Will PayPal Censor Smashwords Authors and Books?

Paypal censoring Smashwords?

What don't we dare write?


Are you an author who sells writings? Then you should follow the debate between PayPal and Smashwords. Smashwords is one of the key players in the development of our burgeoning epublishing industry and PayPal is, of course, the way to exchange money online. Why should you care about a face off between these two juggernauts?

There may be precedent set here as the drama plays out. Those precedents may affect you. Some writers are up in arms claiming that PayPal is attempting to censor creative properties. Smashwords is in that court, but couches their rhetoric in careful terms meant to not offend PayPal or precipitate edicts against the types of writing in questions.

Is PayPal Trying to Censor Books?

PayPal claims their concern is risking PayPal’s standing with banks and credit card associations if they allow Smashwords to publish books that refer to bestiality, rape, or incest. Ok. First, is that the business of banks and money changers?

In Digital Journal, journalist Paul Wallace said,

Most people weren’t aware that banks and credit card associations were moral guardians of the public. Given that these organizations have done so much to make the world so much sleazier and so much more miserable in recent years, it may even surprise some people that these organizations were paying attention to worldly things of this type.

Whether or not banks should get involved, they do. Money and power create huge opportunities to buy and to control. A fact.

Smashwords’ Take on PayPal’s Mandate

Smashwords’ Mark Coker has been all over digital media touting his point-of-view. He  was ambushed without forewarning with a clear warning that his PayPal account would bite the dust if he didn’t dump writing referencing bestiality, rape, or incest. I’ve not seen exact quotes from the PayPal missive. I have seen Coker’s interpretation:

PayPal contacted Smashwords and gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account.

And further, Coker comments that he engaged PayPal in discussions and got a temporary reprieve. That didn’t stop authors from moving or disabling any or all of their Smashwords books that could be part of this developing issue.

What Kinds of Books Risk Alleged Censorship?

Apparently any kind that reference rape, bestiality, or incest. Fiction? Ok, I get that. If we assume the world marketplace, online or off, is about morality, I could see those issues might be something to think about in fiction. Maybe.

As for books, what  if the book is about Oprah, who grew up being sexually abused and raped? Abused children grow up to write about their terrible experiences and many of those experiences involve incest. Rape. I don’t know about the third PayPal taboo. History is chock full of atrocities involving perversions. So now, do we take down memoirs, psychology books, self-help, and histories?

What’s It All About, PayPal?

We all know the almighty buck is king of commerce. We’d better assume there’s more to this than meets the blog and someone will gain something somewhere. I don’t know who. PayPal and Smashwords seriously need to  consider long-reaching ramifications. BTW, has Barnes and Noble been included in the discussion? They take PayPal, too.

Some bloggers, journalists, and web pundits have gone off the deep end, writing rants that claim outcomes that range from total censorship of all digital material to the end of digital publishing. It goes like this: If we allow them to exclude works about these three issues, they’ll outlaw works based on religion, or philosophy, or anything they disagree with.

I doubt it, but hype and hysteria do draw traffic.

Author/Writer Roll in PayPal v. Smashwords

What should you, we, do about this? First up, keep in touch with facts about what is actually taking place. It looks like PayPal is quieting down and the whole thing may disappear. It’s your responsibility, if you’re a serious scribe, to follow industry issues  and pay attention.

Next,  it has been suggested that, if you feel like being an activist, you can write letters. Write emails. Search for petitions to sign online. You can also determine the facts, decide what you think, and write about it. Tweet, G+, Facebook your take on this.

Just think about how much impact plain old grassroots people have had on various issues in 2011 and 2012. It’s a good time to put yourself out there and use your talent to make a difference. If you are an author who sells writings, you might wish to make yourself heard.

What do you think?


Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

Comments are closed.