The darker side of e-book publishing
The meaning of Daddy, you would think, is pretty clear. If you were to go onto any on-line bookstore, you might expect that a search in the books section for “daddy” would bring up titles such as I Love My Daddy by Sebastian Braun or Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz. Kiddies’ books.
And yes, when I checked Amazon’s site, that was what I found. Those titles are the number 1 and 2 books. In fact, all except one on the front page of results are children’s books. A quick scan of the reviews for the one book that isn’t for kids, reveals that it is a innocuous romance. So that’s fine, no need to fuss.
No, not quite. By the third page, something different shows up. Something far less pleasant. And, if you do the same search but instead of searching the books section, you search only “Kindle Store” many, many of the results are books on the first few pages about incest and rape. A search that included the “daddy” and “daughter” brings up almost entirely books of this kind. These are not written to highlight serious issues. They are written to titillate. Some of them rank high in the Amazon best seller’s list too.
This isn’t something that exists only on Amazon. These same books are for sale on Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and other sites. According to the BBC, UK bookseller, W H Smith, took down its entire online book store in October when it was found to be selling these pornographic e-books through Kobo. Its site is back on-line, but minus all self-published books.
Amazon’s terms and conditions clearly state: “We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.”
Smashwords states: “if you publish erotica content … do not include children or underage minors engaged in sexual acts or situations, witnessing such situations, considering sexual acts, or thinking about sexual acts.” This rule probably explains the proliferation of books on offer at Smashwords with names along the lines of: “Naughty Daddy’s Daughter”, which feature just-turned 18 year old girls.
Amazon is reported to have removed several of these books, but clearly many still remain. Author Jeremy Duns expressed surprise about this on Twitter, and was very quickly attacked by someone because he writes thrillers about an agent hunting down war criminals. I haven’t read Jeremy Duns’s books, but they don’t sound comparable to porn.
The Kernel, a UK online magazine that promotes itself as the web’s favourite tabloid, has since taken up this issue and written several posts about it. The Kernel reports that Amazon have removed several of the titles they listed, but that many remain. Not only that, but already there is a backlash against companies such as W H Smith who reacted rapidly, with writers complaining about a knee-jerk reaction. Some of these miss the point, seeing it just as a concern that children might stumble across erotica or that books have been wrongly categorized. The issue goes much deeper.
Firstly, since some of these books appear to be high up Amazon’s rankings, that means they sell well. What does that say about attitudes to women and children? The UK is still reeling from the scandal that erupted when it became clear that Jimmy Saville wasn’t alone in using his position as a celebrity to abuse children. That these books sell well reflects the same kind of attitude.
Secondly, why are companies allowing these books to remain on sale even after the matter has been brought to their attention, when the books clearly violate policies? That on-line retailers don’t immediately remove these titles the moment they are made aware of them – and that they don’t do a thorough check themselves – is a reflection of the same attitude that allowed those celebrities to go on abusing children for years.
Everyone is responsible
Yet, it’s not enough to simply blame the companies. Any time we turn a blind eye to any form of abuse or discrimination we are doing the same thing they are. This should not be simply about pointing fingers, or creating headlines such as those in The Kernel – eg An Epidemic of Filth. In the sidebar of that post is a link to an article on the “Twerking Finals,” complete with a photo of a naked bottom. And while The Kernel might be indignant, it doesn’t mind listing titles and linking to several of the books it deplores.
We all have a responsibility to children, whether or not we are not parents. We all need to take an honest look at our own double standards, and to be willing to do what we believe is morally right, not just what will be in our immediate interests. The fact that I have a self-published e-book on Amazon and on Smashwords shouldn’t stop me writing to those companies and asking them to remove these books that violate their policies. Sometimes we have to do what feels right for us, no matter how daunting it might be. Otherwise we might find ourselves feeling the way Pastor Martin Niemoller did when he wrote this poem:
PS: I have now written to Smashwords, quoting their terms and conditions and providing a link to the books that come up with the search “daddy daughter” and that blatantly contravene the conditions. I’ll keep you posted on their reply.
PPS: I am pleased to say that Smashwords responded immediately to say they will take a close look at the titles I alerted them to.