Problem Solvers: Mom Finds Erotica in Free Nook Selections

North Texas woman wants Barnes & Noble to remove adult books from free offerings

By Kimberly King
|  Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011  |  Updated 10:03 PM CDT
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Carol Hayes wants Barnes & Noble to change the free Nook books section on their website to clearly separate erotica from other free book offerings.

Kimberly King, NBC 5 News

Carol Hayes wants Barnes & Noble to change the free Nook books section on their website to clearly separate erotica from other free book offerings.

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An Allen woman says she wants a major book retailer to remove adult selections from its free e-books section.

Carole Hayes said she noticed this summer that the Free Nook Books section on Barnes & Noble's website includes erotica such as "The Princess and the Penis."

"Barnes & Noble ought to be a safe place to be to let my kids shop," she said. "It's not Hustler. It's not Playboy."

Hayes, the mother of three children, ages 11, 10 and 4, went on the site to look for selections for her youngest child. Hayes said she was going to let her children download free books for themselves until she saw the titles included when she clicked "see all."

"On page one, scrolling down I saw a little cartoon for a book. I clicked on the book, and when I opened it up, [it] was 'The Princess and the Penis,'" she said.

That e-book since has been taken down from the the website.

Barnes & Noble has buttons on its main Free Nook Books page that allow customers to browse by section. Hayes said she wants the bookseller to add children's books as one of the options.

Choosing "see all" in the Free Nook Books section mixes children's books such as "Life with Max" and "Puppy Dog Tales" with all of the other offerings, including erotica.

"There's 'Erotic Short Stories,' 'Ride a Cock Horse' and a whole series called 'Naughty Nooners,'" Hayes said.

Customers can narrow their search to show only children's books by choosing "Kids" in the menu on the left on the "see all" page.

But Hayes said either the children's selections or the erotica books should not appear when selecting "see all" because the two should not be mixed.

"They can give away anything they want," she said. "I don't care how hardcore, as long as they segregate it from the rest."

In a statement, Barnes & Noble said:

"When viewing books on Barnes & Noble.com, there are a number of factors that go into how they are merchandised. These include sales rank, author and publisher popularity, quality of reviews and other details. When viewing 'See All' in a broad category such as 'FREE,' this will take all books across all categories available for free and rank them according to these factors. We take our mission very seriously -- to be a valuable resource to our customers, bringing books and ideas to the public. Our guiding principle is to offer every book in print and allow our customers to decide what to buy and read and let each person decide what is appropriate for his or her children. In addition, please note that our products and services available online at www.bn.com are marketed for and directed towards purchase by adults 18 years or older."

Hayes posted about it on a Dallas discussion board for mothers and emailed Barnes & Noble.

The bookseller sent her a response that said: "Customer feedback is critical to the success of our business, and we rely on suggestions such as yours to determine what our customers value most."

Barnes & Noble told Hayes it would forward her suggestion for possible implementation.

Hayes, who does boudoir photography, said she knows the lines between what's appropriate for adults versus children.

"The point is, I take these kinds of pictures, but I don't show them to my kids," she said.

Hayes said she supervises her children on the Internet. Her children sign in with their own accounts, which have parental controls.

"But I would never block Barnes & Noble," she said. "It's a bookstore."

Barnes & Noble has made some adjustments to where the Free Nook Books page is located on the website. It is now several clicks into the site, but Hayes said the change does not address her concerns.

If you have a problem or story tip that needs investigating, contact NBC 5's Problem Solvers by emailing newstips@nbcuni.com. You can also email your problem by video.

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