Who else controls what you are allowed to buy?
Last post, we spoke of Amazon’s Adult Dungeon, but did you know that erotica helped bring Amazon’s Kindle to the top?
As erotica author Selena Kitt says in her blog, erotica readers created the e-reader market. The demand for e-readers overwhelmingly came from people who wanted a private reading experience (see our post on privacy, ebooks, and censorship here.) Without erotica driving the demand for e-readers, the Kindle probably wouldn’t have caught on as well as it has.
But Amazon is proving themselves to be uncomfortable with the empire they founded. B&N, while not as hypocritical as Amazon is proving to be, still dropped erotica books’ sales ranks because it embarrassed them to have erotica dominating the charts. And Apple? Their anti-gay bias is the worst of all, as is their fear of erotica.
During the time we were ADULTed, we tried to figure out why Volume 1 was appearing while Volume 2 had completely disappeared off the search listings. The answer was unsurprising, but disappointing.
Volume 1 has a paperback version. That’s the difference. From this piece of information, we can only draw two conclusions, and neither of them are good.
- Amazon still doesn’t think ebooks are “real books.” Even though they had a major hand in bringing about ebooks, they still assign more weight to paper and ink, a throwback to traditional publishing. All decisions they make about ebooks will probably be influenced by their reverence for the old ways.
- Ebooks with no print equivalent mean sex, and sex books are bad and don’t count as “real books,” either.
What about Amazon’s right to choose what they sell?
Do we think that a retailer has the right to sell — or not sell — whatever they want? Yes. We support policy, but this doesn’t look like policy. Instead, it looks like a haphazard attempt to stuff the e-reader erotica genie back into the bottle.
If it were policy, Amazon would lay it out for their writers. Instead, their rules are neither clear nor universally enforced. They used the word “confidential” in response to Selena Kitt’s inquiry, meaning “we ain’t telling” in corporate-speak.
They don’t even publish guidelines about what is not acceptable content. (If they did, they would be shooting themselves in the foot because they’d possibly have to discontinue selling money-making Fifty Shades.)
Authors have to guess at what elements might send their books to the dungeon because Amazon refuses to publish its “confidential” guidelines for handling adult material. Is it the cover? The title? The author’s own name? Keywords in the description? All we can do is grope around, blindfolded.
One way to avoid Amazon’s rules is to sell elsewhere, in our own shop. But that isn’t without problems either, as we found out.
Generally, a business has to use paid advertising as part of their “marketing mix.” Yes, Amazon serves its own ads in the form of suggesting similar books, but we also need to advertise outside of Amazon’s network.
So, we set up banner ads on Google, probably the biggest ad network there is. When we created the ads, not only did the ads spend a long time in the queue to be approved, but they were ultimately disapproved for being adult.
Even though we specifically set our ads to be served only to those 25 and over. Google, at least, was more up-front than Amazon by actually giving us a reason: they were not accepting adult ads at this time.
But we weren’t done.
As an experiment, we took the words “gay” or “yaoi” out of the ads and resubmitted them. We used the exact same ads featuring our cover art of half-naked, beautiful men in a romantic pose. It would take a fool not to realize that the books being advertised were gay romance, but three days later, they were approved. We could show them anywhere at all.
The blatant and nonsensical discrimination of non-mainstream content is frustrating for us, but it should also be frustrating for you. It means that your choices as a reader are also being restricted. Your nanny is blocking channels from your TV, even though you pay the cable bill.
It means that there’s less of a chance of finding what you really want to read if your tastes fall outside mainstream-acceptable material. It means that the deck is stacked against all of us. In the next post, we’ll explore why all readers should care about this — even if they do not read erotica.