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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

WH Smith Commits Hara-Kiri in eBook Porn Shocker!

Somewhat amused to come across the following piece of news this week regarding WH Smith's decision to blackout their website following the "revelation" that they had somehow inadvertently allowed gross and offensive hardcore porn e-books to appear for sale there.

Amid the usual cries from the usual suspects and their dogs regarding censorship, morality, freedom of speech and the unspeakable, outlaw nature of the Interwebz, I can't say I found many rational or vocal contributions from the group most likely to be affected by any of this: the indie writer/publisher. The most surprising thing to me is that it's taken this long for someone to notice.

Almost a year ago, when we began our aborted migration to Smashwords.com, I wrote about the user-generated content on that site thus in an FWB blog post:

"...there seems to be a heck of a lot of seriously gross-out porn freely available on SW. Perhaps it's just because there's an awful lot of it, but it's a slightly disturbing trend nonetheless, and not something I particularly like my own material to be associated with (although there's no accounting for potential buyers' browsing habits). I'm no prude and am pretty open-minded when it comes to adult material, but some of the titles alone in the viewers' and purchasers' lists makes me want to squirm. Well, as I always say: if you don't like it, don't look at it. I don't, so I won't, and that's all we have to say about that."

And as I recall, with one of the offending XXX-rated distributors being Kobo, Smashwords insist upon an ISBN for all works entered into that sales channel (along with Sony, Apple, and others). The assignation of an ISBN is no mere task, involving money, research and a letter to the relevant authorities: yet nobody, until now, seems to have clocked the fact that there were a growing number of works appearing with ludicrously graphic and disturbing titles which themselves could only hint at the twisted perversities contained within? I won't condemn this blog to cheap and nasty affiliations by quoting any of these titles but it was something that I, as an author found myself wondering: just how big is the market for perverted, deviant material, and is anybody going to do anything about it? (Amazon don't seem to mind - they cheerfully sell sex toys now on their main site, which in days gone past would have been kept under the counter in specialist sex shops.)

Well it came down to the lovably bumbling WH Smith to 'out' this issue in the most hilarious and British fashion. I stand back waiting to see how long it takes for eBooks to become the new 'filth' intended to corrupt everyone's children, as video games once were, or VHS cassettes in the bad old knee-jerk "Ban the sadist videos!" days.

To conclude on a serious note, I'd be interested to hear the opinions of all of you on this topic. Feel free to comment or email us with your thoughts, and if we get enough of a debate I'll publish them in a future post.

We need hardly remind our gentle readers that this is not the first time the publishing industry has been involved in Shock! Horror! moralistic headlines... ;)

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