A blog about writing and self publishing

A letter to our KWL authors and self-publishing partners

As you may be aware, there has been a significant amount of negative media attention in the UK regarding offensive material that became available across a number of eBook platforms. Kobo was included in the reports from media and we are taking immediate action to resolve an issue that is the direct result of a select few authors and publishers violating Kobo’s content policies.

In order to address the situation Kobo is taking the following steps:

  1. We are removing titles in question from the Kobo platform.
  2. We are quarantining and reviewing titles to ensure that compliance to our policies is met by all authors and publishers. We will ensure that content meeting the policy is made available online as soon as possible.
  3. We are reviewing our policies and procedures to implement safeguards that will ensure this situation does not happen in the future.

We are working hard to get back to business as usual, as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Our goal at Kobo is not to censor material; we support freedom of expression. Further, we want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole. You have our promise that we will do all we can to ensure the exceptions that have caused this current situation will not have a lasting effect on what is an exciting new channel that connects Readers to a wealth of books.


Mark Lefebvre

Director, Kobo Writing Life

19 Responses to “A letter to our KWL authors and self-publishing partners”

  1. maxcherishdesireMax

    Further, we want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole.

    The one lesson we’ve certainly taken away from this situation is that our investment in self-publishing using Kobo Writing Life was a considerable waste of time. Without any reason and having not violated any policies, all of our KWL published titles were removed. At the same time, the title we published through Smashwords which was distributed to Kobo – part of the exact same series of titles that was removed by Kobo for participating in the Writing Life program – remains in place.

    The reputation of self-publishing was never in question until WH Smith asserted, and Kobo supported, that somehow self-published ebooks were responsible for a moral crisis triggered by WH Smith’s technical failure to implement a rational search engine policy based on updated English legal requirements. Kobo’s reaction – an across the board removal of KWL published titles rather than supporting authors and adult readers’ rights – made it clear that Kobo would rather demonize the next growth segment for publishing rather than address deficiencies of their distribution partner.

    We appreciate the opportunity to hear how Kobo will resolve this problem, but our commitment to provide all our current Amazon titles on Kobo has been impacted by Kobo’s censorship and poor management of this situation. In a crisis stirred up by a few sensational daily papers, Kobo has done the equivalent of burning an entire wing of the library to the ground while blaming the many writers who contributed to that edifice for investing their time and energy to storytelling on KWL.

    • Kobo Writer

      Hi maxcherishdesierMax — thanks for your feedback.

      For more information regarding this situation, do take a look at the Kobo Cafe post here: http://cafe.kobo.com/blog/to-our-readers:-update-on-kobo-com

      Specifically this portion:

      First, we want you to know that we are removing specific content that violates our content policy from our store. Secondly, we are doing a comprehensive review of our catalogue to ensure that the eBooks we offer comply with our content policy. This means that some titles have been temporarily removed from the site in the short-term, and most should be back in within the week or two. Third we are reviewing our procedures to continuously improve how we onboard new content.

      Rest assured that material that adheres to our content policy will be restored as soon as possible.

      We thank you for your patience and understanding.

      • LS

        Many traditionally published books, some that have been out for decades or centuries, fall under the same categories that you are currently removing for violating your policy. If you delete ALL books (not just indie) that violate your policy, you won’t have much left to sell. For instance your best selling Fifty Shades of Grey series has forced consent & sexual violence. Due to some scenes many of the popular best selling author’s paranormal series could be classified as bestiality. Lolita would be considered pedophilia, and every serial killer mystery book ever written (fiction & non-fiction) would be considered violent content & many of them contain sexual violence. Best selling author VC Andrews books feature a lot of incest, the books are primarily read by teenagers, and have been for decades. Three words: Marquis de Sade. As for the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin, I wouldn’t even know where to start telling you how many of your policies it violates. I think it is probably every one of them.

        My recommendation is an adult filter, accessed only if you have a valid credit card on your account, since you have to be an adult to get credit, or to just have a separate store for children & puritans.

  2. Sandy Nathan

    Mark, what are Kobo’s policies regarding content? I’ve heard that gay-themed books are being removed. Strikes me as homophobic. How about sex and/or violence when not meant to titillate but as an important part of the story? Where do I find a clear statement of what you want?

    • maxcherishdesire

      Strangely, I’ve never seen Kobo take down “Twilight” (for promoting bestiality and violence) or “50 Shades of Grey” (for exploitation and abuse). Could it be that you knew taking down big publishers versus self published authors would hurt retail as a whole?

      At least Amazon KDP is pretty straightforward. They don’t tell you what’s in and out explicitly because that would mean acknowledging that self published authors are treated differently than majors.

  3. mrschmoe

    Mark. I had an impression that Kobo is too good for aspiring indie authors such as myself. Traditional pub, no problem come right in, indie authors get out. If I understood content policy correctly, anything above PG is considered pornographic and racist. Who knew that smoochie-fest can get an indie author banned.
    No offense, I am worried in self publishing any books that I want to churn out. From the looks of it, Murphy’s Law is in full swing.

    • Kobo Writer

      Hi mrschmoe — thanks for your feedback. We understand your frustration, and would like to assure you that titles adhering to our content policy (outlined in our Terms of Service) will be restored to the Kobo store as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

      • mrschmoe

        I hate to say this, but why sanitize every work of Indie authors. Making everything under “Rated PG.” The whole purging of self-published works is an extreme move. It shows disregard to indie authors. Now even Young Adult fiction written by self-published authors are under the axe. All because a few people are extreme nit pickers, self-righteous PC crowd and control freaks. Talk about book burning mentality. Morality police my foot, more like thought police.

        The whole labelling of self-pubbed titles as porn and racist/hateful itself is extreme move. Now I’m reading on the digital grape vine that self-published writers are migrating to other sites.

  4. giovanni

    I’m very very bored by the continues Kobo failure. Bugs in the firmware e-reader (and the only reply by the customer care is: have you tried a factory reset? no other replies), last bug was in Kobo Touch where you can’t read the miniSD card after a Kobo update dated June 2013, bugs into the Writing Life, now all the free downloads has been setted to 0, and now this absurd story. Can you tell me why “Fifty Shades of Grey” are still there? Is not that pornography?
    We are all wasting our time of course. The only way is to publish on KDP Amazon for ever and only on that. Amazon customer care is more prepared. They solve problems in less than 24 hours and you never heard about a customer that is not happy with Amazon.

  5. LGA McIntyre

    How are Kobo evaluating the books? Do they have some poor intern skimming text all day? That would explain why I have been unable to publish my novel for the last three months, though it is already selling well on Amazon and Kindle.
    I’m of the belief that if people do not like a piece of art, they are welcome not to look at it, purchase it, talk about it or promote it, but they do not have the right to say the same for the people around them. Censorship of any kind is a hate crime. Note that I said Censorship, not Law Breaking.
    How to manifestos on Pedophilia – illegal!!! – track the author and burn the SOB!
    BUT adult situation stories – Not illegal – Stop Censoring them. Make a category, “Restricted – must be 18yrs old.
    Stop allowing a small portion of the public to push their prohibitive agendas. I think that the CEO’s at Kobo need to grow a pair….wait…will that comment be censored?

    • Kobo Writer

      Not being able to publish your novel for three months is unusual to say the least. Have you emailed writinglife@kobo.com about your difficulties? What happens when you attempt to publish?

      It’s true that titles being published currently will see a bit of a delay as we’re overhauling our review process, but three months ago should have been clear sailing.

      Rest assured, Kobo has no desire to pursue any kind of censorship and titles complying with our policy are being returned to the store.

      • LGA McIntyre

        I have been in touch with writinglife@kobo.com – since August. I have been told on two occasions that the problem was fixed (when it hadn’t been) and have submitted no less than six requests for a service fix. I’ve included screen shots, been open to any formatting, resubmitting and/or any other magical incantations that they have suggested. Their latest gambit was to send me to this helpful article – which did more to explain why I was being ignored and marginalized than any other information that I had received from them to date.
        The Problem:
        My book appears on the Kobo website, though it cannot be found in the Kobo desktop search engine. My Writing Life account is hanging on the “still publishing” page, and my member dashboard is not available – so I have no idea if I have actually sold any units through the Kobo website where my book is visible. For all I know I’ve sold a hundred copies that I know nothing of.
        My book is live and working fine on Kindle (48 hours to publish) and Amazon for the hard copy. The only reason I am still attempting to publish on Kobo is because I am Canadian, and wanted to list my book with and support a Canadian company.
        I am finding it very difficult to continue to work with your organization, and the only reason I haven’t quit, is because I am stubborn, and this has become my new favourite hobby.

        • giovanni

          I can confirm that Kobo support sometimes is totally unuseful, they invent the more creative excuses to avoid to say they don’t read emails, or to avod to say they don’t understand what they read, or simply they can’t access to the information. For example I spent four months with the customer care for the well know miniSD issue about the Kobo Touch firmware 2.6.1, well known issue in all the world except for the Kobo customer care. 4 months of totally unuseful emails. Result: the problem is still there. At the end we know more about the issue than the customer care itself.

  6. mrschmoe

    Personally I am getting annoyed when people act like anal retentive puritanical fruitcakes. How the hell am I supposed to self published when you keep going after indie authors and the self-published.

    As I mentioned on my previous comments. I am having second thoughts in self-publishing with your company. The way I see, Indie authors had lost a lot of time and money thanks to the whole tabloid drama fiasco. Not only trust of indie authors has been breached. Labelling indie authors and self-published authors as a bunch of hooligans and mean-assed bastards is uncalled for.

    Even though amazon grazes on indie authors and their works. I noted from other reviews, that their publishing platform works decently.

  7. LGA McIntyre

    Dear WritingLife people,

    I have re-submitted my book in the hopes that the “Publishing” process will complete this time. I have been trying to publish on your site since August. (see above posting)

    It has come to my attention that due to some bad press, you have begun to censor the book content on your website, specifically targeting Indie Authors. Though I know that my book does not violate any of the code of conduct content rules as posted upon your site, I am concerned with your need to target Indie Authors. Being part of this society of authors, my experience is that this is an amazing, talented pool of people who want to share their art, and have been unable to do so due to the lack of interest in their works by “established” publishers. Most publishers and agents will not touch an author who is unknown.

    Just as the movie industry has had to make adjustments due to the ability of Indie Producers to create and distribute online, so has the book industry. By targeting Indie Authors as offenders creating offensive content, you are playing into an archaic stereotype perpetrated by the fear induced hysteria of the big publishing companies who have lost the monopoly of the creation and distribution of the written art.

    My advice to you is to be very careful how you tread. You may just find that instead of dealing with a small group of “offended” puritanical shouters, you will be dealing with a Very Offended, Large, Worldwide coalition of angry Indie Authors.

    Best Regards,
    Linda McIntyre
    The Exile – Lies of Lesser Gods

    • Melancton Hawks

      Nicely put Linda. This is just another way to marginalize indie authors who have a tough enough time as it is vying for credibility without the help of a huge publishing corporation.

  8. Melancton Hawks

    Is there a way to find out why EXACTLY my book was quarantined? I’ve tried calling but have had zero luck with specific answers.


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