E-book porn flourishes on Amazon's Kindle

Platforms for e-book self-publishing like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing let amateur porn producers slap together adult picture books and sell them online with ease.

Amazon has a problem with pornography.

The company created technology to filter smut from its library of video and print offerings and it also pays humans to do the same thing. In spite of that, Kindle users can still download e-books with the same sort of raunchy images and titles normally seen in nudie mags sold at liquor store newsstands.

That's because these salacious e-books are self-published, spawned from sources with names like Camera Erotica Publications and ErotiPics. Some of the milder titles include "The Dirty Blonde 2," which comes with a self-prescribed adults-only warning, a weak attempt at a storyline, and more than 80 photos of a woman posing in various stages of undress. It's yours for only $2.99 or, like many of the titles, you can even borrow it through Amazon Prime's lending library.

Access to e-book porn isn't limited to the Kindle world. Searching for the term "adult picture book" on the Barnes & Noble Nook store also produces a list of hundreds of adult-oriented e-books created by the company's PubIt! Nook Books system.

Both companies, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, make it clear in their content policies that pornography is not allowed in self-published e-books. But whatever their official policies might be, searches by CNET have turned up no shortage of smutty e-book titles, available to browse in crisp, black-and-white e-ink or in full color on the Kindle Fire HD or the Nook HD+.

Porn is also available in Apple's iBook store, but the covers and titles are much tamer. Apple has a self-publishing system that is longer and involves an application process.

Lines of defense?
Amazon reviews books when they are added to the library, but clearly it doesn't catch everything. When CNET e-mailed an Amazon spokesperson a link to one of the Camera Erotica titles, the e-book was subsequently removed from the Kindle Store, though other titles from the same author remain. The company explained that it uses proprietary software to check for content and copyright issues when e-books are submitted.

For some books, a manual screening process is done by people, but Amazon wouldn't say what percentage of Kindle Direct Publishing books were screened this way or specifically how much porn is caught during screening.

"We have processes and systems -- both automated and manual -- to detect and remove books that do not adhere to our posted Content Guidelines," Amazon said in a written statement to CNET. The statement went on to add that Amazon has "rejected or removed thousands of such offending titles" and that it expects to "keep improving our approach. We are also continuously improving the customer experience for all the content we do sell."

Barnes & Noble did not respond to requests for comment.

So, how do hardcore titles, like "Terrific Tits: Volume 1," still manage to slip through the cracks? In part, that's because the system is designed to police itself.

After an author submits a book, it is usually live on the site within 12 hours. Hundreds of thousands of books are published through Kindle Direct Publishing in this way. Censorship is then left up to the readers to govern through reviews and feedback, but it's unclear how effective that is. A few days ago, CNET flagged pornographic e-books on both Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, but the titles are still available for purchase.

A disruptor of the traditional publishing platform , Amazon makes it easy for authors, illustrators, and photographers to sell their content without the discouragement, or the discerning eye, of an editor or publisher. The company has propelled the rise of e-books, a medium that's growing as interest in paper books decline.

This has created an opportunity for peddlers of e-book smut. These self-publishers aren't established pornographers, for sure; they can't be found via online searches or in business directories. And it's hard to imagine their titles -- like the 99-cent "Wife Pictures: XXX So Hot And Sweet To Turn You On," which an Amazon reviewer described as a "scrapbook of random Internet women" -- ever reaching anything near Jenna Jameson scale.

But it's still early days.

"The hardcore e-book porn business is fairly new and under the radar here in the U.S.," said Bob Johnson, the features editor of the adult entertainment industry trade publication XBIZ, adding that it was unclear how much money the burgeoning industry is actually making. "I imagine that people just see it as another opportunity to get porn into people's hands, similar to how adult [entertainment] has always been on the forefront of technology," he said.

At the forefront, more specifically, of finding new ways to make easy money.

 

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