February 16, 2012

PayPal, BookStrand and Censorship

I received an email today from Bookstrand telling me that they have suspended the indie author section of their site and are demanding all titles that violate their Terms of Service be removed.  Their apparently recently updated TOS.  Suddenly, any title that contains pseudo incest (step relations having sex) or barely legal teens (18 and 19 year old girls) are now against the rules over there.

You may not care.  Maybe you prefer lesbian romance, transgender erotica or gay smut.  Well, you should care.  Pseudo incest and barely legal girls are legal forms of sex.  It may offend some people's sensibilities, but its legal.  More than that, it sells.  Both subjects are popular among erotica reader probably outsell any other single subject.

By way of providing cover, BookStrand blamed PayPal and their unnamed credit card company.  PayPal does have a seriously vague TOS with things like "items that are considered obscene" and "certain sexually oriented materials or services."  That could mean anything.  A book on pregnancy could fall under either of those.

You may think I'm being alarmist.  Well, these fascists always start small.  They target the fringe that have little support or little vocal support, like erotica readers.  Then the dominoes fall.  Next it's what you read or watch.  Next it's what I write.  Censorship is ugly no matter what is being censored.

BookStrand and PayPal don't have to do business with anyone they don't want.  That is their right.  However, I don't have to do business with them and neither do you.  I have pulled all my books from BookStrand and will no longer use PayPal for payments if at all possible.  I suggest you do the same.  Just because they have a right to do something doesn't make it right.

I would rather not have businesses and corporations decide what is obscene.  If they want to sell erotica, they should sell all legal erotica, not just the forms they consider acceptable and then hold their authors hostage until they comply.  If you enjoy erotica, you should keep an eye out.  Things are changing and your favorite subject might soon be censored.


  1. This is just sick. I mean, there's plenty of books that have illegal topics - American Psycho, perhaps?

    Banning books that talk about, or even eroticize, legal conduct is just disgusting and a very disturbing demonstration of censorship.

    Then again, I don't think any book should be banned or at all hindered for sale unless it encourages and guides others to break the law.

  2. Ridiculous. I expect other distribution sites who use PayPal to follow suite, like AllRomance and Smashwords, which impacts Sony, Apple, Kobo, and Diesel,

    I could not find the "Close account" button on the PayPal profile screen, so I emailed customer support stating why I wanted to close my account.

  3. It is sick and disgusting. Free speech isn't free with exceptions. BookStrand and PayPal are free to do these things, but they also have to suffer the consequences. I'm afraid PayPal will chug along but BookStrand will suffer because of there actions.

  4. I imagine they will lose plenty of business. I would find an alternative to PayPal. Like, right now.

  5. I'm with Virginia, the number of Paypal horror stories I've heard just in the last 24 hours (since I was affected) has me frankly spooked!

  6. Yeah, PayPal needs to learn that just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I hope this makes enough people see what they are doing and there is some kind of backlash.

  7. Did they specifically say "18 and 19 year old girls"? Can anyone say double standard?? What about 18 and 19 year old guys? Not that I'm complaining because so far there's been an 18 or 19 year old guy in everything I've written.

    I agree, as long as it's legal, it should be allowed. I mean, come on, are they trying to push the age of consent to 20? And consensual pseudo-incest? Come on...

  8. A lot of Siren's (BookStrand own Siren or the other way around) own books violate the new TOS. They seem to be focusing on 19 and 19 year old WOMEN but not MEN. Since pseudo incest is a made up term and would literately mean fake incest, it seem s pretty stupid. Doesn't matter at BookStrand. They have since closed the indie side of their site and are blaming indies for it. Screw 'em!

  9. Just found your post via Banned Writers, Marie. As you know this cancer has spread to SmashWords and ARe as well. I'm infuriated by the arrogance of financial institutions dictating what I can read and write.

    To encourage folks to sign the petition, I'm running a contest: Stop Censorship, Win a Book. http://www.friskbiskit.com/2012/02/contest-stop-censorship-win-a-book.htmlhat

    There are 1,000 and some signatures right now, but I think we can do a lot better than that.

  10. Shit, meant to type Marlene -- also know a Marie Sexton. So sorry!

  11. No problem. I will pass along the petition to people I know. Thanks!!!