Kobo has recently thrown the indie publishing industry into a tailspin, inciting fury among indie authors and adult book lovers alike the world over. And what started it all, you ask? WH Smith, a bookseller in the U.K., was accused of profiting from the sale of ebooks that glorified rape and violent pornography. Kobo is the company at the center of this self-publishing scandal. It has promised to clean up its act and took its entire self-publishing platform in the UK offline, including the website of WH Smith, which has a partnership deal with Kobo and shares the ebook sales profits.
Kobo’s chief executive, Mike Serbinis, has been quoted as saying that his company has a responsibility, as one of the stewards of the publishing industry’s transformation to digital, to ensure the quality of its catalogue. Kobo’s “cleanse”, if you will, involved not only all erotica, but ANY indie-published book online, regardless of subject matter, genre or audience, including romance, SciFI, historical and literary fiction, children’s books, etc. Basically, if it was independently published, it was removed from Kobo’s catalogue yet earlier last week, Kobo posted a statement regarding the removal of the titles, indicating that it had been targeting “specific content that violates our content policy from our store.” Kobo also stated that it was doing “a comprehensive review of our catalogue to ensure that the eBooks we offer comply with our content policy” and that it would be re-instating those books that complied.
Interesting…especially in light of the fact that traditionally-published books on the WH Smith site, regardless of their genre, were unaffected by the Kobo Cleanse. One wonders if the Kobo Cleanse was about getting rid of indie authors rather than offensive content. Nevertheless, in the wake of this mounting controversy, a group of authors have generated a petition on change.org asking retailers to “leave our erotica and self-published Indie authors alone.” The authors name Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon as the offending retailers (Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been known in the past to remove abuse-themed ebooks from their stores but neither has taken their sites offline). To date, the petition has exceeded 12,500 signatures and is still growing.
Needless to say, indie authors have been vocal in their condemnation of the Kobo Cleanse. In a blog post from indie erotica author, Dalia Daudelin, she outlined three things indie authors needed from the retailers named in the peititon: (i) “written out” guidelines about what content will be censored; (ii) “even footing for all authors, traditional or self-published”; and (iii) a way to keep adult titles from being found by children.
Indie author A.J.Church was even more vocal and summed up things rather eloquently:
“Kobo, you pissed off a massive number of writers and readers, and we’re not just talking indies, either. Traditionally published writers sympathetic to the indie cause also joined in the protest. Now I hate to judge an entire company by the extremely bad business decision of whoever in charge thought this would be a good idea, but this clusterf—k of a faux pas could have easily been avoided had Kobo and WH Smith established some sort of gateway on their sites. You know—provide the authors a way to categorize their books, along with guidelines as to what they will or will not allow in their catalog. Instead, what they’ve done is not only throw the baby out with the bathwater, they have caused irreparable damage to their relationship with a rapidly growing facet of the publishing world. Here’s a clue: you are in the business of selling books. You need books to sell to make money. You just dumped a huge proportion of your writers (aka your product) with no forewarning and for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON other than, “That apple is bad, let’s throw the whole cart away.”
Anyone want to weigh in on this hot potato??