Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Up Yours, Kobo! Use A Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut, Why Don't Yer?

A few days ago I was patting myself on the back for managing to upload Goalden Girl, my first book, to Kobo. After much hard work, Draft2Digital was recommended to me, and Goalden Girl was made available to Kobo readers because D2D is so simple. Then, yesterday, I got this email from D2D, in relation to an article in The Bookseller:  

We have discovered that over the weekend Kobo removed all books published through our account.

While we have received no official word concerning this issue, we believe this is related to recent articles in the media concerning erotica titles available at WHSmith and Kobo’s storefronts. However, Kobo’s response to this situation seems to have been removal of all books for any publishers (including distributors) that have offending titles until they find a solution.

I deeply regret that authors who have released books that are not erotica have been affected by this situation as well. We are working aggressively to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and we will keep you updated as we learn more information.

Not only has Kobo.com gone and removed my ebook from WH Smith, it has also removed it from its Kobo.com store. I tried re-publishing it and they won't accept it. I got another email from Kobo's Writing Life. I had tried to publish my book using their program but found it too complicated. However, it is the main platform for publishing all Kobo books. The email said,

As you may be aware, there has been a significant amount of negative media attention in the UK regarding offensive material that became available across a number of eBook platforms.

Kobo was included in the reports from media and we are taking immediate action to resolve an issue that is the direct result of a select few authors and publishers violating Kobo’s content policies. In order to address the situation Kobo is taking the following steps:

1 We are removing titles in question from the Kobo platform.
2 We are quarantining and reviewing titles to ensure that compliance to our policies is met by all authors and publishers. We will ensure that content meeting the policy is made available online as soon as possible.
3 We are reviewing our policies and procedures to implement safeguards that will ensure this situation does not happen in the future. We are working hard to get back to business as usual, as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Our goal at Kobo is not to censor material; we support freedom of expression. Further, we want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole. You have our promise that we will do all we can to ensure the exceptions that have caused this current situation will not have a lasting effect on what is an exciting new channel that connects Readers to a wealth of books.

Well, they have censored all material. I couldn't resist making a snotty reply:

Yeah, thanks for that.

I published my children’s book Goalden Girl via Draft2Digital onto Kobo, about a girls’ football team, which has been in print since 2007.

What’s happened is a hammer has been used to crack a nut. My title has been removed as well. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with Kobo again.
(yeah, I mean it, too!)

This afternoon I received a further update from D2D

Late yesterday we received some initial communication concerning the titles Kobo removed from distribution. Kobo confirmed that the bulk removal was conducted in reaction to a spate of recent negative media attention. Their initial solution was to immediately remove from sale books from self-published authors and small presses as well as from digital aggregators like Draft2Digital until they pass an additional review by Kobo.

To our knowledge, Kobo has not yet begun the review process to reinstate any books. This matter could take some time. However, they insist that they have a strong commitment to free expression and to the self-publishing community as well. They have assured us that all titles that comply with their content guidelines will be fully reinstated.

We will continue to do everything we can to bring this matter to a timely and satisfying conclusion. In the meantime you have our sincerest sympathy for the interruption of your business and our gratitude for your continuing patience. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

In effect, Kobo have used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They know that self-publishers and small presses will use a service like D2D to get their titles onto ereaders because it's free, quick and effective, but instead of taking time out to do a survey of the subject matter, genre and readership they've decided to take ALL independent self-published titles off their system.

OK, so it seems WH Smith have messed up with their catalogue and search engine, but why do we all have to suffer? If the fault is in the searching of titles, then isn't it up to their IT guys to sort it out so that it can't happen?

The WH Smith statement mentions 'offensive titles'. There's nothing offensive about the title Fifty Shades of Grey (still on Kobo as are some other erotic titles!) if you look at it in that context, but someone please tell me WTF is offensive about the title Goalden Girl?! I could understand it if Gemma was naked, painted in gold paint, and doing something rude with the football on the cover, but the poor kid just wants to play footie FFS! (OMG, what a horrible image!)

As I write the WH Smith site is down; but when it comes back up I don't know if I can be bothered to try and publish to Kobo again. Right now they can get stuffed. Literally.


VH Folland said...

Sorry to hear about your books. It isn't just you - I've lost two mainstream fiction books with no 'adult' content at all. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to what is getting banned and what is not.

Unknown said...


Sorry about your books, too. :( It's so irritating and unnecessary, and I feel sorry for the erotica authors. None of this is their fault, it's down to WH Smith and their search engine. I don't see why we should be penalised for their mistake.


VH Folland said...

I quite agree.

I've created a survey to check how many affected authors actually write adult material - so far the answer is 'not many'.

If you would like to add your experience, the survey is on my blog or at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W82N6TY