Caught in the Crosswinds – The Amazon, WS Smith and Kobo Hurricane

If you’re not familar with this story…it began with Amazon removing books which go against their policies and procedures. I am in complete agreement with their actions because of the content of the books in question (rape, incest, beastiality etc.) Putting hardcore erotica titles alongside childrens books is unacceptable and of course action should be taken to remove them.

Then WH Smith followed by shutting down their website.

“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.

In the mean time if you have any questions for our customer support team you can contact then here (”


The books in “question” were distributed by Draft2Digital (almost 8,000 books) and my debut romantic thriller, REFLECTION, was one of the books distributed via D2D along with many other of my publisher’s (MuseItUp Publishing) titles.

reflection333x500REFLECTION has won numerous awards. UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner (2013), Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha!” Romantic Suspense Winner (2004) and an Honourable Mention in Calgary’s (RWA) The Writer’s Voice Contest (2006).

Then Kobo pulled all titles distributed via D2D.

“To our Kobo Writing Life and self-publishing partners:

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.


Mark Lefebvre
Director, Kobo Writing Life”


After reading the the message from Kobo…REFLECTION does not contain anything that would warrant removal instead it was pulled because my publisher chose to use D2D.

In the end, isn’t this censoring to begin with? Selecting a “group” is not cool and what about all the other books on Kobo’s site? Shouldn’t they be removed and quarantined to ensure they are in compliance with the same policies? Do they really believe there aren’t books on their site now that go against their content policies?

Of course it’s not the end of the world but it sure as heck has caused a lot of problems especially with Christmas just around the corner. I put a lot of effort and time into promoting my books. I believe WS Smith and Kobo went into panic mode and unfortunately my book along with so many others were convicted and removed without a trial.

I look forward to a phone call from Kobo today and hopefully a quick resolution to the problem.

UPDATE: After numerous posts to Kobo, I’m happy to see they responded and put REFLECTION back up on their site for sale! Thank you, Kobo.

Read more…

2 thoughts on “Caught in the Crosswinds – The Amazon, WS Smith and Kobo Hurricane

  1. I’m sorry you got caught up in the sweep, and I’m also very upset about this situation. I agree these books should not come up in searches with children’s books, there should be some sort of adult filter. I also think children should not be able to shop online without adult supervision to avoid problems like this. However I disagree that the original books in question should automatically be pulled because they contain rape, incest & bestiality. Every second popular serial killer book I’ve ever read contains rape, some explicitly written. Incest can be found in the VC Andrews series which are read by young teenagers, and have been at least since the 1990’s. Both rape & incest can be found in the Bible. Although not common, sometimes the sex scenes in popular paranormal shifter books could be considered bestiality. If the major book sellers were pulling all books that contain this subject matter, not just indie ones, I’m guessing they would have to delete most of their books, including many best selling authors. I’m not saying the offending books in this case were works of literature, but deleting books because they contain rape, incest & bestiality is a slippery slope. I wish you luck in getting your books back up & dealing with this mess.

  2. Thanks, LS. It is one heck of a mess. The problem I’m finding now is the media is not reporting the correct information. Most media outlets have reported it is only ‘self-published’ books when many traditional small presses have been hit as well.

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