A few days ago I had a brief twitter conversation regarding the recent furore over certain self-published titles which have been removed from various online eBook outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Online technology news portal The Kernel reported that hidden within the depths of the virtual bookshelves there could be found independent publications such as: 'Daddy Rapes the Virgin Daughter in the Attic', 'Taboo Acts, Volume II: Loving the Horse' and 'Doggy, Daddy, Daughter Rape: Virgin Teen Girl Deflowered By Father And His Dog' amongst other stories detailing graphic rape, incest, bestiality and supposed paedophilia. What ensued was a chaotic attempt for the 'booksellers' to rid themselves of any responsibility in a cathartic attempt not to be seen to be endorsing such 'offensive' material. W. H. Smith pulled their entire online store for a period of time and promised not to publish any further independent titles before their content could be checked to ensure it wasn't pornographic. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have (to my knowledge) been a little less knee-jerk and simply removed the offensive books.
However, this is an incredibly contentious issue and there are some really nervous conversations flying around the self-published community about what might become of this development. My personal opinion is that I'm not too worried at this stage, the books which were removed from sale were quite clearly touching illegal and very sensitive issues, whether or not that makes the publication itself illegal isn't for me to say and I think anybody who does make that call would be treading very thin ice. Documenting a crime in literature is not an offence, but writing it in a glorifying manner may well fall foul of the rather outdated Obscene Publications Act, which famously ensnared the magnificent Lady Chatterley's Lover. There is a wider conversation to be had about the boundaries between erotic fiction and literary pornography, not to mention the threat from Kobo to moderate all self-published books, not just the adult themed ones.
So, as the writer of the rather explicitly titled Dirty Little Fuck Doll, why am I not excessively concerned? For several reasons, firstly all my characters are consenting adults of an appropriate age, you could find them doing what they're doing on any number of free-access porn sites, also because I believe readers won't stand for this, let us not forget that when an eBook gets removed from the shop, it is also erased from your kindle or other reading device and there is a massive market for 'erotica'. The main reason is that Amazon in particular won't bow down, they make money from self-published authors and I doubt they will give it up. Amazon are big, bold and bolshie enough to make sure they aren't breaking the law, then stick a single finger up to any further criticism. The very most I feel they would do is put an age verification wall in front of any 'adult' products, and I'd support that fully.
I'd really like your opinions about this, as either a reader or writer, how do you feel about the issue of banning or removing these books? Do you feel they should take more down? Impose restrictions on self-published titles? What about age verification, would it work? Are you a writer and afraid of having your work deleted from their stores? As a reader, are you concerned you might not be able to buy books from self-published writers anymore? Is this an overreaction or a genuine point?