An outcry over extreme content in self-published e-books -- depicting rape, incest and other illegal sex acts -- has led Amazon, Kobo and other online booksellers to reconsider how those books are sold on their sites. While self-published authors of erotica are fighting back, a new survey shows that self-published e-books contain more extreme sexual content than their traditionally published counterparts – by a ratio of nearly 10 to 1.
Aaron Stanton used the tools of the Book Genome Project to survey a sample of "several tens of thousands" of self-published books, he writes at Digital Book World. Stanton explains how he peered into what he calls "the Literary Darknet" of self-publishing.
Surveying thousands of self-published e-books he found a lot of sex, and a lot of incest and bestiality. In fact, in the self-published universe, works that depict felonious sexual acts are apparently more common than cookbooks are in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Stanton is the founder of Booklamp and the Book Genome Project, both of which use digital tools to analyze the content of millions of titles. The Darknet, as Stanton puts it, refers to "a collection of underground or largely unindexed websites that you have to know exist in order to find." He uses Literary Darknet to describe the huge, largely unregulated body of written work published online by self-published authors.
Erotica makes up just 1.1% of the catalogs of traditional publishers but made up 28.6% of the self-published books in Stanton's sample: In other words erotica is 25 times more prevalent in self-publishing than in traditional publishing.
What's more, "nearly 1 out of every 10 erotic titles in our self-published sample contained either bestiality or incest," Stanton wrote. Incest and bestiality are more prevalent in self-publishing books (such as "Thirty Forbidden Erotic Tales") than books about computers are in traditional publishing, according to Stanton's findings.
"This tremendous volume of content is far greater than any current social-based review system can handle, not only from a sexual content standpoint, but from a review and discovery standpoint," Stanton wrote. "The vast majority of these books have zero reviews, and zero star ratings on even the largest social review sites…This creates a problem. Online retailers like Amazon, Google, and B&N end up putting books on their shelves without content oversight."