PayPal Censors the Erotic Content of Indie Ebook Publishers

by Violet Blue on February 27, 2012

I jumped into erotic e-books as a writer and small publisher at the very beginning. My hope was to have free and open distribution of erotic lit that was not determined by anyone except those who wanted to write it and those that want to read it.

I think this new development with PayPal is taking us back to the dark ages. Especially with BDSM on the list of forbidden subjects that e-book publishers can’t carry of they want to keep their ability to process payments with the 800-lb gorilla known as PayPal. Snip from PayPal Strong-Arms Indie Ebook Publishers Over Erotic Content:

On Saturday February 18, PayPal began threatening indie book publishers and distributors with immediate deactivation of the businesses’ accounts if they did not remove books containing certain sexual themes – namely, specific sexual fantasies that PayPal does not approve of.

PayPal told indie e-book publishers and retailers – such as AllRomance, Smashwords, Excessica and Bookstrand – that if they didn’t remove the offending literature from their catalogs within a few days of notification, PayPal would close their accounts. (…)

One corporation begins to shape an entire market

Smashwords had little choice. On February 24, Smashwords sent a letter to all of their authors saying that it was being forced to make PayPal’s guidelines about erotic literature the new rules for content Smashwords would publish and distribute from now on.

All of the Smashwords authors were told in an email that if they want to see their work published and distributed through the popular alternative e-book e-tailer, they will need to make sure their works of fiction conform to PayPal’s acceptable use definitions of sexual fantasies.

Bookstrand went nuclear, and completely eliminated most of the indie titles from their catalog.

AllRomance has decided to stop publishing books that focus more on sex than romance – they are effectively purging all titles that are primarily sexually explicit storytelling “where sex [not romance] drives the story” from their catalog.

PayPal would ban works by Anaïs Nin, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Marquis de Sade and books like Caligula, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (True Blood), The Story of O, Venus in Furs, Lolita…

(…read more, Pulp Tech)

Image: Saskia de Brauw & Kat Hessen by Boris Ovini for Exhibition #1

{ 7 comments }

1 endymion February 28, 2012 at 6:49 am

Every once in a while I think to myself: “Why not finally get a paypal account? After all, everybody seems to be using it.”
Then, I read stuff like this and get reminded of all the sh… they pulled off in the past and I decide I can wait a little longer for a suitable replacement…

2 D February 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Given how long everyone has known that Paypal is corrupt, isn’t it about time somebody started a competitor? I mean, there’s at least one major story of Paypal screwing somebody over royally for no apparent reason every year, never mind the ones that don’t manage to make the major blogs.

3 violet blue February 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

As for All Romance, their letter to authors said that everyone must now categorize their work as either romance ["Erotic Romance"] or porn ["Erotica"] and that the porn/Erotica category will be phased out. The entire letter is in the update of this post, at the bottom:

http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2012/02/19/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship/

Let me know if this is not correct reading of the letter. I was particularly dismayed that they told their authors that logging in signifies their agreement to new Terms (could you imagine if Facebook tried to pull this?) and if they disagree their termination will be accepted.

4 Billy Bob February 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

Everyone continually complains about paypal sucking… and then keeps using it. Well, screw that and quit using paypal. I don’t have a paypal account and when I see that paypal is the only payment option I look for another vendor.

5 Johnny Murdoc February 27, 2012 at 8:34 am

Even Google Checkout’s “unacceptable products” includes erotic literature, so they’re not a reasonable replacement either.

6 Elf M. Sternberg February 27, 2012 at 6:30 am

When you’ve reached the point where this is a concern, you should have long moved over to using a real card clearing program like zombaio or even google checkout.

7 Nobilis Reed February 27, 2012 at 5:31 am

I’m not sure that ArE has actually decided not to publish erotica. They’re separating the two, and asking publishers to mark their titles as one or the other (a scary development in itself) but they haven’t removed the erotica, yet.

They’ve merely made it easier to do so in the future.

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