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Is Salacious Content Driving E-Book Sales? 215

narramissic writes "Having already abandoned ebooks once, Barnes & Noble is jumping back into ebooks with the purchase this week of ebook seller Fictionwise. Why is the format suddenly hot? Look no further than the top 10 Fictionwise bestsellers, says blogger Peter Smith. Once again it seems like 'porn is blazing a path to a new media format. Of the top 10 bestsellers under the 'Multiformat' category, nine are tagged 'erotica' and the last is 'dark fantasy.' Need more proof that folks (let's take a leap and call them women) who read 'bodice rippers' like the privacy of ebooks? Author Samantha Lucas (who writes for publishers like Cobblestone Press and Siren Publishing) tells Smith that she sells almost all of her novels in ebook format."
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Is Salacious Content Driving E-Book Sales?

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  • pr0n (Score:2, Funny)

    The e-book is for porn!
  • alt.stories.erotica (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:57PM (#27098259) Journal

    I used to read alt.stories.erotica way back in the 9600 baud days. The only thing new here is that people are paying for it.

    • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:51PM (#27099113) Homepage

      I used to read alt.stories.erotica way back in the 9600 baud days. The only thing new here is that people are paying for it.

      I read erotic stories augmented with 16-color ANSI art from a BBS over a 2400 baud modem. /waits for someone to come in and talk about how they used to write their mainframe code so that it made dirty pictures on the punch cards, or how if they squinted their eyes at ENIAC the vacuum tubes looked kinda like boobs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Em Emalb ( 452530 )

        Back in my day, we had to IMAGINE our porn.

        And we liked it.

        Dang kids with your fancy electricity and your indoor plumbing.

      • by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @07:12PM (#27099435)
        My father taught FORTRAN in the 80's, and one of his assignments was to write a program that printed a (text) calender for any given year, bonus points for extra features. One student turned in a program that printed an ASCII graphic for each month -- they were to be looked at sideways on the old 132 character wide fanfold paper -- and the pictures were high-quality center-fold style girls. The student got his bonus points.
        • During the 1960s, it was fairly common to see the occasional pin-up picture emerging from the high-speed chain printers in university computing centers.

          Programs that printed the correct carriage control character in the first column... was it a plus sign?.... could overprint multiple lines and get a reasonable grey scale, but of course the page was still only 132 pixels wide, and there was quite a lot of whitespace separating adjacent pixels.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        At high school on an Apple II I once wrote a mathematical expression which looked a bit like boobs.

      • heh, I still run an ansi bbs, though telnet.
  • Hey, not just women (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 )
    Men read erotica, too!

    Of course, it's Ghost in the Shell meets X-Files fanfic, but still, erotic.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Men read erotica, too! Of course, it's Ghost in the Shell meets X-Files fanfic, but still, erotic.

      "Legolas & Elrond Soil the Shire" doesn't count!

    • Men read erotica, too!

      Yea, that's the ticket. They don't just look at the pictures.

    • Only if it's a picture book.
  • by The Fun Guy ( 21791 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:58PM (#27098287) Homepage Journal

    The ability to turn pages one-handed is touted as one of the big improvements of the Kindle 2.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    • Clearly, it means that the "gold tablets" that God gave to Joseph Smith were actually the world's first eBook readers. And God owns shares in Amazon.
  • My wife doesn't read bodice-rippers, but most of the sci-fi/fantasy books she reads has a strong romantic or relationship component. IE Vorkosigan Saga, Wizard's Rule series, etc.

    It might just be because she just got hers, but she has been spending a lot more time reading lately. Bought a fair chunk, then raided a hundred or two books from my e-library.

    • Somewhat off-topic (Score:4, Informative)

      by causality ( 777677 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:23PM (#27098697)

      My wife doesn't read bodice-rippers, but most of the sci-fi/fantasy books she reads has a strong romantic or relationship component. IE Vorkosigan Saga, Wizard's Rule series, etc.

      If she likes the Wizard's Rule series by Goodkind, I think she'll really enjoy the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. If she likes dark fiction with a strong tragic-hero element, I think she'll also enjoy the Eternal Champion series by Michael Moorcock, particularly the Elric books.

      • Ah good pointer, avoid the Wizard's Rule series since Wheel of Time is the worst wannabe Tolkien (who's writing I love) dreck I've ever read.

        • Wizards rule is worse. Well, after the first or second book anyway. Terry Goodkind gets a bit nutty.
          • More like Terry Goodkind gets a little pot-boiler-y. The first book was very good. The second was perfectly acceptable. After that, crap. Solid crap.

      • by Zerth ( 26112 )

        Maybe, although I think she might feel WoT drags on a bit. On the other hand, WFR were fairly thick, so who knows.

        I could see her going for the Elric books, though.

  • Nothing New (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:05PM (#27098407) Homepage

    Pornography has always been at the forefront of technology. VHS, DVD, they were the first to really start using DRM on video content, too. A quick search on Google for 'porn technology' will give you lots of articles on the subject.

  • Why don't they just say "vampire"?


  • privacy of ebooks? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:05PM (#27098417) Journal
    Seems like buying books for cash is more anonymous than leaving an e-commerce trail.

    I supposed it depends on how big a town you live in.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:33PM (#27098855) Journal
      Rationally considered, you are correct. However, human social instincts are not rational consideration. A big faceless corporation knowing that you purchased a porno is, viscerally, way less intimidating than having a clerk who won't remember you tomorrow raise an eyebrow slightly.
    • It's not the privacy of one's buying history that is at issue. It's the privacy of a mom not sharing with the other parents just what she's reading while attending her daughter's soccer games.

      The other mothers won't go stealing her credit card receipts from her mailbox, nor will they hack into her Amazon account. But they will try to catch a glimpse of a smutty book cover.

      At least, that's the idea behind this article. I doubt that it is all that common of a concern.

      • In Japan, paper books don't pose a privacy problem: when you buy a book, whether it's a raunchy novel or an English textbook, the store clerk wraps it in a nice paper cover, hiding the nature of the book. At most, you can determine size of the book and the shop it was bought at.

    • Different kind of privacy. Some things, like health conditions, SSNs and credit card numbers, you don't want the government, corporations, insurance companies or identity thieves to be able to mine out of large databases or find in a deep background check. Other things, like your affinity for bodice-ripping novels or the fact that you secretly love the latest Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys (are they still around?) CD are things you just don't want to advertise as you're sitting on the bus or waiting in

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      I was wondering what they meant about privacy too. What I came up with is that they are talking about privacy in terms of not holding a physical book. A person could be reading ANYTHING on a Kindle and the Kindle looks the same. However if a woman is reading some trashy romance novel, it will have the picture of Fabio on the cover.

      I could be wrong, but I think that is the privacy context that the OP was referencing.

    • Seems like buying books for cash is more anonymous than leaving an e-commerce trail.

      BTW third trashy paranormal romance book read on my Kindle. Just told someone I am reading Dickens, LOL!!! I love this!
      12:32 PM Mar 3rd from twitterrific []

  • Sales for the Kindle do not seem to bear this out: Kindle bestsellers []. I see no porn in the top 25.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      The relative frequency of any specific title has little to do with the relative frequency of groups of titles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dynedain ( 141758 )

      And the New York Times intentionally leaves genres off its best-seller list, otherwise LOTR, the Bible, and various sci-fi novels would routinely top the list.

      Hell, they created a children's best-seller list specifically because of Harry Potter.

  • Selective memory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:08PM (#27098471)

    Not the "porn is what drives adoption of all new formats and technologies" explanation again... has everyone already forgotten that HD DVD was supposed to win over Blu-Ray because of its early adoption by the porn industry? There were only, oh, a few thousand posts to that effect right here on Slashdot - right up until HD DVD died.

    • I'm not sure that Blu-ray has won against, well nothing at this point. HD-DVD has been dead for a year and Blu-ray is still not taking off as a format.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it's more along the lines of "if you build it, they will have sex on it". Porn doesn't drive innovation, it adapts to it.

    • That's because Blu-Ray's ascendence over HD DVD had absolutely nothing to do with the market. Sony decided it was "their turn" to garner all the royalties from the next breakthrough media format (mainly from sheer soul-gnawing jealousy over how much Phillips has made off of CD/CD-ROM royalties) so they bought Blu-Ray's success for cash. HD was winning in the marketplace. Players were cheaper than Blu-Ray players, and available from a wider choice of manufacturer. Discs were cheaper and more widely avail

    • So porn doesn't dominate over all other factors. I think that was obvious. I'd think the tiny marketshare of both formats means that porn simply didn't have a chance to drive one versus the other. Because the physical media format that is "winning", and has the most porn on it, is DVD.

    • Actually, I posed this question to someone IN the industry who does editing and disc authoring work (for one of the biggest producers) before the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray war was decided. He said the general consensus in the industry this time was to wait and see which format would win out. There wasn't a rush to go to one format or the other. There's far more players involved than there was during the classic VHS/Beta example, which skews the simple mantra of "porn drives technology selection". Just like the mai

    • by Thag ( 8436 )

      Porn doesn't drive development of anything, it's an early adopter. There's a difference.

      Hugh Hefner doesn't fund research into new media, but he'll be glad to sell his wares anywhere he can.

      Mainly, I think, because porn doesn't necessarily have to be good in order to sell.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      This is an example, not a counter example. My impression is that the kindle is better for certain content because you do not have to purchase the item or having it lying around your house. For the same reason all physical media for this kind of movies failed long before HD formats came into existence. om the ads that regularly pop up in various places, it seems it has long been possible to download paid content, and likely it of "dvd quality". Furthermore, given the fights that having been going on, it
  • by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:15PM (#27098583) Homepage

    That would be interesting if the chance to read naughty lit in public drives the sales of a $350 e-book reader.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:17PM (#27098603) Journal

    People have evolved to be interested in sex. Those that aren't die out. So of course if the web provides a means to look at boobies, it's going to get more popular...and if an ebook reader allows you to read about people having sex, those who are interested might turn to it. It's a hell of a lot more discrete to use an ebook reader than have a sexually explicit book open. You don't have to hide it behind something else to avoid attracting attention or getting into trouble.

  • Let's not forget that the kindle 2 now handles 16 shades of gray, and the size of foldouts is virtually limitless with Next/Prev page functionality.
  • by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:40PM (#27098965)

    ... this is clearly a privacy issue, not a pornography issue. If it were common for me to read in public places, like at work on my lunch break, a e-book would be far better than a typical paperback. Why, because then no one could learn what I am reading unless I tell them.

    I don't read anything to be embarrassed about, but I can imagine it is awkward for women into those trash romance novels to hold a lewd covered book when sitting across the aisle from their boss.

    Or what about people reading the Bible, Koran, or other religious manuscript. I have seen the way people look at folks reading such material on subways.

    E-Books are great for everyone concerned about others judging them by what they read. Hell, in some cities you can be judged by which news paper you read... god forbid your conservative boss sees you reading the New York Times. I know I would hate to have a perfectly good working relationship ruined because I think homosexuals should be allowed to marry and raise children.

    I am all for personal privacy in all things personal. I am not a conspiracy theorist that thinks the government or big business is spying and gonna use information against me... but I don't want my reading material, music tastes, or social/political beliefs to be an issue with those I wouldn't readily discuss such things with. A good ebook reader and some head phones allow me to consume media privately, if for no other reason than that.

    • by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @08:31PM (#27100385) Journal

      While I agree with this in principal I can't help but feel there may be a deeper cultural issue at work regarding "privacy".
      This may be slightly off topic, but since we are talking about porn, which is fairly cultural, here goes:

      I know that I have picked up a book or two because some stranger was reading it on the train or in a cafe. Sometimes I have conversations with strangers on the street due to something that happens or a weird coincidence. These instances are one way that culture can spread, move people, and create a community.

      We seem to be heading into an era where people are very cut off from others. Ear buds in our ears, reading our Kindle, oblivious to anything in the outside world. Just our little bubble. One could even go so far as to say "it helps block out meaningful thought by keeping many of us entertained 24/7.

      While I think your privacy concern is valid (I had a situation arise years ago where I am fairly certain i was fired due to the fact that I am a Buddhist, while my employer was very Christian) I sometimes wonder if the very things which we profess to keep us safe are in fact making our own worlds smaller and even conceited. While we see mountains of data and electronic communication that profess to enhance and enlarge our experience, is it at the cost of true involvement in day to day life? Maybe it's just the shifting of culture to a digitally defined reality. Either way it oftens feels cold and detached. This comes across more and more in personal interaction (IMHO) which seems like cause for concern.

      To be a bit dramatic: Is it really privacy we desire, or is technology slowly giving us what some want: Emotional and social laziness?

      Also, is there a time and place for porn? Should we be reading it while our boss is sitting across from us? If it's ok to do that, it seems like it could usher in a different day-to-day mindset if people are less obliged to pay attention to their business meeting than their hootie-hoo (or whatever you call it).

      • Poppycock (Score:3, Insightful)

        Ages ago I was reading one of the hitchhikers books, just released, in the train. Was completly lost in the book to the point that the conductor apparently had to call me several times and eventually touch my shoulder to get my attention. Much to the amusement of my fellow travelers.

        After showing my ticket, the passenger across from me asked what I had been reading, I told him and turns out he had read the previous books as well but had not heard about the new one yet. We talked a little about the series (

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      OTOH, the more people that are out with there likes and dislikes, the less people will care what anyone is reading.

  • Why assume that the buyers are women? That sounds rather contrary to the higher proportions of men both in the tech industry and with technophile tendencies.

    Let's be honest.

    I'd be willing to bet that there are plenty of men buying ebook erotica -- mentally justifying it as "research material".

    If you're a socially-awkward male geek, is it really that far of a leap to want to be ahead of the curve when you finally get a woman to talk to you? Yeah, book-learnin' will only get you so far, but it's still bette

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think there might be some misconception about what sort of book it's assumed women are reading. "Bodice rippers" as a genre are written to appeal to 'romantic' fantasies: Strong but possibly oppressed heroine, tall dark stranger, forbidden love affair, etc. Always sexual, rarely graphic.

      Credentials:I worked in a bookstore, and we sold the hell out of garbage like danielle steele, always to women, mainly to older women. I'd guess the younger generation just get porn on the internet.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Eh, reading sexual encounters doesn't it do it for most men*. Audio and visual really tap right into a man libido. You don't most of playgirls sales are from women, do you?

      The only way to become less social awkward is to be social. Do things with people that do things you like.

      *Generalization, but would like to hear from any men that do get sexual stimulate by it.

      • There's plenty of men that likes reading about sexual encounters, the difference is that men usually prefer short very graphic stories while the women are usually after much longer romantic fantasies.

  • porn myth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @07:12PM (#27099437) Journal

    "Once again it seems like 'porn is blazing a path to a new media format"

    Again the myth that porn has decided the formatwars is called upon again.

    "Many theories regarding why Sony's Betamax failed have arisen over the years. One of the more amusing (and false) is that Sony refused to allow pornographic material on their system. A quick perusal of the Betamax library reveals that adult entertainment was readily available. For example, Playboy Industries released their videos in a dual format, both Betamax and VHS, for most of the 1970s and 80s (and can be confirmed with a quick search through Ebay's adult section, or other used video markets). Second, the adult industry is too small to have any lasting impact on standards selection. According to, adult video income is approximately $1 billion. "The industry is tiny next to broadcast television ($32.3 billion in 1999), cable television ($45.5 billion), the newspaper business ($27.5 billion), Hollywood ($31 billion), even to professional and educational publishing ($14.8 billion). When one really examines the numbers, the porn industry--while a subject of fascination--is every bit as marginal as it seems at first glance." (Link - [] )"

    There, it should be over now.

  • Oh, damn, I hope they don't kill the DRM-free side of the store.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:05PM (#27100685)
    Once again it seems like 'porn is blazing a path to a new media format. Of the top 10 bestsellers under the 'Multiformat' category, nine are tagged 'erotica' and the last is 'dark fantasy.'

    Fictionwise's own lists of Best Sellers/HIghest Rated [] titles tells a different story.

    Entries in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series rank 1st, 2nd, 3d, and 4th as best sellers the past six month.

    Joe Halderman's "The Accidental Time Machine," came in fifth.

    No erotica title made it into the top 25.

    You will find YA "Twilight" on the Fictionwise "Dark Fantasy" shelf.

    Which means were looking at more blogger BS on the front page of Slashdot.

  • Really, soap operas and romantic novels have been porn for women for decades.

A quarrel is quickly settled when deserted by one party; there is no battle unless there be two. -- Seneca