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Kobo, an ebook distributor based in Toronto, thinks I may be writing porn.

Yesterday the company dispatched a note to a wide swath of small indie and self-publishers, including Wayzgoose Press, which published two of my novels last year. Pointing to “a significant amount of negative media attention in the UK regarding offensive material that became available across a number of eBook platforms” Kobo claims it took “immediate action to resolve an issue that is the direct result of a select few authors and publishers violating Kobo’s content policies.”

In other words, Kobo removed thousands of ebooks to quarantine and review them to ensure they comply with company content guidelines. Unfortunately Kobo is sending mixed messages. The day it blasted out its note crying about potentially illegal material on its platform, the company, via its official Twitter account, posted a come-hither photo of “Fifty Shades of Grey” on a bed, laid next to pillows and partially under covers. The caption: “Is nighttime your favorite time to read?”

Let me get this straight. Kobo is shocked there is erotica and porn that could include “pedophilia, incest, bestiality, exploitation and sexual violence or force,” which it bans from its platform, but the company is happy to promote a book that glorifies sadomasochism. Kobo, I should point out, used to have a subcategory labeled “taboo,” so I have to assume it knows about some of the sketchy content it’s been distributing.

Kobo’s rash move came on the heels of another rash move by a British publisher WHSmith, which has taken down its entire website, leaving a statement on its homepage. The company said it’s “disgusted” by “a number of unacceptable titles” that have been “appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.” The note goes on to mention that it handles more than 1 million titles from Kobo. I can’t wait to hear how each plans to vet all of these titles.

It’s hard to believe Kobo’s claims that it’s “inspired by a ‘Read Freely’ philosophy,” which “stems from Kobo’s belief that consumers should have the freedom to read any book, any time, anyplace — and on any device.” That is, unless you want to read my two novels, and thousands of other titles that are not erotica and were either self-published or published by small, independent presses.

Just so you know, one novel, “Virtually True,” is a thriller set in the near future, and explores issues of identity in a world where virtual reality is ubiquitous. The other, “Trial & Terror,” is a legal thriller. See? No “illegal” porn in them. Not even sexy. You can’t buy these from Kobo but you can purchase “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Of course, it’s not like I earn much money from Kobo, although one day in late August “Trial & Terror” hit the Top 50 in sales. Three other books that I released through traditional publishers remain available.

Kobo’s purge is a classic overreaction, as is WHSmith’s. It’s a bit like banning chicken because someone once choked on a drumstick, or pulling all TV shows from the airwaves because Janet Jackson flashed a nipple during a Super Bowl halftime performance. WHSmith panicked when it discovered that hardcore porn of the disturbing variety — bestiality, sex with minors, forcible rape, torture — exists on the Internet and some self-published authors get off on it. Instead of owning up to its own failures (poor filtering) it blamed Kobo, and this deleteriously affects self-publishers and small independent presses.

Kobo escalated the problem by pulling the plug on thousands of other books that are caught up in the sweep. It has not begun its formal review process to determine which books are taboo and which aren’t, according to a note sent to Draft2Digital, a popular platform for ebook creation.

I contacted Kobo for comment but haven’t heard back. Really, though, what can it say?

Image via Kobo.