When 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