Authors notice romance books missing from Barnes & Noble UK website

Barnes & NobleWhile Maya Cross and other authors tried to figure out why their e-books couldn’t get past #126 on Barnes & Noble bestseller list, some authors who had books in B&N’s UK store noticed something even stranger. Their e-books went missing altogether.

Barnes & Noble didn’t make an announcement to authors or readers, but the company seemingly removed many adult-themed romance books from its store without prompt.

Last Friday, May 24, author Portia Da Costa mentioned on the KBoards something she’d spotted in April:

“It’s not just Barnes and Noble. Nook UK has simply DELETED thousands of erotic romance/erotica titles. No algorithm shenanigans, no rank tinkering… just gone, completely. All enquiries get either an unhelpful pass the buck reply, or ignored. It took one of my publishers to get an answer. Nook UK had decided they wanted to ‘clean house’ because they were doing a promo for kids and teens, so they just removed what they considered questionable material from their catalogue. But they wouldn’t admit that to individual authors.”

Da Costa wasn’t the only one who saw her titles disappear. Just in the one thread, authors Meg Harris, Deanna Roy, Zelah Meyer, Andrew Ashling, Deanna Chase, Lolita Lopez and others saw titles missing from the UK online store as well.

B&N hasn’t given a suitable explanation to any of the authors or publishers as to why books were removed from the UK website. (I also sent them a message, and I’m still waiting to hear back.)

There is speculation that some of the titles were taken off based on themes. Many erotic books were wiped out without notice. And if it wasn’t for the aforementioned KBoards thread, many authors wouldn’t have noticed for quite some time. As it is, it took several weeks from Da Costa’s initial discovery for others to take notice.

Online booksellers have been cracking down on erotica since some customers have complained about having those options in their searches. But there is an easy answer here. Smashwords, for instance, is able to set up its website for users to block out any erotic titles; B&N and Amazon could employ the same type of option without alienating authors in the process.

At the very least, Barnes & Noble should have informed authors and publishers that it was removing books from the UK store. Authors need to make contingency plans for the marketing and distribution of their books if they are no longer in the store.

To me, it seems like a bad model to follow if B&N is removing these types of romance novels.

No one wants to use the ugly “C” word when it comes to a media company, but it’s comes to mind when I hear about these types of practices.

Granted, the books are already part of the marketplace and were once in the UK store. But where would this type of practice end? Will companies start having an approval process for books? If they don’t like the content, even if it’s not morally objectionable (which is also questionable), where does it end?

Many of the authors noted that some of the books that disappeared didn’t have many or major sexual encounters. They seem to be just bewildered by the whole process and confused as to why no one would tell them about their books.

9 Comments on Authors notice romance books missing from Barnes & Noble UK website

  1. Based on what I’ve heard through software developers here in Seattle, Amazon has been wrestling with this same issue for over a year. It’s not an easy problem to solve. Not only search results have to be managed via coding and book tagging, automatic linking such as “also viewed by” features need controls added.

    I suspect B&N is facing the same issues and, for the present, found it easier to remove at least some erotica titles from sale rather than risk outraging customers. The books will probably return when the necessary code is in place.

    Put this down to bad management. Both Amazon and B&N should have realized in advance that more tablets in the hands of children meant that they needed to do something to protect those children.

    In this case, Apple displayed more business sense than the others. By setting limits on porn from the start, they avoided these problems and established a reputation of being more family safe. The result is likely to be enough iPad sales to more than make up for any ebook sales they miss.

    And my own hunch is that Steve Jobs’ wife is responsible for Apple’s policy. Mothers often think of issues that never occur to daddies.

  2. What a strange move on their part!
    It does not make any sense to me that they would impose this type of censorship in the UK, of all places, as Europe is so much more open minded in respect to erotic content than the US.

    Makes me like B&N even less – I do not want a book seller to decide what I should or should not read.

  3. Amazon doesn’t care about protecting children. If they did 10″ dildos would not come up in general search. Just last week Jenny Lawson of The Bloggess fame shared a screen shot of her bestselling memoir coming up alongside sex toys on Amazon. (

    I do not believe that erotic content is limited for the sake of the children. There is no concern here for kids. It’s obvious if you think about it. Amazon and other companies permit all sorts of objectionable content without censure. Children have free access to graphic pictures of sex toys and nothing stops them from downloading books on Amazon’s free erotica list. Barnes and Noble left Fifty Shades of Grey intact and have a similar library of free erotic content with no barrier to entry.

    This is not about protecting children. It’s a business decision driven by the bottom line.

    There are also consumer issues here. Do consumers have a right to know when search results are modified? What if the search results cost them more money by only showing higher priced goods? Does Amazon have an obligation to tell customers about their book filter and explain how to navigate behind it? Is it fraud to suppress some books and not others without disclosing the practice to consumers? Can a bookseller manipulate a so-called bestseller list without consumer disclosure? Should they be allowed to call it a bestseller list? Shouldn’t customers be allowed to see every item that matches their search query?

    There is high level manipulation of consumer behavior and by extension their wallets here. Who wins? Big corporations. Who loses? Consumers and authors.

  4. The books on Nook UK are still there. If you add “erotica” for erotica or “erotic” for erotic romance to the search, the appropriate results suddenly appear. Which, of course, they didn’t tell anyone.

    In many way this is worse than what Amazon does because there if you search in “Kindle Store” or “Books” you at least see unfiltered results. Nook UK makes it impossible to have an unfiltered search without adding search terms that they do not disclose. What’s next? You have to add LGBT to see works relating to gay and lesbian issues?

    This is outright censorship and they need to be called on it. Add a safe search function like any modern search engine. Don’t operate in the shadows. Be transparent so a customer knows their search results have been altered.

  5. Except, of course, for Fifty Shades of Grey. I suppose if you make them enough money they won’t hide your book. They fact it isn’t hidden, while other erotica is, makes this blatantly unfair.

    Or, perhaps the trade published erotica and erotic romance gets a pass while the Indie published books are hidden under the counter? A counter they won’t even admit exists.

    I cannot understand why this isn’t getting wider coverage in the news.

  6. Hi Lynn

    Many thanks for letting us know about adding ‘erotica’ or ‘erotic’. I tried adding it to my name in a search, and bingo, all 54 of my books appeared!

    The books requiring the ‘erotica’ addition are a mix of traditionally published titles and self published titles. Only six trad titles appear without the ‘erotica’ added. Three of those are foreign language editions.

  7. Hmmm, any answers yet?? I last heard that eBooks and physical books were being separated in most markets now – so they have separate rankings as well which could hurt those that strictly ePublish.

  8. Censorship is still happening. They’ve censored a huge number of my books, and many of those books have only a single rather sweet love scene in them and are definitely not erotica. Weirdly, they censored some books like that but left others that have hotter and more frequent love scenes. Whatever they are doing, it’s clearly very wrong.

    You can still find your books, but you’ll need to use a URL to access them directly. Most of mine do not appear in searches no matter what I type.

    To see if your books are still on B&N Nook UK store, use this url and replace the zeros with your isbn:

    Personally, this is blatant censorship, and wrongly done in many cases. How is it my book with one sweet love scene is censored and Fifty Shades of Grey is allowed on the website? I once posed the same question to Amazon, who wrongly moved some of my books into the erotica category.

    I don’t think that we authors should allow Barnes and Noble to get away with this behaviour. Authors rose up against PayPal when they tried to stop their services being used to purchase erotic romances and erotica. Why isn’t anyone rising up against Barnes and Noble and Amazon over their decision to essentially censor books and make them impossible to find and purchase?

  9. Rachel E. Rice // September 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm //

    Smashwords accepted my book “The Incredible Mr. Black” in its premium catalogue, where it is sent out to Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon, however, when I changed the cover to a more risqué cover, where it was listed under erotica, I couldn’t find it in Amazon. Furthermore, it has been under review for Barnes and Noble for weeks. I e-mailed Smashwords to report that Barnes and Noble removed my cover, and then Smashwords found something wrong with the formatting of the book. Finally, I had to pull the book from Amazon and put it up for free on Smashwords.

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