I (and 30,000 other indie authors) have recieved another email from Mark over at Smashwords. This is an update in the continuing problem of censorship by a near-monopoly financial company known as Paypal.
A few excerpts from the email sent out to all current indie authors who use Smashwords as a distributor:
Smashwords email/press release ( <–clicky for the full read )
PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction. We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope. We don’t want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It’s legal.
Unfortunately, since they’re the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce.
Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor. That’s not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind this, they’ll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere. PayPal works well for us. In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store, PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S. My conversations with PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.
Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case. I’m supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics I’m working with them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship. Earlier today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.
I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal’s head, but I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece. This is where you come in…
Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing without the (fading) protective patina of a “traditional publisher” to lend them legitimacy. We indies only have each other. (Note from CG: emphasis mine)
Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they’re also the primary consumers of erotica.
All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.
Okay, Mark has my support. His statement that censorship of erotica is really a women’s issue is absolutely spot on. I hadn’t thought of the problem from that particular perspective before, but he is totally correct. Paypal and their financial masters have unknowingly (maybe knowingly) singled out predominately female aspect of the indie market. This subjective censorship driven by Paypal has already effected the incomes of numerous authors. If the majority of those authors are female, then we have a very, very serious problem. I wonder if some of the more progressive feminist groups have the balls to take on this particular issue. After all, isn’t this about independence, self-sufficiency, and the liberal expression of human sexuality in a fictional literary work?
Apparently some folks don’t like to see women being successful as independent authors of erotic fiction. This whole deal is starting to look like some serious discrimination to me.
Regardless of Paypal’s intentions, it appears to me that their actions have taken on a decidedly discriminatory tone against female indie authors.