February 24, 2012

Smashwords Falls Victim to PayPal

I guess we knew it was bound to happen.  Mark Coker of Smashwords just dropped the bomb, not minutes ago.  PayPal has censored Smashwords.  First off let me hand it to Mark.  He handled this ten times better than All Romance eBooks and infinitely better than BookStrand who basically threw us indies under the bus, insinuating we took over their store and were uploading nothing but rape, underage and incest books while they are desperately trying to defend their own titles that violate their new TOS.

Mark was honest, supported erotica and called his decision "imperfect."  From Marks email:

"We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica.  Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection.  Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.

The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain.  If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple.  Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica.  That’s not fair.  Our decisions today are imperfect."

See the whole thing here.

PayPal is the culprit here and unfortunately retailers have little choice.  PayPal plays hard ball and if things aren't done the way they like, they can close their account and freeze funds for up to 180 days.  PayPal is a virtual monopoly and they manage to remain largely unregulated.  Smashwords was built around PayPal's payment processing engine.  Imagine if your bank closed your account and seized your money if you bought a sex toy or a Playboy with your ATM?  I am not a big fan of  government regulation, but what PayPal is doing borders on blackmail.

Call your Senator or Representative?  They are unlikely to stand up for step-cest.  PayPal knows that while many people find their behavior reprehensible few are willing to take a stand to defend fictional accounts of sex between step relations or "barely legal" sex.  This is why PayPal is dangerous.  I've heard they may consider consensual BDSM rape.  When will they insist retailers remove BDSM titles?  Or gay and lesbian titles?  When will they insist retailers pull down all erotica?

Take a stand.  Cancel your PayPal account and send them an email and tell them why.  Urge your friends to do the same.  Let them know what PayPal is doing.  Expose this not as an attack on certain kinds of erotica, but as an attack on free speech and personal liberties.  PayPal wants to be your moral conscience.  Are you going to let them get away with it?

Read more at:


  1. I'm thinking that this is time to label this a feminist issue. Erotica is primarily written by women, and read by women. Women regularly entertain fantasies that venture beyond what is socially or legally acceptable in the real world. Let us invade another genre, then. Let us call what we write literary fiction.

  2. Not according to PayPal they don't. PayPal decides what they read. What's to stop them from banning other erotica categories. What's to stop them from banning other types of books period? Or any product as far as it is bought and sold using PayPal?

    Besides, romance is full of the newly banned subjects. Slap on a pretty cover and call it a "manhood" and apparently it fine. Then again PayPal knew who they can bully around (women reading their kindles in the dark) and who they can't (women reading smut out in the open). Romance readers are many and not afraid to admit it and fight for it.

    1. "Then again PayPal knew who they can bully around (women reading their kindles in the dark) and who they can't (women reading smut out in the open). Romance readers are many and not afraid to admit it and fight for it."

      Excellent point.

  3. Thanks for the post Marlene. Not being a writer on All Romance or Bookstrand, I hadn't been aware of what was going on. It baffles me that PayPal can position itself as a 'moral' compass for the rest of us. Have they extended this to preventing customers from purchasing sex toys, erotic films or sexy lingerie with their PayPal accounts?! It's ridiculous that a company, which exists to provide a service that has nothing to do with anyone's moral well being, is taking such a stance.

    I don't even understand how they can. For starters, 'barely legal' is legal and even if you wanted to write something completely illegal...you can - it's free speech and freedom of creativity! Unless, of course, PayPal is based in Saudi Arabia.

    1. PayPal can because they are a virtual monopoly that operates in a gray area of regulation. I believe what they are doing probably violates several federal laws concerning fair business practices, but like I wrote, who's going to stand up and fight for this stuff? PayPal can do this because they have these retailers by the short hairs. Can I live without PI and barely legal, yes. But what else will I have to live without if PayPal is allowed to continue this. Political speech? Religious books? Books with violence? Scary!

  4. There's only so many times I can say this, but this terrifies me. Not only because it directly affects me, but because of the fact that this type of censorship is terrifying.

    What does it say about corporate power, especially when they have a monopoly? I know we had the same issues with Wal-mart, but the internet and ebooks was supposed to help solve these problems, not keep them rolling.

  5. Wal-Mart can do whatever they want. If they choose not to sell a product, that is their right. BookStrand, All Romance and Smashwords can do the same. Even PayPal can decided not to do business with companies that offer certain products or services. The problem is when PayPal uses their monopoly to bully other businesses, and therefore consumers, to offer only what PayPal deems appropriate.

    Wal-Mart cannot prevent Eden's Fantasy from selling sex toys, Fredrick's from selling lingerie or a Christian book store from selling religious books. But PayPal can. The problem is too many people and businesses came to rely on PayPal and now we are all paying for it.

  6. I got my email from Smashwords, and now my sexual satire is gone. Alice, 18, can't go down the rabbit hole, or Rabbia Rabit's holes either. Yes Chesha Cat is orange and fuzzy, but she's mostly human. And Caterpillar with his massive meat sticks, that's just wrong.

    This isn't a male or female issue. It's politics. I'm old enough to remember Reagan and Jerry Falwell's religious right. It took over ten years for things to correct themselves, and I'll give this bullshit five or less. The more voices heard the better we all are.

    Boycott. Cancel. Show them the real might of our money.