Pegasus Pulp e-books not currently available at W.H. Smith, Kobo and Whitcoulls

I regret to inform you that Pegasus Pulp e-books are not currently available at W.H. Smith in the UK and Whitcoulls in New Zealand and that worldwide availability at Kobo may be limited.

Warning: Swearing, righteous indignation and links with potentially offensive content below the cut!

This is due to a crusade against some of the more fringe erotica titles (mostly pseudo-incest a.k.a. sex between step-parents and adult step-children) a.k.a. “depraved filth” (their words, not mine) by some moralistic busybodies in the UK, which caused W.H. Smith and Whitcoulls to take down their respective e-book stores to pull all self-published e-books, whether erotica or not, taboo or not. Meanwhile, Kobo is scrambling to purge their catalogue of supposedly objectionable titles, which significantly affects the availability of all self-published e-books at Kobo. So far Amazon is only blocking erotica, including erotica that does not fall into any of the categories deemed problematic, so Pegasus Pulp titles should be unaffected.

Shit like this is the reason why I speak out against corporate censorship of erotica, even though I don’t write erotica and personally don’t find incest, whether biological or pseudo, even remotely appealing. Because from banning erotica it’s just a small step to banning any content someone somewhere finds offensive and from there it’s just a small step to banning all indie books.

And you know what? I’m fucking furious. I’m fucking furious that my books are unavailable to many readers because of a moral outrage about a genre I don’t write in a country where I don’t live with an attitude towards pornography I don’t understand (I always thought the UK was a sexually liberal country). I’m angry on behalf of my erotica writing online pals, who are not “depraved and sick individuals”, but regular folks, usually women, some of whom have had their entire catalogue of books preemptively blocked by Amazon and removed from sale altogether by Kobo and W.H. Smith and all for the crime of catering to fantasies for which there is obviously a lucrative market. And for the record, from what I’ve heard from erotica writers, incest and pseudo-incest are among the most popular niches, so there’s a lot of “depraved individuals” out there. What is more, by the looks of them the objectionable e-books were poor quality content thrown up in masses by “get rich quick” scammers. Erotica authors are generally very aware of what lines shouldn’t be crossed so not to bring down the ban hammer.

I’m angry at W.H. Smith, a company which got a lot of my money over the years (I just dropped approx. sixty pounds at Smith‘s during my most recent visit to the UK) and whose e-book store I always supported by linking to it from my product pages, for caving in to a campaign of manufactured outrage, even though W.H. Smith has no problem carrying erotica as well as graphic child abuse memoirs in its high street stores. This isn’t the first time W.H. Smith has caved to the outrage brigade either. After all, this is the chain that banned Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron and New Worlds in the 1960s.

I’m angry at Kobo, a company which is my second best market after Amazon and whose e-reader I chose over Amazon’s Kindle, for limiting up the availability of e-books to readers worldwide because of an uproar in one country (and isn’t it interesting that even though Kobo sells e-books in muslim majority countries, unlike Amazon, the outrage about all the evil porn came from the UK and not from e.g. the UAE), though to be fair Kobo at least wrote a mail to all uploaders to apologise for the problems.

But most of all, I’m furious at The Daily Mail, a sensationalist rag so depraved (Hey, if they can use “depraved” with a straight face, then so can I) that I’ve heard it referred to as “The Daily Hate-Mail” by Brits, The Kernel, a no name tech blog mainly known for not paying its writers and having an editor-in-chief who changes his name more often than his underwear, and Jeremy Duns, a writer of spy novels which had some Amazon reviewers complaining about the evil depravity of his protagonist.

You just ruined the livelihood of a whole lot of people. Hope you’re proud of yourselves.

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21 Responses to Pegasus Pulp e-books not currently available at W.H. Smith, Kobo and Whitcoulls

  1. Daniela says:

    The Kernel now seems to go after holocaust denial books, complete with over the top outrage that just reads incredibly fake.
    Strangely enough they haven’t yet realized that Hitler’s Mein Kampf is also available.

    It does make you wonder what they’ll go after next.

    • Cora says:

      I have no sympathy for Holocaust deniers, but considering that Amazon Germany even blocks WWII thrillers with a swastika on the cover, I find it difficult to believe that those books slipped through. And Holocaust denial is distasteful, but not actually illegal in the US nor in the UK, as far as I know. As for the lady from the American Jewish organisation who complained about Anti-Semitic and Holocaust denying books supposedly being available at Amazon Germany, why didn’t she do what every normal browser would have done, click the “Report inacceptable content” button?

      I don’t click the report button often, but you bet I would click it if I came across Holocaust denial, Neo-Nazi literature or similar stuff. Of course, it’s odd that they haven’t noticed that Mein Kampf is freely available at Amazons other than DE.

      Personally, I think that The Kernel is on an Anti-Amazon crusade for some reason. After all, Anti-Amazon crusades are pretty common in the media. Though usually they scream about monopolies and Neo-Nazi security guards and the like.

      • Daniela says:

        I’m also very much againast anyone denying the holocaust but I’m a bit on the fence about banning the books outright while at the same time I’m also in firm support of hate-speech laws. It’s a difficult subject and so far I haven’t really found a solution for myself.

        Part of my reasons why I don’t want to see books banned is because of the impact a teacher had on me who’d been imprisoned and tortured in the GDR for giving out copies of Orwell’s Animal Farm. The issue with banning books always relies on trusting the instance put into place that decides on which books get banned and which don’t. And who controls that instance?

        Another reason is that I want to know their arguments and on what they are basing them so that I can formulate arguments against them, along the lines of Know Thy Enemy.

        The Anti-Amazon crusade is rather obvious. Mixed in with an anti-seplfpublishing crusade.

        • Cora says:

          I’m also on the fence regarding Holocaust denial and hate speech. On the one hand, hate speech is perhaps the only thing I really don’t want to see when browsing the Internet/looking for books. On the other hand, I think that everybody should have the right to make a fool of themselves and say things that are demonstrably wrong (and Holocaust deniers are so easy to prove wrong). Plus, I think a good dose of demystification would help when dealing with “banned” books/films such as Mein Kampf, Triumpf des Willens, Hitlerjunge Quex, Jud Süß (the Veit Harlan film only – the book is actually very good and not at all like the film). I specifically took a class about the films of the Weimar Republic/Third Reich at university (even though I wasn’t a film student) to see those films and was stunned how boring, corny or just plain weird those legendary propaganda films really were. Never mind that they were complete failures as propaganda. Showing those films e.g. late at night on arte (with appropriate discussion and documentaries as accompaniment) would do a lot to demystify them.

          As for hate speech, many bookstores had the excrement spewed by Thilo Sarrazin front and center on their bestseller tables, though my local Thalia surrounded it with biographies by immigrants, and the media had no problems giving Sarrazin and his points exposure and pushing the book. Ditto for the “mayor” of Berlin Neukölln, though he is not quite as bad as Sarrazin. And personally, I’d much rather read Fuck me, Step-daddy than Sarrazin.

          And yes, it’s definitely an anti-Amazon crusade, paired with a general anti-self-published crusade. You already start seeing articles calling for gatekeepers, oversight and censorship, so Fuck me, Step-Daddy can’t get through (and plenty of other books can be banned as well). And of course, it’s telling that all this was kicked off on Twitter by a not very successful trad-published author of spy fiction.

  2. Andrew Trembley says:

    It’s usually referred to as “The Daily Malice.”

    And they’re very proud of themselves.

    • Cora says:

      I hadn’t heard that one yet, but it fits.

      And yes, they probably are proud of themselves. Maybe we should be happy that their anti-erotica campaign has gotten them to leave immigrants alone for a few days.

  3. VH Folland says:

    I’ve written my own rant on this. What is irritating is that this isn’t a new issue: Borders had a filter to block NSFW content, Amazon has an adult section, Smashwords has a filter etc. WH Smith, unlike the rest, fails to filter its content and then tries to cover itself by banning all self-published books and provokes a reaction from Kobo that is affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of authors who have never written erotica.

    I don’t think very much of WH Smith at the moment.

    • Cora says:

      Yes, it’s stunning that W.H. Smith does not manage to institute an adult filter, when all other retailers manage to do so. Not that Amazon’s adult filter is all that great, but at least it exists. Were W.H. Smith, who do sell print erotica in their brick and mortar stores, really unaware that they were selling erotica books via their website?

      Anyway, it’s infuriating that all sorts of authors, including many who don’t write erotica at all, are affected by the inability of one retailer and the moral outrage of a few media outlets and one individual known for manufacturing media outrage.

      PS: Good rant.

  4. Kaz Augustin says:

    VH is right, this is not the first time nonsense like this has occurred and it’s always hit the self-pubbed guys first. It shows that companies like Amazon, Kobo and the like have no respect for small business owners, but just want to make money out of them, then run away at the slightest hint of controversy. If only there was an etailer out there with balls!

    I got the email from Kobo this morning and my first thought was, “hey, who the hell appointed *you* my Morality Police?”. Sympathies that Pegasus Pulp is suffering from this unconscionable dragnet.

    PS The UK has never been a sexually liberal country. You only have to listen to what British men giggle about when they talk.

    • Cora says:

      I’m also suspecting that Amazon, Kobo, B&N and others used indies as providers of cheap content for their plattforms and erotica writers specifically as a way of getting people to buy e-readers (“Buy an e-reader and read porn in private”). And now e-books have gone mainstream, they’re dumping us, starting with the erotica authors.

      I’m also pissed off about W.H. Smith and Kobo caving in to the pearl clutching jerks who read the Daily Mail and whoever reads The Kernel and give a fuck about what Jeremy Duns has to say. Neither the Daily Mail nor W.H. Smith nor Kobo nor the increasingly restrictive and censorship-happy UK government have been appointed moral guardians for the rest of the world. Ditto for the mother of that murdered teacher who needed something to blame and hit upon what she calls “extreme pornography”. My own Mom has instructions that should I ever die during a school shooting or terrorist attack or should I be murdered by some arsehole with extreme sexual tastes, she will not engage in any of those witch hunts on anything and everything. Here in Germany, it’s mostly videogames, violent films and sport shooters/hunter, who find themselves under attack whenever something horrible happens. In the UK, it’s apparently erotica and porn.

      As for the UK, they seem very sexually liberal when viewed from the outside. When I think of sex and the British, I think of hen nights in Blackpool with women drunk out of their minds and dressed in clothes that would make the prostitutes here in Germany blush with embarrassment. I think of the fact that I can walk into any Boots or Superdrug store and buy the morning after pill, no prescription necessary and no questions asked, which I couldn’t do in Germany (and indeed there is a swinging trade with morning after pills “smuggled” in from the UK going on in the English departments of many German universities). I think of TV dramas like Queer As Folk, which showed explicit gay sex between a 15-year-old (played by then 19-year-old Charlie Hunnam, who doesn’t want to be Christian Grey) and a 30-year-old, and Misfits, which had poenty of graphic sex, including on-screen sex between a 19-year-old boy and an 80-year-old woman, implied sex between a probation worker and her young charge, implied bestiality in a sort of shifter scenario, only that this shifter’s base form was that of a gorilla, implied necrophilia as well as every dirty word known to mankind.

      In a country where all this is possible, I don’t see why a few fringe erotica books on W.H. Smith’s website are such a huge problem. Indeed, discussing this with a friend who has visited the UK several time, her reaction was, “And all this was Britain? Not those prudes in the US, but Britain? But the women walk around like sluts, so why are they suddenly so uptight?”

      • Kaz Augustin says:

        If your friend thinks that the British women walk around like sluts in the UK, she should visit Singapore! LOL And there’s also a rather antagonistic vibe between UK men and women which is interesting to observe.

        But, getting back on track, I can confirm via my UK editor, that ALL the Sandal Press books have disappeared from Kobo UK. I have a post coming up about this tomorrow but, till then, my advice to all self-pubbers is “Nolite spurios te contundere”. (Don’t let the bastards grind you down.)

        • Cora says:

          Have Singaporeans gotten that extreme since I was last there? Though come to think of it, that was thirty years ago.

          As for British women, some of them tend to dress very provocatively, while out clubbing or partying on the weekend. And Germans are often somewhat irritated by that. It’s a regular problem with exchange students of both genders (and both highschool and university) who return from the UK and complain about the way young women there dress. My favourite was a 15-year-old boy, the typical nice kid with good grades who play organ in church. He was a raging anglophile (well, Londonphile) and so went to London for a few days and ended up staying at a cheap hotel in a not quite savoury neighbourhood. When he returned, he was literally sputtering with indignation about the way the women dressed and how short the skirts were. Methinks the ladies of Barking caused some teenage hormones surge there.

          Other exchange students return and have adopted some of the UK dress styles, which inevitably leads to raised eyebrows among friends and family. After I returned from a semester at university in London, I had a bunch of new cute new dresses with very short skirts (I’m not quite sure why I bought so much clothing, since I’m not normally a fashion person). Wearing them to family events, university parties, etc… in Germany was an interesting experience. I got a lot of weird looks and “Tsk, tsk – Why do you wear such an inappropriate dress?” comments even from people I considered friends. It’s not that Germans are prude, e.g. the tolerance for nudity at beaches, etc… is very high. But for some reason, flashy clothes that show off the body are considered inappropriate by a lot of people who would never raise an eyebrow at people going topless at the beach.

          As for the antagonist vibe between British men and women, I note that the comments sections on British news sites are second only to the US in misogynist ugliness. Though newspaper comment sections tend to attract the dreggs of humanity anyway for some rason.

  5. Estara says:

    Some people on DA say in comments that this only concerns Kobo UK at the moment – being a Kobo customer I now see the “Welcome W.H. Smith” customers plaque on their horribly redesigned login screen (which goes well together with their even more horrid search these days – if they didn’t have the coupon codes, I wouldn’t buy there), so I expect that’s why Kobo had to do it, too, if they’re the backend of ebooks at W.H. Smith (they’re the backend of Angus & Robertson ebooks in Australia, too, which is why I was able to buy an Australian restricted ebook at the AR site, but not at Kobo… but I had a previous account there, so no idea if I would have been able to if I had just registered there after they switched their own ebook shop to Kobo).

    • Cora says:

      Kobo supplies the backend for a lot of national bookstore chains such as W.H. Smith in the UK, Whitcoulls in New Zealand, several Australian stores, FNAC in Belgium/France, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, National Book Store in the Phillippines, etc… The outcry was only in the UK and largely due to the fact that W.H. Smith couldn’t be bothered to install even a rudimentary filter. But now Kobo customers all over the world are being hit because of an uproar in one country.

      On the self-publisher forum I frequent, people from various countries are reporting that their books are gone from Kobo, while they can still be seen in other parts of the world. My own seem to come and go depending on when I check.

      I love my Kobo reader, but I’m not impressed with their redesigned site either. Though at least they have stopped recommending 50 Shades of Grey to me every time I log in.

      Is this whole Goodreads/bullies/STGRB mess up still going on? I’d thought that it would have blown over by now.

      • Kaz Augustin says:

        Sandal books are still showing up on other Kobo sites. In fact, I uploaded a new title only last night.

        • Cora says:

          Several of your books come up for me on Kobo’s German site along with – ironically – that shockingly erotic work The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

          My own books literally come and go at Kobo. At the moment, they all seem present and accounted for, but then I can only view them from Germany where some outré erotica books wouldn’t have caused much of a problem, unless someone was having sex while wearing Nazi uniforms and denying the holocaust. Besides, the more salient titles in my own catalogue, i.e. those that attract erotica also-boughts, don’t even sell very well at Kobo and never have. My Kobo bestseller is a sexless funny story in German, whereas the racier stuff mostly sells at Amazon. Though a quick check reveals that my books are also present on Kobo affiliates in the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, the Phillippines and Canada, though not in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

          Indeed, the main thing that bothers me about this non-scandal is how quickly W.H. Smith and even Kobo were to bow to the Daily Mail and its manufactured outrage. It also bothers me that some people on indie author forums like Kboards compare this to product recalls for genuinely dangerous products such as poisoned painkillers. After all, erotica never killed anybody and indeed I fail to see what the big deal is beyond “I personally find this icky.”

          And come to think of it, I find those incest/pseudo-incest erotica more sad than icky. When I see those titles, I imagine a Woody Allen type figure sitting on a toilet with an e-reader in one hand, masturbating with the other. But that’s just sad and not “depraved”, “filthy” or whatever adjective the Daily Mail wants to throw around,

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