Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Porn ebooks get site taken off-line

WH Smith is accused of selling pornographic ebooks alongside children's titles

WH Smith has said it is "disgusted" to learn that pornographic ebooks were available to buy alongside children's titles on its website.

The book retailer took its website off-line after it was reported that typing 'daddy' into the search box brought up fictional accounts of bondage and sexual humiliation alongside youngsters' bedtime stories.

The company said this was a "new industry issue due to the explosion of self- publishing", adding that it was not its policy to feature the titles highlighted and said it had processes in place to screen them out.

More than 60 of these ebooks were available on the website yesterday, the Mail on Sunday reported.

They are said to include graphic descriptions of incest and sex attacks.

In a statement, the company said: "Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.

"This is a new industry issue due to the explosion of self publishing, which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get stuff published.

"However we are disgusted by these titles, find it totally unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them."

The statement continued: "We offer over one million titles through our eBooks partner Kobo, many of which are self-published titles.

"Due to the massive amount of self publishing a number of these titles have got through the screening process."

The company said it was "taking immediate steps" to have the books removed, and had decided to take the website off-line "to best protect our customers and the public".

The statement said: " Our website will become live again once all self-published ebooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available.

"When our website goes back online it will not display any self-published material until we are completely confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.

"We sincerely apologise for any offence caused."

Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet, said: " You would not expect to be able to access so easily hardcore pornography alongside children's books."

A Kobo spokeswoman said: "Kobo is working quickly to review its catalogue and remove the content, authors and publishers in question.

"We are also evaluating new procedures to help ensure that this type of content will not become available on Kobo's site, or those of our partners in the future."

She went on: " This unfortunate situation is the result of a select group of publishers and authors violating the self-publishing policies of our platform.

"These titles will be removed and we will address the individuals in question directly.

"Our goal is not to negatively impact the freedom of expression and the work of the amazing self-published community that has been created at Kobo.com."

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