It was only a matter of time until mainstream journalists noticed.
Slate has a probably-not-completely-safe-for-work piece that looks at the rise in popularity of erotica and pornography delivered by e-book reader. Although women-oriented romance novels have been e-book bestsellers since well before most people even cared about e-books, the article looks at what might be a new breed: racy e-books aimed at men.
Though I won’t paste in the description, out of deference to people who may be reading this at work, a novel called Office Slave is tailor-made to appeal to the fantasies of a primarily masculine audience.
Presumably, some small percentage of women might be attracted to this material. But much can be adduced from reader comments, such as, "I don't see how any woman could enjoy this ... just seems like every man's fantasy." There's no point in dancing around it: Amazon is distributing men's erotic fiction, and its bargain-basement Kindle pricing—in many cases, this material, too, is given away for free—means that some of it shows up on "best-seller" lists.
Even though just a few paragraphs earlier it pointed out the racy nature of many female-oriented titles, the article calls “the marriage of porn and e-reader […] relatively new” since most of the male-oriented ones have been added to the Kindle within the last 18 months.
I would quibble a bit that this is anything new, however. Outside of e-books, there has been just as much men’s-fantasy fiction as there has women’s. The difference is that the men’s books have been primarily action-adventure stuff with often-quite-racy sex scenes thrown in. The Nick Carter spy novels are a notable example, as well as series like Mack Bolan, Deathlands, etc.
And those who like Office Slave would probably also have enjoyed Jon Norman’s infamous Chronicles of Gor. More recently, military SF writer John Ringo has made a foray into men’s erotica, prompting cries of “Oh John Ringo no!”
As for e-books, well, I don’t know whether e-rotica and romance shops like the long-lived Hard Shell Word Factory carry or carried any stuff aimed at men. But even without it, people have been writing free fetish fiction on the Internet for as long as there’s been an Internet. It just hasn’t been as visible as when people started selling it for the Kindle.
As Slate notes, non-pictorial porn for men is “probably a niche taste”, but the beauty of the Internet is that it makes it much easier to serve everyone in the world who has that taste from one spot. For instance, there are now entire digital communities built around all sorts of weird fetishes (often featuring web fiction written by the holders of those fetishes) that could never have existed before the Internet—all the people who secretly harbored those fetishes could never have dared say so openly to anyone else. A “niche taste” that encompasses even one tenth of a percent of six billion people will still have a potential market of millions of readers.
The Slate piece also points out that a big advantage of e-readers is that you don’t have to be seen going to an adult entertainment store to buy the stuff, and nobody can tell that you’re reading it either. And for authors, it’s certainly hard to deny the appeal of selling directly through Amazon and getting 70% of the cover price. As has been noted countless times before, sex sells.
And in a way it gives Amazon another advantage over Apple, given the family-safe (or “prudish” depending on your point of view) nature of Apple’s store. If Kindle becomes the go-to e-book platform for textual porn, those are more sales to Kindle that Apple doesn’t get. But on the other hand, the more of this stuff Amazon peddles, the greater the chance that it will pop up on the radar of the sort of conservative or religious groups that organize boycotts.