A prompt move was made by Smith’s when it was discovered that the Kobo website that automatically feeds to the W H Smith website was unknowingly transferring “unacceptable titles.”
The problem has arisen through the growth in the self-publication of eBooks. This is generally agreed to be a good thing in the industry as new writers are able to publish their work and reader choice is increased; however, controlling the type of material that is published in this way has now become a serious issue. In this case W H Smith declare in an online statement: “We are disgusted by these particular titles, find this unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them.” The statement continues: “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.” The statement concludes with an apology from the company for any offence to customers that may have been caused.
This is a high profile incidence of what is becoming a real problem for some other prominent website operators. There is a huge volume of self-published material being automatically uploaded to websites and by the nature of that volume 100% vetting is very difficult. As a result it is suggested that such extremes as holocaust denial literature and material containing graphic violent sex scenes has appeared on websites run by respectable retailers without their knowledge.
Some companies have managed to deal with the problem without going off-line but unfortunately W H Smith was unable to do so. It is as yet unclear when the site will go live again.