Smashwords Adds Adult Filter

smashwords your ebook your waySmashwords added an Adult filter for content at its ebook store. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, e-publishing maverick, and hero of mine just made the announcement on the blog. The filter prevents first time visitors and others from viewing content rated adult by the author/publisher unless the visitor specifically asks to see such content. It filters out such content from the home page, search results, category listings and tag queries… inspired by Google’s “Moderate Safe Search” option, which is the default option for all users of the Google search engine.

It’s simple to tell if the selection is unfiltered or filtered (a new and improved version of the old prude filter, which kept all erotica off limits). Just look at the top right corner of the home page for the indicator, and change it with a simple mouse click. Good thing they made this addition too, because it’s surprising how much erotica is produced by Indie authors. Just this morning while checking the “unfiltered” home page, the first title on the list was, How to Give a B—job: Five Steps to the Best H–d He’s Ever Had. (You can probably fill in the blanks.) Judging from the covers and descriptions of the next ten titles, nearly half seemed to fit the adult content category.

Not saying that’s a bad thing of course, and the above mentioned book will probably get its fair share of clicks; freedom to write and read sexy (or excessively violent) books is something many people truly need. But it can be a little much when the covers and titles are rather in your face on the home page of the newest releases in the bookstore. Smashwords is, in my opinion, a leader of the entire e-publishing industry. They are professional in every sense, and this is a professional addition.

One thing to notice on this whole subject is that it is still up to the author to define the rating of the book. Perhaps some authors will continue to be pass off adult material as suitable for all ages until a reader complains. Of course, there are plenty of opinions on this when reading the comments on the Smashwords blog announcement. Comments from Indie authors indicate:

  • some authors want to recheck their previous “adult content” settings for simple things like bad language, so they aren’t shut off from a large number of potential browsers.
  • some Indies who write erotica feel they are being singled out, or that their rights are being taken away over writers of religious concepts or something else that can be deemed objectionable.
  • other authors are struggling to define if their book belongs in the filtered category or not.

The complaints of Indies worried about how this small change might affect their ability to sell ebooks… well,  it sounds like much ado over nothing. Change frightens people, but this feels like a needed change.

On another note, keep up to date with what’s happening in e-publishing by following the Smashwords blog, http://blog.smashwords.com/ and also the main site updates section, http://www.smashwords.com/about/beta

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