Yaoi manga is a niche genre, but like all niche genres, it has a devoted following. Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.
Below: One of the titles pulled from the Kindle store.
It’s hard to know whether number 2 or 3 above is responsible, but Amazon has instructed at least one publisher to remove its yaoi books from the Kindle store, while allowing considerably more explicit male-female titles to remain. Digital Manga Publishing, which puts out several lines of yaoi, ranging from the fairly tame June imprint to the pretty steamy 801, posted this notice on its blog yesterday:
Recently Amazon has become more strict in enforcing their content requirements for ebooks. Several DMP books that have been available online since 2009 are getting the axe, beginning with our 801 Media titles like Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, in the last few days the issue has spread to the June imprint by Amazon’s refusal of The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love from the Kindle store. We fear that Amazon may target more of our books for removal so we’re warning all Amazon Kindle store users that providing you with our content may become more difficult in the future. However, if you purchase our ebooks before Amazon decides to remove it from their store you will still be able to access the book from your account.
All the books mentioned are already gone from the Kindle store, and several are missing from Amazon’s print book selection as well.
I looked at the linked content requirements and didn’t see anything addressing explicit sex, but someone at Amazon’s yaoi forum pulled this out of their guidelines:
Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.”
I’m going to confess right here that I haven’t read any of the manga we are discussing. It’s just not my thing. But fortunately, lots of other people do read them. Here’s Julie Opipari, a longtime manga reader, writing about one of the pulled manga, The Color of Love:
The sex, like the rest of The Color of Love, was understated and almost gentle as the couples expressed their deep affections for each other. While there are panels of entwined couples, there’s hardly even a fleeting glimpse of muscled buttocks here. Drats.
In fact, all the reviews I checked described the book as more sweet than sexy, which raises the question: If this story had been about a man and a woman, would it have been removed from the store?
A quick search suggests that the answer is “no."
Titles currently available on Kindle include Christmas Creampie, a graphic novel in which “horny Whoreville hussies show a frustrated dildo shop owner the true meaning of Christmas,” and Little Lorna in Resort Sports (I’m not even going to link to this one), in which Little Lorna, who is spunky, sexy, but “not too bright,” goes on vacation to Mexico with her Uncle Bob; “nudity, spanking, and sexy humor” result.
So apparently a sweet love story between two men is unacceptable, but an orgy in a dildo shop is OK.
Above: One of the titles not pulled from the Kindle store.
Digital is probably the biggest publisher of BL (boys love) manga on the Kindle, but there is another: Animate U.S.A., a Japanese company that publishes yaoi exclusively on the Kindle — there are no print editions. The publisher sends me regular press releases, and all the titles I checked are still available, although I believe Animate’s books are pretty explicit.
So what’s going on? If previous experience is any guide, the Internet will be rising up today, and it should be an interesting show. Hopefully at the end of it, Amazon will restore the deleted titles, but this episode points up once again the problems with centralized distribution, as well as raising another troubling question: Why does this only seem to happen with gay material?
Source: Robot 6 and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund twitter.
Anyone who’d like to send their thoughts to Amazon/Kindle can do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org