Back on 13th March, I got notice from Google that Sophie’s Tutor was being removed from the Play bookstore for violation of content policies. Well, at least they let me know, which is more than some companies do.
The e-mail contained the following quote…
Please note that we do not allow books that include graphic sexual images, pornographic text or depictions of extreme sexual acts, including rape, incest and bestiality. Pseudo depictions of these acts are not permitted either.
Please review your book catalog and remove any titles that include this content. Failure to comply with these policies may result in suspension or removal from the program. We appreciate your cooperation.
Okay, fine. I couldn’t see why Sophie’s Tutor violated any of these areas though. Certainly, there are no graphic images and I’d hardly describe the text as pornographic – well, no more pornographic than anything else I’ve written, but’s a debate all of it’s own. In fact from Google’s own content policy page we have this
Sexually explicit material
Images of sexually suggestive nudity Sexually explicit text
Any idea what the difference is or where Google choose to draw the line? No, me neither. Anyway, there are no depictions of what I’d consider ‘extreme sexual acts’ in Sophie’s Tutor (it’s pretty vanilla m/f sex), no rape, no incest an no fucking any damn animals.
So I wrote back and asked Google the following
In order to review my content for compliance with your content policy, please define the difference between “Sexually explicit text” and “Pornographic text” as referenced in the Policy.
I need to know with more clarity what you define as “pornographic” before I can decide if any of my other titles fit this description.
I would point out that I do not believe the title removed fits the description of what’s “not permitted’ but since the description is very much open to interpretation, I would like know your reasoning for its removal. Neither Amazon nor Barnes and Noble have removed this title.
I finally heard back from Google on Friday 4th April, that’s about 4 weeks, give or take. Here’s what they said. The bolding is mine to highlight what I consider to be… well, you’ll see.
I am sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this. Although we understand your concern, we’re unable to provide decision details for specific books. Google removes books that we believe violate our content policies, and our review of ISBN:9781301029013 (Sophie’s Tutor) did find content that does not comply with these policies.
We appreciate your understanding.
So, hang on, what you’re saying is that you found the book to violate the policy, but you’re not going to tell me why or give any indication how it could be changed to make it comply. Really? If we aren’t told why something violates the policy, how are we supposed to avoid violating the policy in future? That makes no sense. What this shows is that Google are just as arbitrary and no more helpful than the other large companies that sell e-books.
SO, you’ll no longer be able to get Sophie’s Tutor from Google Play – not that Google Play is a big sales channel for me. It’s not. But it’s the principle, don’t you agree? In the meantime, I suggest if you haven’t read the book and what to try and work out for yourself why it violates Google’s content policy, you’ll have to pick it up from Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks or Barnes& Nobel.
The odd thing is that my link to the book on Google Play still works.
Please share this post so that other can see that google are no better than Amazon, Apple or any of the others when it comes to a pretty vague content policy.