Why Should Mark Coker and Smashwords Have Special Rights? Money? Power?
Nonsense to both. Mr. Coker is ranting around the Internet about how PayPal dissed him and his ebook publishing website, Smashwords. By now we know PayPal told him to lose nasty ebooks dealing in bestiality, rape, or incest or lose PayPal priveleges. A cry went up and was heard across the land. Poor Mark. Poor Smashwords. It just aint fair!!!
Bloggers blogged. Ranters ranted. Journalists journaled and the battle was on. First amendment blah blah blah. Stifling authors yada yada yada. And I was with him! I mean far be it from me to rant.* ahem* but I did my part talking it up, because as a writer I believe in freedom of speech. And in rational thinking. And in justice for all.
How I Got Involved with Smashwords
I jumped on Smashwords years ago when it was in its infancy and looked like it had forward-thinking management and great potential. I put my little books up on that site even though their publishing process is annoying as hell. I put up one book called, Writing for Content Mills.
Right away 800 people downloaded. Writers who wanted to know what it was like to write for mills. The book addresses pitfalls, contracts, copyrights, and little secrets about specific sites. First hand info. All was well. I was pleased. The book also sold like a thousand copies off my website. Cool. It has lived at Smashwords for like, I don’t know, four years?
During that time, I watched Coker and his stuff. I read his blog. I subscribed to his email and I admired that he was a regular guy with a great idea and on the side of us lonely writers. Cool again. A folk hero. When Paypal picked on him, I was empathetic.
And then What Happened With Smashwords?
I had a terrible day today because my bubble popped and I am ridiculously disillusioned. I don’t know what happened. But I was betrayed, and like a teen with a crush, it crushed me. Sniff. Seriously. I thought he was like us. I thought the Internet was an open forum. I thought it was gonna be different!
Today, I made updates to my little book at Smashwords. Nothing much, I cleaned it up, gave it a new cover. I went to upload the file. Smashwords cranked and coughed as usual and 15 minutes later I got a message. My book was deployed.
NOW, said Smashwords’ vigilante computer police, TAKE THIS BOOK DOWN. WE DON’T LIKE OR SUPPORT CONTENT MILLS.
TAKE THE BOOK DOWN WE DON’T WANT NO STINKING CONTENT MILL BOOKS HERE.
Um. But what about erotica? Skin stories? How about stuff about anarchy and mayhem?
YEAH. THOSE WE LIKE. THEY GET US GOOD PRESS AND MAKE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT US WHEN WE GET CENSORED. WE GET TO LOOK LIKE VICTIMS HEH HEH HEH. NOW TAKE DOWN THE PATHETIC BOOK.
The Tragic Outcome of My Skirmish with Smashwords
The book, which I did NOT take down, will not make it into the premium catalog. I won’t be the next famous whistle-blower, at least when it comes to content mills. And I spent the day feeling oddly mildly distressed, personally affronted at discovering my folk hero didn’t seem to give a crap about any amendment. Just gives a crap about cash and media attention. And about controlling what authors publish that doesn’t agree with his personal taste. Awwww. That’s sad.
Coker posts sarcastic Tweets at Twitter about things that do or don’t measure up to PayPal’s standards of censorship. I wonder if he is likely to post about his own censorship—based on a whim.