Robot 6

Too hot for Kindle? Amazon pulls yaoi from Kindle store

Yaoi manga is a niche genre, but like all niche genres, it has a devoted following. Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.

It’s hard to know whether number 2 or 3 above is responsible, but Amazon has instructed at least one publisher to remove its yaoi books from the Kindle store, while allowing considerably more explicit male-female titles to remain. Digital Manga Publishing, which puts out several lines of yaoi, ranging from the fairly tame June imprint to the pretty steamy 801, posted this notice on its blog yesterday:

Recently Amazon has become more strict in enforcing their content requirements for ebooks. Several DMP books that have been available online since 2009 are getting the axe, beginning with our 801 Media titles like Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, in the last few days the issue has spread to the June imprint by Amazon’s refusal of The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love from the Kindle store. We fear that Amazon may target more of our books for removal so we’re warning all Amazon Kindle store users that providing you with our content may become more difficult in the future. However, if you purchase our ebooks before Amazon decides to remove it from their store you will still be able to access the book from your account.

All the books mentioned are already gone from the Kindle store, and several are missing from Amazon’s print book selection as well.

(Warning: NSFW image below.)

I looked at the linked content requirements and didn’t see anything addressing explicit sex, but someone at Amazon’s yaoi forum pulled this out of their guidelines:

“Pornography
Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Material
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.”

I’m going to confess right here that I haven’t read any of the manga we are discussing. It’s just not my thing. But fortunately, lots of other people do read them. Here’s Julie Opipari, a longtime manga reader, writing about one of the pulled manga, The Color of Love:

The sex, like the rest of The Color of Love, was understated and almost gentle as the couples expressed their deep affections for each other. While there are panels of entwined couples, there’s hardly even a fleeting glimpse of muscled buttocks here. Drats.

In fact, all the reviews I checked described the book as more sweet than sexy, which raises the question: If this story had been about a man and a woman, would it have been removed from the store?

A quick search suggests that the answer is “no.” Titles currently available on Kindle include Christmas Creampie, a graphic novel in which “horny Whoreville hussies show a frustrated dildo shop owner the true meaning of Christmas,” and Little Lorna in Resort Sports (I’m not even going to link to this one), in which Little Lorna, who is spunky, sexy, but “not too bright,” goes on vacation to Mexico with her Uncle Bob; “nudity, spanking, and sexy humor” result.

So apparently a sweet love story between two men is unacceptable, but an orgy in a dildo shop is OK.

At least one other publisher is affected: Some Yaoi Press titles were removed, and publisher Yamila Abraham was told to tone down the images accompanying their prose titles.

Digital is probably the biggest publisher of BL (boys love) manga on the Kindle, but there is another: Animate U.S.A., a Japanese company that publishes yaoi exclusively on the Kindle — there are no print editions. The publisher sends me regular press releases, and all the titles I checked are still available, although I believe Animate’s books are pretty explicit.

So what’s going on? If previous experience is any guide, the Internet will be rising up today, and it should be an interesting show. Hopefully at the end of it, Amazon will restore the deleted titles, but this episode points up once again the problems with centralized distribution, as well as raising another troubling question: Why does this only seem to happen with gay material?

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Comments

36 Comments

I thought it was weird that Episode 2 of Youka Nitta’s Kiss Ariki has suddenly disappeared from the Kindle store. I already have it but I couldn’t help but notice that since last month or so. It seems that they are planning on removing all explicit chapters/titles. I think they also did so with one or two chapters of Shiuko Kano’s Play Boy Blues. Shiuko Kano is known for her extremely explicit series, so this is to be expected. I really hope they continue adding more episodes of Kiss Ariki as I am a huge fan of Youka Nitta.

Anyone who’d like to send their thoughts to Amazon/Kindle can do so at: kindle-feedback@amazon.com

Thanks for the address, I just sent them a message.

I thank you as well for the link. I sent them a message as well. I think the backlash from this decision is going to hurt Amazon and I hope that they reconsider this. Especially if they’re targeting the yaoi genre, as they seem to be. While most of us yaoi readers are not gay, the gay and lesbian community may get behind a ban and a very vocal outcry of targeting yaoi manga. It’s a scary thing when a company decides they don’t want to sell something because they don’t like the content. A very slippery slope and a short trip to worse things. I made a comment on the Amazon Kindle forum about it and was told that it’s just business and the business has the right to choose what they want to sell and it’s not censoring or banning anything like a government would. Maybe I see things differently, but to sell something one day then decide the next that they don’t like the content and won’t sell it anymore sounds a lot like censoring and banning books. I fear that Amazon will, indeed, begin not selling the actual books as well.
To me, the whole thing reeks of homophobia….

Tracy, thanks! Brigid, good article!

Meichell – Amazon absolutely can sell whatever it wants and we have nothing we can do about it. However, because Amazon is applying its own policies in a random fashion, we do have the right to point it out and call “foul” as long and loud as we want. And we also have the right to spend our money elsewhere.

Amazon needs to decide whether it’s going to …use the bathroom or get off the pot when it comes to explicit material. It deleted some incest titles not so long ago, and some other M/M titles before that. Amazon seems to react whenever someone complains about material, pulling that one item and any items it can easily find that match it, while other titles under the radar with the exact same material go unscathed.

I’d like to see Amazon state clearly what is and isn’t acceptable, instead of using broad terms like “pornography” and “offensive material” (as if all such material is actually offensive to every single person on the planet). And then I’d like to see Amazon enforce its guidelines on all materials it sells, rather than only on material that is often targeted by conservatives.

And now to copy and paste that into an email to Amazon!

I sent an email about it and got this response:

I understand your disappointment seeing that some yaoi titles are removed from Kindle Store.

Occasionally books are removed from the Kindle Store for various reasons. We don’t have any details about why this particular book may have been removed.

However, we will continue to work with publishers directly and ask that they make their content available on Kindle.

Customer feedback like yours helps us continue to improve the service we provide, and we’re glad you took time to write to us about this issue. Rest assured that the Kindle Team will carefully review your comments.

Thanks for your using Kindle.

Seems to me they didn’t address my question at all! I think that Amazon is going to tap dance around this issue so as not to have to address it directly and make themselves sound homophobic. I think it’s deplorable to hide behind a ToS that is only applied to certain material. Shame on Amazon.

Simon DelMonte

May 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

Looks like the return of the AmazonFail hashtag is about to arrive.

“Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.”

Actually, most romance novels currently include lots of sex too. :) The issue with BL is the pictures more than the sex (or even the gay sex) as such, I’m sure; there’s a healthy selection of all-text erotica on the Kindle and Amazon actually has multiple “Erotica” categories, including one under Graphic Novels.

As of right now, of the 100 Top Bestsellers in the Graphic Novels -> Erotica category, seven are “currently unavailable”; one yaoi GN from DMP (The Color of Love), one yaoi GN from Yaoi Press (The Aluria Chronicles), and five het items (“Daughter of the vampire Dracula KYURIA”, “Meat-eaters”, “The private tutoring school part3 “, “Dragged-up Slave YU”, and “Cougar Magazine – October 2010″); presumably these were recently delisted, since they’re still on the bestseller list. So I don’t think Amazon is just going after yaoi, but at least some of the yaoi they’ve delisted is much tamer than some of the hentai that’s still available. No idea what their criteria are at this point.

Er, that should say the “100 Top Bestsellers in the Graphic Novels -> Erotica on the Kindle” category. The print Graphic Novels category, interestingly enough, does not have an Erotica subcategory.

Hi. I found my way here from a Tweet. Last month, Amazon recategorized the historical fiction ebook I’d just uploaded as erotica. At first, it seemed it was because the cover was too risque. Then I thought maybe it was because it has a subplot about a 12-year-old being sexually abused (in the Dark Ages, in the hold of her enemy – nothing gratuitous). I pointed out a number of links with covers much more explicit than mine that weren’t classified as erotica and pointed out that neither The Color Purple nor Lolita are classified as erotica. I also asked them what their policy was so that I could comply with it and was told … well, the entire email exchange is posted here. Upshot, after a bit of back-and-forthing, Amazon turned out to be reasonable about it, removed the erotica tag, and allowed my book to be retagged as historical fiction and historical romance. It did take a few days to get things readjusted. All to urge everyone to stay polite and present your case in a professional manner and give Amazon a chance to right what they’ve done. I am proof they can be reasonable.

Put yourself in amazon’s shoes, if they distribute even one copy of an obscene work to even one person in a single community anywhere in america, where that specific community considers the work to be obscene and it doesn’t have “serious social value” and they knew of the content of that work they are criminally liable.

The fact that a work may not be considered obscene by 99% of the usa, is irrelevant if it is obscene in at least one community where amazon distributed it to. It is not a defense to argue that they had no possible way of determining what exactly community standards were in different parts of the usa. Further they can be found to have knowingly distributed a work they knew was obscene, even if they did not know it was obscene.

Of course the Obama administration has largely abandoned any attempt to prosecute for obscenity, but there is nothing stopping a local prosecutor acting under state (rather than federal law) like with that other book on amazon a while ago.

It is also objectively rational for Amazon to apply stricter scrutiny to gay works, the religious groups who want to see an enforcement of obscenity law generally have a strong dislike for homosexuality too, they are likely to find homosexual sex to be “obscene” or wrong even when they feel heterosexual sex isn’t.

Basically Amazon is concerned that it will get hit with an obscenity lawsuit from a local prosecutor in one of the most conservative religious places in the us, after someone from that place orders a copy of something from them.

“Put yourself in amazon’s shoes, if they distribute even one copy of an obscene work to even one person in a single community anywhere in america, where that specific community considers the work to be obscene and it doesn’t have “serious social value” and they knew of the content of that work they are criminally liable.”

I can understand this as being a concern but that doesn’t explain why Amazon would ban it on KINDLE but still gladly sell and accept your money for a print title. I don’t think it has anything to do with obscenity laws to be honest. If so, they’d be pulling print titles left and right.

The best explanation of obscenity law that I have seen is http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/obscenity.htm Here is the Miller test:
1. The work in question must depict or describe sexual conduct.
2. The prohibited conduct must be specifically described in the law.
3. The work, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (the “SLAPS” test)
4. The work, taken as a whole and applying contemporary community standards, must appeal to prurient interest in sex.
5. The work must portray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, applying contemporary community standards.
#3 is not a local community decision. The test was designed by the Supreme Court to acknowledge local standards but not give a single community the right to dictate to the entire nation.

I’m not sure what’s happened, but right now if you go to the Kindle store and simply search “manga,” you’ll find plenty of yaoi titles. It’s actually kind of a pain for those of us who prefer other genres, because they’re hard to find past all of the yaoi.

Marc,

It’s not so much the number of titles they’ve pulled but more why they’re pulling them. We know there are a lot of titles on KINDLE right now but for how long? It would be helpful if Amazon answered our inquiries with their reason but even the publishers are unclear as to why this is happening. Censorship starts small and if there is no push back they will continue to pick and choose what we’re allowed to buy. Not to mention they are only removing the KINDLE titles and not the print titles, which makes no sense.

Well…I’m sure Amazon has to think of its advertisers as well as a host of other considerations. But it’s hard not to argue that the above image is not provocative.

This is the letter I sent tokindle-feedback@amazon.com

I find your recent changing of content guidelines for the Kindle and selective removal of certain yaoi manga featuring romance between consenting adults unfortunate. I refer to titles from Digigtal Manga Publishing’s 801 Media titles Weekend Lovers , King of Debt, The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love, among others. Why were these books, which cater to a dedicated female fan base, deleted when hard-core pornography featuring (and catering) to straight men remains available? Is Amazon again displaying bias against GLBT content, not to mention female readers of the genre? Or is Amazon in the process of deleting all erotica, and that a GLBT genre was suspiciously only the first to be targeted? Either option is troubling. As an adult reader, I would want the option to purchase all legal content, regardless of whether it offends my personal tastes or morals, simply because it is fair and right.

As a follow-up for people to express their support of yaoi ( and GLBT comics on the Kindle) I recommend going here http://theyaoireview.com/2011/05/04/call-to-action-tell-amazon-no-to-kindle-censorship/

You can also leave a message at Kindle customer service

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/kindle-help.html/ref=hp_kindle_cu_kh_?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200127470

Very interesting post. This doesn’t only happen with gay material — the Kindle store also refused to carry the eBook version of the SuicideGirls coffee table book. (Disclaimer: I know this because I work for the publishers, Feral House (http://www.feralhouse.com). Strangely, they carry some of our far more risqué print titles. I don’t pretend to understand the laws on this, but it sure makes publishing more difficult.

“I can understand this as being a concern but that doesn’t explain why Amazon would ban it on KINDLE but still gladly sell and accept your money for a print title. I don’t think it has anything to do with obscenity laws to be honest. If so, they’d be pulling print titles left and right.”

I dunno with e-books because they are hosting the content and have “viewed” it, the defence that they did not know of the content of the work is unlikely to cut it if they were ever sued. By contrast they can claim they never read a paper book in question they are distributing and are absolved of any liability.

Boo amazon! This is exactly why I’m getting rid of my kindle! I just can’t understand why everything involving two men gets banned, but all hetero and lesbian activity is always safe. If you don’t like it, just don’t read it!

“The issue with BL is the pictures more than the sex (or even the gay sex) as such, I’m sure”

Don’t be. Amazon has also banned prose e-novels for indulging in fictional fetishes that someone found uncomfortable. In fact, they yanked “How to Rape a Straight Guy” based mostly on the (admittedly provocative) title. (There are sex scenes in the book, but they aren’t any more scandalous than those found in so many other books.) One more reason why I’m glad I didn’t buy a Kindle (I got a Nook), and I’m turning to BN.com and a couple local bricks-n-mortar store (and of course my comics shop) for all my book shopping.

This was the thoroughly unhelpful reply I got from Amazon feedback:

“Hello,

The items you referenced are not available for sale. Thank you for contacting us.

Thank you for your recent inquiry. Did I solve your problem?”

No. You didn’t. *__*

I wonder if this has anything to do with Apple’s strict policies? Maybe AMZ’s worries they would lose their app…

Does anyone now if the same things is happening with BN and the Nook?

UPDATE: Amazon has recategorized my book to erotica again. Maybe there is something going on with them right now. I’ll watch this thread, and I’ll be asking them why, too.

@Thelaw

Ah, good point. I guess they would or at least could have more liability with their digital content.

Well, I guess when Amazon pulled those LBGT titles back a few months and then restored them with “Oops, it was a mistake, HONEST!” They really MEANT that they hate LBGT titles. :/

I can only hope June and the other publishers take their ebooks elsewhere to be made available.

Also, what’s wrong with explicit content, just toss a MATURE tag on it and throw it up there.

LovesToSpooge

May 6, 2011 at 5:09 am

Isn’t it nice having an organisation telling you what is and is not okay to read?

“Does anyone now if the same things is happening with BN and the Nook?”

I can’t say for sure whether something *of this sort* has happened with BN/Nook system, but this item in particular is still available for the Nook, as are certain prose e-novels that Amazon nixed for the Kindle (e.g. How to Rape a Straight Guy). Amazon’s pattern of banning certain titles from the Kindle has been very haphazard and inconsistent, so it’s difficult to get a handle on. If BN is doing the same thing, it could be equally random. But *as far as I know*, they haven’t been pulling this shit, and today I’ve been paging through my newly-downloaded-from BN.com “Color of Love” GN.

Hello,
I’ve submitted YAOI comic in KINDLE store.
But they told me my book is in violation.

B004W82RAM Passion of Moon Phase(in a spread dysplay)

During our review process, we found that your title contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we will not be offering this title for sale.

OK, my comic is not a porn comic, but describes the love between two boys.
It’s in violation.
I’ll fight against AMAZON.

Jared thaler

May 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I notice that at least when I went to look today, both of the hetero books you mentioned have also been removed.

I have a suspicion they pull (or recatagorize) in responce to complaints from “concerned citizens” and that there are more conservatives digging through amazon and issuing complaints about “homosexual material” than there are people searching the catalog to complain about heterosexual porn.

I want to ask the writers a serious question: why haven’t you published any Amazon contact information where Kindle users can express their dismay of this policy? Or other information about who people wanting to change this policy can talk to? (yea, ending with a preposition, but it makes much more sense this way <.<)

It's like you want people not to get involved in the issue…
Further viewing on the subject of Apathy generating news articles – see this TED talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Knz100ldLM

Found the contact information:
kindle-feedback@amazon.com

Here is the email I sent. I will post the response once I get it

HI.
As you probably know from my email address, I’m the owner of 2 kindle devices and a frequent Amazon shopper.

I have come to accept that some content isn’t available to everyone (I live outside the US) because of copyright issues. I don’t like it, but I don’t hold Amazon against it.

However I have now found out that Amazon is also censoring the content I am allowed to buy on some kind of “moral” ground (?) or other non-legal requirement. Specifically the Yaoi Mangas, but possible other content as well. Although I am not a reader of Yaoi or any Manga, I find this to be unacceptable. I have bought my Kindles as a more convenient way to read books, not as a way to let others control what I am allowed to read. And I expect Amazon to allow me to read any content that is legally published.

I am otherwise very happy with my device and recommend it to family and friends, and will probably do so in the future if this censorship is removed.

If I am mistaken – and the removal of the content is a outside legal with which Amazon must comply – please let me (and the rest of the community) know as it will negate my dismay on the subject.

Awaiting your response
Guy

Good email Guy.

Furthermore, what’s annoying to me and some of my other librarian co-workers is that Amazon feels comfortable selling sexually violent video games, novels, and even adult dvds and toys… Hypocrisy drives me nuts. If they want to censor, which I think is wrong, then they need to distribute their censorship equally across their products and be done with it since it’s their right (no matter how wrong I think it is).

This doesn’t just happen with gay materials. I am a writer for A1adultebooks.com and today Kindle has launched yet another round of censorship. Most of the titles pulled that A1 publishes are bdsm, mostly hetero, and other hardcore or explicit titles. So, this is censorship across the board and affects many writers of erotica, straight, gay, etc. And this is all LEGAL adult writing, it’s not depicting incest or “pseudo incest”, it’s legal for buyers to purchase and to read. This is censorship of the worst kind, and they enforce these “rules” without rhyme or reason. “Lolita” is probably still at Kindle because ,er, that’s “literature”….yeah, right. If some fancy 1950′s intellectual writes smut, then it’s okay. Writers of adult content need to band together and put an end to central distribution hubs like Amazon/Kindle that are dictating what grown, legal age adults can or cannot read on their Kindle.

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