Tens of thousands of self-published ebooks have been removed from the Kobo site in an over-the-top crackdown on a relatively small number of extreme porn titles.
The sweeping deletions took out all self-published titles regardless of content in a panic move after the Mail on Sunday in the UK pointed the finger at Kobo partner WH Smith for featuring extreme porn titles alongside children’s books in searches for various terms.
In May this year, Kobo reported that its Writing Life self-publishing programme accounted for 10% of all sales at Kobo plus 10% of sales through partner distributors.
While other ebook retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble weeded out titles from among their erotica sections, Kobo has responded with what amounts to an across-the-board shutdown of self-publishing, with thousands of legitimate fiction and non-fiction books swept away.
Kobo says it is “quarantining” self-published books but remains committed to free expression. The company launched its Writing Life service for self-published authors just over a year ago and it looked to be gaining some popularity but this move, perhaps in response to pressure from WH Smith, has undermined confidence in the scheme.
WH Smith took its entire website offline soon after the MoS published its front-page article, which was prominently displayed in the newsagent section of Smith’s branches throughout the UK.
The site remains offline, which seems extraordinary as a large part of the site is devoted to stationery, office supplies, greeting cards and wedding stationery. Surely they could just have cut the automated feed from Kobo, taken the book section offline and continued trading.