The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Anticlimactic Vero Fight

I recently decided to focus my eBay store on vintage paperbacks. They're a good fit for the storefront presentation for a few reasons: it's a visual browsing experience; they're cheap to ship which encourages multi-book purchases; and many people who collect PBs don't look deeper online than eBay.

I uploaded several author batches to my Mystery and Science Fiction catalogs. All was going well and--for the relatively small percentage of my inventory I'd shifted over--sales were healthy.

I delayed uploading my racier books because I wanted to work out a prude-proof disclaimer that would specifically point out why these books ARE allowed in the main eBay categories and don't need to be banished to the invisible adult categories. I parsed eBay's ridiculously contradictory adult guidelines and came up with this:
FOR POTENTIAL CENSOR VIGILANTES:

These books are generally less explicit that a "1980 Playboy" and the sexual activity described (when it isn't hilarious) is comparable to a contemporary "steamy" romance novel.

APPLICABLE PASSAGES FROM eBay’s "ADULT" GUIDELINES:

"Pre-1980 Playboy, Playgirl, and Penthouse magazines are permitted in the main eBay categories...Romance novels are permitted outside of the Adult Only category...Books on sex, relationships, sexual education, and self help are generally permitted in the appropriate category outside of the Adult Only category."
I uploaded a 13-15 books with the disclaimer (carefully excluding titles that actually are too filthy for the regular categories) and called it a night. Next morning 8 of the books had been Vero'd (and two of them were recognized mainstream lesbian classics).

I got my dander up for a Sisyphean struggle (hopefully followed by a Pyrrhic victory) and wrote asking why these books had been Vero'd since:
They're collectible books from the 50s-60s, not sexually explicit by today's standards, display no nudity, and aren't described in an explicit manner. Also most of these books were purchased from eBay's general audiences categories to begin with. Is it the word "Lesbian" because there are currently hundreds of books listed with that word in the title.
I was hoping the Vero people followed the Amazon adult fluff-up and would read into my veiled threat.

I received a boilerplate reply restating the adult guidelines from which it was clear no one had taken a second look at the item #s in question.

My second email was was snottier (but essentially the same), included my disclaimer, plus the text and images from two of the Vero'd titles (one of which was Patricia Highsmith's Price of Salt).
There are currently at least 20 copies of this book listed on eBay....eBay currently lists numerous modern books that collect this same vintage cover art...Explain to me what could possibly have gotten these books pulled besides the word "Lesbian". I don't see anywhere where the term Gay or Lesbian is disallowed (and it better not be because you must have seen the bad press that Amazon received when they degraded G+L material in their search function).
More indignation, a bit of logic, and a less veiled publicity threat (signed-off with my blogger and Twitter ID in case they still didn't get it). Received this in return:
I've reviewed your case and can inform you that these books are permitted to be listed in the general categories but you are not permitted to make any comparison to materials that are only allowed on the Adult Only categories. Your listing compares this book to a 1980 Playboy magazine. Your listing was also removed because it referred to items in the Adult Only category.Once you've removed all elements that aren't permitted and checked to make sure your listing complies with eBay listing policies, you shouldn't have any problem relisting your item.
Ah perfectly clear, my listings were pulled because I cited the eBay policy stating why they shouldn't be pulled. The first rule of eBay adult categories is you don't talk about the eBay adult categories.

So, I guess I "won" (at least until a random shopper comes along, with no knowledge of the adult guidelines that are no longer cited and decides I should be Vero'd again). I trimmed the disclaimer from the template and my G+L catalog is now up and filled with plenty of books that "the gayest man on earth would call over the top".

I was hoping my struggle would be more epic to make for a more interesting post but what are you gonna do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Odd that the nameless and faceless drones at ebay have figured out what the Supreme Court couldn't...define what is obscene. Seems to me if they are a publicly held company operating in the United States (which they are...) They should be held to the same constitutional standards for censorship and prior-restraint as US citizens...Or is ebay above the law?