LGBT Discrimination at 24symbols?

Alan-Lennox_02a_ebook-250x400I saw this blog post by Brian Olsen. There wasn’t a good way to reblog, so I asked him for permission to repost a portion of his blog.

Brian writes:


24symbols is a new ebook vendor. It uses the subscription model – readers pay a monthly fee and can then read an unlimited number of any of the ebooks they offer. They’re based in Spain, and their big hook seems to be that they have business agreements with telecom companies worldwide to bring their service to people’s phones. This is potentially huge – in a lot of countries, a smartphone may be the only electronic device that someone owns, and so bringing ebooks cheaply and easily to those devices is pretty smart.

I use a service called Draft2Digital to distribute my books to many vendors. Some smaller vendors don’t allow indie authors to distribute to them directly, so a business like Draft2Digital allows me access to those readers. They recently added 24symbols as one of their clients, and I signed up immediately – why not? It cost me nothing.

On December 18 I got the email from Draft2Digital that my books were now available on 24symbols. I went to the site, just to see how they were being displayed and make sure all the information was correct. I noticed that the cover to Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom was blurry, but I didn’t think much of it. I figured I had only just gotten the email, maybe the page was still being set up. I set it aside to come back and check the rest later.

On December 19 I went back and checked all my books. Three of my four books had blurred covers – and when I say blurred, I mean they’re completely illegible and unrecognizable. You can get a sense of the color scheme of the image, and that’s it – no title, no picture, nothing is visible. Only Mark Park and the Flume of Destiny was presented normally.

I assumed this was a technical glitch and emailed Draft2Digital to alert them to the problem. Yesterday, December 21, I received this response from Steed at D2D:

“24Symbols blurs out cover art for certain adult content unless a user is signed in and has their age settings set up appropriately. Since your books have gay/lesbian subject matter, 24Symbols has elected to keep those books in an adult content section. However, any adult users who are signed into their site will see the covers in full.”

Oh. Okay. Well, that explains the discrepancy – I don’t have “gay and lesbian” as a tag on Mark Park and the Flume of Destiny, but I do on the other three books.

I responded with this:

“Oh, wow! They consider any and all books labeled gay/lesbian as “adult?” That’s pretty offensive. My books aren’t erotica. Is there anyone I could talk to about this policy? I’m not sure I want to keep my books at that vendor if that’s the case.”

And Steed responded:

“We haven’t fully confirmed that, but it is a pattern we’ve noticed. There may be many reasons for that choice, or it may simply be a coincidence. I’ve contacted their support team and am awaiting a response for more information. ”

I asked them to keep me posted. In the meantime, I sent this email directly to 24symbols:

“Hi,
I’m an author, I distribute to 24symbols through Draft2Digital. Why do books labeled “Gay and Lesbian” have blurred covers for anyone who isn’t logged in? The only other category I see this happening for is “Erotica.” Three of my covers are blurred – they’re Gay and Lesbian, but they’re not Erotica.

thanks,
Brian Olsen”

Today, December 22, I got this response from David at 24symbols:

“Brian,

our distribution agreements with some telcos (they sell 24symbols subscriptions to their customer base in some countries) obligue us to do so. We know that your books are not erotica but they asked us to blur every book in some categories that they consider not suitable for every reader. Take into account that once you are registered and we know you are above 18, books appear normally. We will hope you understand it…

Kind regards,
David”

From what I’ve learned from poking around the 24symbols site, “Gay and Lesbian” and “Erotica” are the only categories in which the covers are blurred. “Romance,” “Crime and Thriller,” “Horror,” none of the others. The results aren’t just offensive, they’re absurd – there are multiple versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray on the site, from different publishers, but only the one tagged “Gay and Lesbian” is blurred.

LGBT lives are not “adult content,” and neither our literature nor our existence should be censored to protect the sensibilities of the bigoted. No child will be damaged by accidentally stumbling across the covers of works by Mary Renault, Edmund White, or Michael Chabon (all of whom have books with blurred covers at 24symbols).

24symbols’ policy is blatant discrimination. I’m sure the reasoning I was provided is true – that there are markets they could not serve if they didn’t blur the LGBT covers. I don’t care. Making money isn’t an excuse for prejudice.

I’ve pulled all my books from 24symbols and I encourage other authors with books there to consider doing the same until this policy is changed.


There are several updates on Brian’s original post, including comments by 24Symbols’ co-founder, Justo Hidalgo.
Go to Brian’s blog: http://www.btolsen.com/lgbt-discrimination-at-24symbols/
There is also an interesting discussion over at kBoards: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,228522.0.html
While you’re at it, the first book of the The Future Next Door series is free on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DLJDRU2/

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “LGBT Discrimination at 24symbols?

  • Justo Hidalgo

    Mark,

    this is Justo Hidalgo, co-founder of 24symbols. I’ll leave here my latest comment on Brian’s post:
    Brian,
    I wanted to let you know that we have already made the technical changes required to fix this issue. Now, existing LGBT books are only blurred if they are also categorised or tagged as Erotica. This has been also reviewed by Draft2Digital, although I want to make clear that it is our responsibility to make it work, not theirs. As I mentioned yesterday night, the problem was that we misunderstood the meaning of the LGBT category and assigned it to erotica. Our bad, and this is solved now.

    We have also implemented the system for upcoming uploads.

    I want to thank you and those of the LGBT community that have come to us in an open, proactive and helpful way. This helps us enhance our product and our services to the publishing industry.

    I hope you appreciate that we have come with a solution in much less than 24 hours. It is now the community’s decision whether to trust that we really mean it when we say we are looking forward to continue improving and creating the best possible subscription service for ebooks.

    Best,

    Justo

  • Adan Ramie

    I love how the free-thinking community of equality-minded folks stick up for each other so well. I checked out my own listing on 24symbols, and despite its LGBT theme, it’s not blurred. I guess they really did fix it. Thanks for shedding some light on this, Mark.

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