Kobo removes self-published books…temporarily

Ebook seller Kobo announced yesterday that they’re going to “quarantine” self-published books in an attempt to clean up the plague of books filled with questionable content like rape, incest, and bestiality.

I think this is ultimately a good thing; it was just done in a very bad way.

As self-publishing has exploded, Kobo and other digital retailers have been inundated with books. Some of those books are quite good, and a number of indie authors have found deserved success through digital platforms. But quite a few of these indie books are just, well I’ll be honest, horrible. They’re glorified fan-fiction and the not-so-secret extreme sexual fantasies of writers who feel they need to share (there’s nifty.org for that kind of stuff, people!). Big name authors like Stephen King include some pretty dark sexual content too, but the books aren’t purely focused on that material. There’s a line between telling a story that can go to some pretty dark and strange places, and filling a book with nothing but the deepest levels of human depravity. I can’t blame Kobo for enforcing some kind of quality control for the sake of their business and the self-publishing industry as a whole. And Kobo, like Amazon, has some pretty clear (one might even say, explicit, heh) terms about what they don’t want to see on their store. When a store chooses to remove content that it doesn’t want, it’s not censorship. It’s not unfair treatment. It’s enforcing standards. Some material just doesn’t have a place in a reputable book store (and again, if you write this kind of stuff there are other venues for you). As long as the standards are fairly and consistently applied, I don’t mind.

It is unfortunate that every self-publisher has to suffer because of this, and Kobo could have handled the situation much better (they didn’t give anyone notice that all indie books would be unavailable for a while). Even my own books are off of Kobo right now. Let’s be clear: this was a knee-jerk reaction that is going to cost indie authors money while Kobo figures things out. But I think the temporary inconvenience is worth it if it helps our continuing efforts to make indie books as respectable as indie movies.