Kobo Now Removing All(?) Self-Published Titles From Their UK eBookstore

When35920659_eca074154e[1] WH Smith responded to the news that they were selling adult content by turning off their website and promising to turn it on again “once all self published eBooks have been removed”, I thought that they were exaggerating.

Now I am not so sure.

I have numerous independent reports that Kobo is pulling self-published titles from their UK ebookstore. And they’re not just removing erotica; I have confirmation that self-published ebooks from a wide variety of genres have been removed.

For those who are just tuning in, Kobo and their UK partner ebookstore WH Smith are responding to the “news” last week that they were selling adult content. I have already covered that story extensively, and you can find it here.

Kobo remains unavailable for comment, but earlier today Draft2Digital, an ebook distributor, sent out an email to all of their authors (found via TeleRead). They shared the bad news that all D2D titles had been removed from Kobo:

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.

And that’s just the beginning.

Update: I have heard back from D2D. They say that Kobo removed all 7,883 titles they distribute, no matter the genre. I was also told that Kobo did not give them any notice whatsoever and that D2D is still waiting for Kobo to explain just what went wrong.

I have reports in the comment section of this blog from three different authors that say their ebooks are gone from Kobo’s UK ebookstore. One report comes from David Gaughran, who as you might know is an SF author. He doesn’t write erotica, but he does publish his own novels via Kobo Writing Life:

All my titles have been removed from Kobo UK, and I don’t write erotica (and I uploaded direct).

On a quick check of about 10 random authors (who don’t write erotica), about half seem to be missing from the UK store – including some big sellers. All Draft2Digital titles, and some Smashwords and Kobo Writing Life titles.

Oddly enough, his ebooks are still available in the US, even though D2D says that the titles they distribute are completely gone. It is only in his home market of the UK that Kobo will not sell his ebooks.

And that’s not all. There are several more confirmations on KBoards (here, here, here), including several that said that they don’t write erotica. One saw 58 titles be removed without notice or warning, while another reported that:

I just lost two Smashwords titles (both crime, not romance or adult in any way). I think they’re just taking time working through it.

At this point Kobo has removed titles from a couple different distributors and from their own self-pub platform. It is not clear exactly what Kobo thinks they’re doing, but right now it looks to me like they really could be planning to remove all self-published titles from the UK ebookstore they share with WH Smith. While that might sound crazy, it is no more insane than WH Smith’s decision to shut down their website.

Update: Kobo has sent out an email to KWL authors with a partial explanation. They do not explain the removal of the Smashwords titles or D2D titles, nor do they answer all the obvious questions, but they do suggest that most  titles will be restored.

And at this point all we have to go on is 2nd-hand reports from authors; no one at Kobo Writing Life is returning emails today so we have no explanation as to what is going on.

If this does come to pass then it will represent a new high point for sheer overreaction to bad press. It would also tell us that WH Smith, which is probably the instigator for this action, is truly out of touch and has decided to throw the self-pub baby out with the adult content bathwater.

image by Hometown Unicorn

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Ricardo Lourenço14 October, 2013

    Not sure if this is related, but i’ve been unable to publish new eBooks via Kobo Writing Life since Friday. The “Publish your eBook” isn’t availablem at all.

    1. Nate Hoffelder14 October, 2013

      It could be related, yes.

      1. Ricardo Lourenço14 October, 2013

        I’m a Portuguese user btw. Managed to publish 12 titles last week without a problem until Friday, like I mentioned above. Sent an email to their customer support; no response so far.

  2. The Rodent14 October, 2013

    How does Kobo square this “remove all self-pub books” with running Kobo Writing Life? It seems contradictory, at least…

  3. Puzzled14 October, 2013

    I’m waiting for the leak of the emails from the publishers discussing this campaign to get rid of self-published books…

  4. Eric Welch14 October, 2013

    I wonder if they would have pulled all Random House books had Fifty Shades of Gray wandered into the kiddie section through bad tagging.

  5. Massimo Marino14 October, 2013

    I confirm that. My Science Fiction novels have been removed from Kobo UK.

    They’re still on Foyle’s though.

  6. Jamie Tucker Dougan14 October, 2013

    I had three self-published titles on Kobo… all gone now. Two of them had adult content but were far from being erotica. The other didn’t have a remote hint of anything adult other than a couple of swear words.

    If and when this is sorted, I’ll be pulling all my titles from Kobo Writing Life. No warning or explanation as to why.

  7. Esmeralda Greene14 October, 2013

    It’s definitely not just Kobo UK. As of a few hours ago, all of my self-published erotica titles have been removed from Kobo US.

  8. Lynne Connolly14 October, 2013

    My self-published Regency romances – gone. Not erotic. My titles with erotic romance publishers – still there.
    So far. Until they sort this mess out, I’m boycotting the stores, physical and online.

  9. Censorship, self-publishing and pearl clutching… Oh My! - My Daily Romance14 October, 2013

    […] Kobo Now Removing All(?) Self-Published Titles From Their UK eBookstore […]

  10. Jennifer R. Povey14 October, 2013

    I have verified that both of my titles – one self-published, the other through a small press that uses Smashwords to distribute to Kobo – have been removed from kobo.uk.

    Both titles remain on the US site.

    As far as I can determine, all titles from Musa Publishing, including YA titles, have also been removed.

    If this is not reversed I will be ending distribution to Kobo of my self-published title and requesting that my publisher remove my novel from the store.

    I am not in any way, shape or form, an erotica writer, although I have friends who are and I support them in their battle to have their work easily available to those who want it (and easy to avoid by those who don’t).

    Apparently W.H. Smith and Kobo want to tell people what they can and cannot read – and are not even basing this on content.

  11. […] has finally shared a partial explanation for why they removed self-published titles from their ebookstore. It may have taken them well over 48 hours to respond, and their explanation leaves many questions […]

  12. Jesse Kaellis15 October, 2013

    Why is any book distributor or book seller required to carry any type of book from any author?
    Who writes this kind of crap?
    Nonconsensual Sex Slave: I wanted to experience it like the kidnapped girls in the true-crime books by Faye Kane
    Price: $4.49 USD. Approx. 63,190 words. Language: American English. Published on July 11, 2013. Category: Nonfiction » Biography » Autobiographies & Memoirs.
    In 2002, I told the men to strip me naked, tie me down, and torture me nonstop for days. Slap my face until your hand is wet with my tears, whip both of my openings HARD, push pins in my breasts while I cry, burn me with cigs while I scream. When I plead and beg through my sobs to stop, do it harder and angrier. Rape me anally and deep, and cum in my guts. === They did all those things, and more.

    1. Jesse Kaellis15 October, 2013

      This is number one in it’s genre on Smashwords. It’s supposed to be a biography. I have sex in my book, which is NOT self published or vanity press, but none of it is gratuitous. Erotica is just camouflage for bad writing.

      1. Esmeralda Greene15 October, 2013

        >>This is number one in it’s genre on Smashwords. It’s supposed to be a biography. I have sex in my book, which is NOT self published or vanity press

        If your book is published and distributed by Smashwords, it’s considered self-published, even if it goes through some third party publisher that uses Smashwords.

        >> Erotica is just camouflage for bad writing.
        Goodness, that’s a badly-written sentence! 🙂

        1. Iaminvincible15 October, 2013

          >>Goodness, that’s a badly-written sentence!

          Lol. Are you going to tell us how to spell potato?

      2. Dan18 February, 2014

        You claim it is not gratuitous. Prudes who try to censor erotica typically consider any sex to be gratuitous.

    2. fjtorres15 October, 2013

      They’re not.
      They have very, ahem, explicit Terms of Service listing what isn’t allowed. 😉
      But crap will always sneak through. As Nate has repeatedly documented, Amazon regular sweeps their catalog for violators but even daily sweeps can’t filter out everything.
      A bit of common sense on the part of Kobo would have minimized the mess but their reaction just added jet fuel to the fire.

  13. […] of their self-published books for now. Not just the erotica ones. No regard for genre. See this post on the Digital Reader. And in the splash zone has been titles by my the small publisher I’m with–so possibly […]

  14. Chris Backe15 October, 2013

    Standard corporate responses all around. Some authors are using a tool to publish stuff some people don’t like, so we’ll shut down the conduit and do a review of everything before we put it back up.

    Thus far, we’ve had a sensationalized report that a search for a seemingly innocuous word shows what some people consider questionable content. In other words, this is what Google discovered YEARS ago, and introduced the concept of a ‘safe search’ or a ‘filtered search’. My money’s on the bookstores adopting something like this post-haste once their catalogs are scrubbed.

    In the meantime, the response of taking ALL the books down is unsurprising. How do you know a catalog is clean without some sort of automatic or manual review process? You can bet they’ll only keep the site down as long as they absolutely have to (while waiting on the MSM coverage to blow over) and quietly reopen.

    1. Jennifer R. Povey15 October, 2013

      EVERYONE in the industry, including the erotica authors, wants safe search on online bookstores.

      Everyone. What we want to see is ALL bookstores implementing a simple adult filter with a check box, with the password required to turn the safe search off (I would also like to see the button be hidden/removed if the user’s date of birth indicates they are under 18. It won’t stop clever teenagers, but). The problem is that the online vendors see applying an adult filter to book sales to be tantamount to “condoning” pornography.

      Amazon already has an adult filter, but filtered books are impossible to find on their site without the direct URL. You can’t even find them by title. False positives are common – with completely clean romances often ending up in what authors call the “dungeon.” Meanwhile, hardcore erotica slips through. Now, no filter is going to be perfect, but you can have a system where complaints are reviewed and books quickly recategorized if necessary. It’s usually pretty obvious to a set of human eyeballs whether something is erotica, borderline, sweet romance or, well, obscene.

      Erotica should be easy to find for those who want it and easy to avoid for those who don’t.

  15. […] If you’ve been reading the ebook news lately then I’m sure you know all about the reaction by Kobo, Amazon, and B&N when “news” broke that they were selling adult content. They removed hundreds of questionable titles as well as ebooks that did not violate any rules or laws, with Kobo even going so far as to temporarily gut their self-pub section. […]

  16. […] more on this story, here’s a good summary. Or you can check the discussion I started on Goodreads (thanks Mr Rodent for jumping in! It does […]

  17. John R. Mason16 October, 2013

    Kobo have removed all my and my father’s (Douglas r. mason/john rankine) titles on the uk site. Over forty novels! Although put up through KWL they are not exactly self-published. Fictionwise is a sad sad loss.

  18. […] unaware of a local tempest-in-a-teapot that popped up here recently. Seems a bunch of seamy books, self-published, for the most part, but not exclusively, have been removed from public view — the aggregator […]

  19. M T McGuire16 October, 2013

    Add me to the list of casualties and another author I know of Will Macmillan Jones, who is published with a small press (Safkhet).

    He writes humorous fantasy, I write humorous sci-fi.

    I’ve e-mailed Kobo asking for an explanation. I can’t get onto their US site so I don’t know if my books are on there any more or not.



  20. Jennifer R. Povey16 October, 2013

    You’re both still on the US site.

  21. […] and Kobo are scrambling to remove the more questionable titles, with Kobo even going so far as to purge their ebookstore of self-published ebooks. Kobo’s UK partner WH Smith has also shut down their website as a […]

  22. Amazon Punting All “Porn” – #amazon #banned #books | Robyn O and the Dirty Dares16 October, 2013

    […] O Loses Her Virginity, even though neither book has any pseudo-incest content. I suppose that with Kobo also announcing they will be pulling titles, Smashwords seems to be the only online publishing site that we can feel fairly certain isn’t […]

  23. […] of fighting WH Smith’s decision, Kobo has pulled ALL self-published works from its UK e-bookstore.  This decision affects not only self-published authors, but small […]

  24. […] http://the-digital-reader.com/2013/10/14/kobo-now-removing-self-published-uk-ebookstore If you have a blog talking about this and would like a linkback, just leave a comment. Here is a […]

  25. Michael White17 October, 2013

    I think Kobo and any other company which decides to drop self-published content will find that they are missing out on a lot of sales as a result. If they are basing this decision on what they deem inferior quality in production, then perhaps they should set up quality control standards to suit their own idea of what constitutes superior quality, but to eliminate an entire block of product because of inferior quality in some products from the same category is just plain bad business sense. It’s one thing to remove content which fails to meet a certain standard, but it’s another thing entirely to remove a whole category of content because a certain product within that category has failed to meet an as-yet unwritten, unpublished standard. Once they notice the big drop in their income and realize their error, I predict that they will reinstate self-published content to their stores.

  26. David Robertson18 October, 2013

    This BBC News page is helpful: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24533915

  27. Pauline T13 February, 2014

    What happened with this? It has been nearly 6 months, I went onto the WHSmith website today and still can’t find my D2D books. It was a poor corporate reaction to pull all the self published books off by Kobo but honestly understandable. The fault here isn’t with Kobo but with the service through Draft2Digital. I would pay 15% of my royalties to ensure my books were in these stores but not if they aren’t checking their data and there mistakes cost me sales and reputation! The responsibility for the error is down to Draft2Digital NOT providing GOOD data to their retailer, not with the retailer to nappy train D2D on how to do a good job.

    1. Dan18 February, 2014

      The apparent blanket removal shows the problem is most definitely with Kobo.

  28. Romance Ebook Sales Stats From Europe: Dominance and Submission | Digital Book World9 June, 2014

    […] powered by Kobo, and when the story broke, it emerged that Kobo’s first action was to focus on the self-published aspect of this genre to try and find a resolution. It prompted this superb and very entertaining […]

  29. Why The Next Amazon Should Be Author Owned | Writing By The Seat of My Pants25 October, 2014

    […] what happened during what’s now been dubbed “eroticgate” two weeks ago, we authors need to consider our allegiances.  Who better than us to take the […]

  30. […] been just over 13 months since Kobo kicked off the Great eBook Purge of 2013, effectively banning self-published ebooks from its UK-facing site, and it looks like the ban may be […]

  31. […] all, and because it got there first. (Actually, I saw an eReader for sale in a WH Smith shop (boo hiss!) long before I knew about Kindle, so that last statement probably isn’t […]

  32. […] no matter the genre. It’s a bit of an overreaction, I think. You can read up about it here and here. Supposedly, a number of titles will make it back on to Kobo UK and WH Smith, but we’ll see how […]


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