Breaking Audio Update: Self-Published Erotica Titles Being Pulled from Major Ebook Stores


Welcome to a breaking audio update edition of the Good e-Reader Radio Show. Today Michael Kozlowski and Jeremy Greenfield talk about the hottest topic in self-publishing right now, the bulk deleting of erotica content from major eBook stores.

Over the weekend WH Smith has shut down their online bookstore and Waterstones have released statements on the removal of content.¬† They all basically blame indie authors for putting their erotica titles side by side with children’s books, hampering eBook discovery and raising a firestorm.

Kobo has been cleaning up their bookstore by removing titles from publishers such as Draft2Digital and indie authors. All of these eBooks feature questionable covers and subject matter such as incest.  Amazon and Barnes and Noble have yet to release official statements but they have also been cleaning up their catalog of digital books.

Are these major digital publishing companies just trying to mend the situation with deleting a few titles and getting their PR departments to deal with it? Erotica is big business and its highly dubious if they will start policing the genre. What can be done to stem the tide of highly provocative titles being listed side by side with genres that have nothing to do with it? Michael and Jeremy break it all down.

Michael Kozlowski (5146 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to

  • Brian Bianco

    HOW IS THAT REMOTELY POSSIBLE? Who is to blame? The authors or the online retailers?

  • Good E-Reader

    Kobo, WH SMith, Waterstones all said indie self-published books were to blame exclusively. They did not even mention publishing companies. It was a few indies and indie companies that abused the system by keyword stuffing and making erotica books be in kids genres and fantasy and things like that.

  • Brian Bianco


  • Ebook Bargains UK

    But they would say that.

    it’s a safe bet if a self-pubbed author submitted a novel to W H Smith via Kobo about a middle-aged man having a sexual relationship with a twelve year old girl it would be rejected out of hand and possibly referred to the Police.

    Can we safely assume W H Smith have now removed all copies of Lolita from their stores and have told Nabokov’s publishers to go elsewhere? Somehow I don’t think so.

    What chance E.L .James would have survived this purge had Fifty Shades still been self-published?

    W H Smith have every right to decide what they will and will not sell, and Kobo and the other suppliers need to get their act together on what they allow itno the system, but let’s not lose sight of the snobbery and prejudice about self-publishing pervading these arguments.

  • InklingBooks

    Much of the news media is getting this story wrong. The issue not over erotica in general as this article’s headline implies, but over a sick little corner of it which typically has tales about fathers raping their young daughters. Online retailers had walled off these books, so their average customer would never stumble across them. A software developer I know in Seattle told me that friends who worked for Amazon had been involved in that walling off for several years.

    Now, fearing exposure and angry customers, retailers are yanking them altogether. That’s simpler and those books were probably not earning much anyway. But, as the article notes, these companies don’t want to go to the time and expense of screening books.

    There’s also another potential fear. Retailers do have legal responsibilities for what they sell. They could be sued for selling some of these books. And, win or lose, the publicity would be dreadful.

    At present, I have little sympathy for erotica writers. They’re the ones who should be setting standards and policing them. If they set up an effective rating system, it’d give retailers something to go by. Otherwise, they’re likely to play it safe and overdo.

  • Paul

    Self-publishing is only relevant because of the vast numbers. The problem is that an automated system was being used to classify these books based on user-supplied keywords. Whereas trad publishers have by their very nature had humans read and vet their books through the editting process, the sheer number of self-pubs mean that there had to be some kind of automation or you’d have a logjam. Plus it was easy money. A self-pubbed book may only sell a handful of copies but times that by a few million and you’re talking big money. Add an overhead – read human vetting the text – and that reduces considerably.

  • Jules

    Lolita is, in fact, still for sale on Kobo — as is Flowers in the Attic, a book about incest that has been popular with teenagers for decades now.