing these full-color listings for things like the "anal beginners kit," or the "inflatable black dong" or another item (helpfully listed as the "best gift,") the "Golden Steel Bondage Fetish Plug Anal Butt Jewelry Small Unisex (Mint / Baby Green).

Luckily for readers, "The Babysitter" is still available on their website and I encourage everyone to go buy a copy.  $3.95 is a cheap price to pay for a little good old-fashioned civil disobedience.  Click here to go get it.

As expected, all ends of the author community and lit pundits about it are already saying stupid shit. Ranging from "Jane" at DearAuthor.com that sounds like a Nazi apologist and urging us to "just trust Amazon to do the right thing" (heavens, only 1000 authors died! it could be far worse!); To the usually intelligent PJ Vogt at NPR, pretty much saying that Mexican Donkey porn should stay on Amazon to give folks another option from shopping at Walmart for books!

Yep. everyone can find an agenda to pump on this one.

This knee jerk reaction on the part of Amazon, B&N, WH Smith, Kobo and others is affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of talented and hard working authors, none of whom have done anything worse than write and sell what readers want to buy. The overblown response to a couple of news stories is actually causing more damage than the content being vilified. And, beyond that individual damage, it is just another nail in the coffin of sexual freedom of expression that is now running so rampant in our new polite society.

Follow Coleen and Colin ranting about arcane but important things at eroticscribes.com and sssh.com

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