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Discussion Starter #1
So WHSmith, one of the largest book retailers in the UK, have announced they're removing all self-published titles. In the meantime they've shut down their website and http://www.whsmith.co.uk/ now directs to a statement from them. For those not a fan of links:

A statement from WHSmith:

Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were
appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated
feed to ours. This is an industry wide issue impacting retailers that
sell self published eBooks due to the explosion of self publishing,
which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get
their content published. However we are disgusted by these particular
titles, find this unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone
them.

It is our policy not to feature titles like those highlighted and we
have processes in place to screen them out. We offer over one million
titles through our eBooks partner Kobo, many of which are self-published
titles. Due to the massive amount of self publishing a number of these
titles have got through the screening process.

We are taking immediate steps to have them all removed. While we are
doing this we have decided to take our website off-line to best protect
our customers and the public. Our website will become live again once
all self published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that
there are no offending titles available. When our website goes back
online it will not display any self published material until we are
completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.

We sincerely apologise for any offence caused.
 

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Wow...they're serious. The money they must be loosing every hour of every day is not something you take lightly.
 

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Sad, but another turn in the way the industry is changing.
I'm guessing they're referring to over-the-top pornography. We're seeing a similar "clean-up" at KDP, from what I gather. Or perhaps stolen or poorly produced material? Retailers have to balance their public image with giving people what they want.

Like email spammers, there are those who are taking advantage of the system as they look for ways to get rich quick, to the detriment of all. Let's hope this doesn't bite all of us in the butt and result in another layer of gatekeepers.  :(
 

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This was on the news here today. What happened was that some erotica titles slipped into the children's section because of the keyword "daddy" You can probably guess what kind of porn would use that keyword.

WH Smith could be a trend that will affect us all. They aren't banning erotica they are banning everything not from the big 5

This is just a massive extension of the Zon's dungeon in a way, but at least zon didn't ban everything along with the titles they don't like.
 

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markecooper said:
WH Smith could be a trend that will affect us all. They aren't banning erotica they are banning everything not from the big 5
I didn't read the quote that way. I thought it says they are only not displaying self-published material (and then only until they have better checks in place) on their website. It says nothing about only displaying titles published by the Big Five, so presumably small press titles will be okay. Or am I reading it incorrectly?
 

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markecooper said:
This was on the news here today. What happened was that some erotica titles slipped into the children's section because of the keyword "daddy" You can probably guess what kind of porn would use that keyword.
This could be a result of people playing coy with covers and titles to avoid that dungeon. It slips by the filters and messes up categories and keyword logistics. Again, to the detriment of the rest of the system.
Porn is porn and if the resellers want to keep it behind the curtain in the corner then that's their way of doing business.

Easy to say that WH.Smith is not a major player - it could also be a portent of things to come. No doubt Kobo isn't happy right now and looking at their own system.
 

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Sam Kates said:
I didn't read the quote that way. I thought it says they are only not displaying self-published material (and then only until they have better checks in place) on their website. It says nothing about only displaying titles published by the Big Five, so presumably small press titles will be okay. Or am I reading it incorrectly?
Wouldn't take much to set up a company and call yourself a small press, would it?
 

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markecooper said:
WH Smith could be a trend that will affect us all. They aren't banning erotica they are banning everything not from the big 5
They're doing this because of some bosom-hoisting at the Daily Mail. It's a bit silly of them given that they've been struggling for years.
 

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Actually, I read that totally differently from how the rest of you guys did. It looks to me like they are removing all of the titles which they find offensive, but are generally okay with self-published stuff as long as it's not the "disgusting" kind.

Frankly, I think it's dumb that companies feel they need to police what people buy. As long as the content isn't breaking any laws (child exploitation, etc.) then allow consumers to make up their own minds whether they want to purchase it or not. I hate the regulation of individuals' minds and bodies. But I guess it's their call if they want to lose money -- both with the site shut-down and by not selling to people who want to buy unconventional erotica.

I like how they don't specify which titles were so disgusting to them. I really, really hope it was the dinosaur porn.
 

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For US readers, WH Smith is the biggest Hight St stationer/newsvendor in the UK. It sells books and CDs etc too.

Amazon's removal of 'abuse-themed books', is the lead story in the Technology section of BBC Online (see extract below).

The WH Smith comment strikes me as aggressively defensive (if that makes sense) suggesting, to me at least, that they had no filtering policy in place. If they did have one, and it was as efficient as they are implying in that only a few titles slipped through, such draconian action would be unncessary; they could simply have tweaked their filters.

BBC story:

Retailer Amazon has removed several abuse-themed e-books from its Kindle Store after a report highlighted titles depicting rape, incest and bestiality.

Titles such as Taking My Drunk Daughter had been on sale.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both say they are removing books found by technology news site The Kernel, but many others still remain, the BBC has found.

WHSmith and Kobo, which feature titles with similar themes, are yet to respond to requests for comment.

The BBC found that on Amazon's store, the search function automatically suggested explicit topics to users typing seemingly innocuous keywords - without age verification taking place.

Amazon has not responded to the BBC's request for comment on the issue, except to confirm that the specific books listed by The Kernel had been removed.

Barnes & Noble said in a statement the titles were "in violation" of its policy on content offered in the NOOK Bookstore and were in the process of being removed.

"When there are violations to the content policy that are brought to our attention, either through our internal process or from a customer or external source, we have a rapid response team in place to appropriately categorize or remove the content in accordance with our policy," it said.

Justice Minister Damian Green told the BBC "the government shares the public's concerns about the availability of harmful material."
 

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Discussion Starter #12
ElHawk said:
Actually, I read that totally differently from how the rest of you guys did. It looks to me like they are removing all of the titles which they find offensive, but are generally okay with self-published stuff as long as it's not the "disgusting" kind.
I read it that way too, until I got to "Our website will become live again once all self published eBooks have been removed..."
 

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ElHawk said:
I really, really hope it was the dinosaur porn.
;D ;D ;D

When our website goes back online it will not display any self published material until we are completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.
This could mean anything up to and including "we can't figure this out so we just won't publish ANY indies"
 

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Quiss said:
Wouldn't take much to set up a company and call yourself a small press, would it?
True, but calling myself a small press and actually being one aren't the same thing. A true small press would publish books by more than one author, wouldn't it? I guess even that would be get-roundable, so maybe Mark is right. But this only applies to the content of their website, yes? It doesn't mean they are going to start removing small press books from their shops, or at least that's how I read it. If that were to happen, it would be a shame indeed. Our local branch stocks a variety of small-press publications, often with a local flavour, that wouldn't be of global appeal, but are of great interest to local people.
 

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I wasn't aware that WHSmith had an online retail presence, but knew them from every airport bookstore here in America.  It's a shame that such drastic measures were taken, but I hope that it results in a more workable solution to this issue.  Several erotica authors here on the boards have suggested an adult filter toggle, and it seems like such an easy first step.
 

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That's what they get for being lazy.  If WHSmith feels they have an image or reputation to maintain, that's fine.  They should have been filtering books from day one instead of simply automating it from another website.  This appears to be a classic throwing out the baby with the bath water reaction.  There goes the porn along with 20% of the worlds best sellers.

It will go a few different ways.  They lose customers because what they are looking for, can't be found as people like to shop from one spot, not all over.  They quit being lazy and filter the products they determine to be unfit for their website.  Or they become the niche online book store that doesn't have the sea of crap by selling only clean, vetted, edited books from draconian institutes.
 

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WH Smith, which is a major UK book retailer has taken down its website offline following the recent controversy over certain titles.

http://www.whsmith.co.uk

The statement is here (my highlighting):

A statement from WHSmith:

Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours. This is an industry wide issue impacting retailers that
sell self published eBooks due to the explosion of self publishing, which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get their content published. However we are disgusted by these particular titles, find this unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them.

It is our policy not to feature titles like those highlighted and we have processes in place to screen them out. We offer over one million titles through our eBooks partner Kobo, many of which are self-published
titles. Due to the massive amount of self publishing a number of these titles have got through the screening process.

We are taking immediate steps to have them all removed. While we are doing this we have decided to take our website off-line to best protect our customers and the public. Our website will become live again once all self published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available. When our website goes back online it will not display any self published material until we are completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.

We sincerely apologise for any offence caused."

Where to start with this? I know people are upset by these titles, but talk about an over-reaction.

Did they speak to Kobo?

Whether retailers like it or not, self-published titles are a big chunk of the market now. This seems beyond silly.
 
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