Warning! PayPal May Be Censoring Your Book

Just last week, I posted a blog entry about the various options you have for selling your book online. One of those options was PayPal.

Well, sure enough, news broke late last week that may change things a bit … at least if your book is a little bit racy.

According to msnbc.com’s Technolog, “In recent weeks, the company has been letting e-book publishers know that PayPal will no longer handle transactions for e-books its considers to be obscene.”

Smashwords founder Mark Coker reports that on Feb. 18, PayPal’s enforcement division “contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other e-book retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I’ve had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements.”

As a result, Smashwords sent out an email to all their authors, and posted the letter on their website. You can read it here.

According to reports, PayPal’s hot-button issues (i.e. the things that they consider too obscene to be in the books they sell) are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.

True, the large majority of authors don’t write books that cover these subjects. So you probably don’t need to worry … yet.

But just the fact that PayPal is getting into the business of censoring books means that by selling your books through them, you’re essentially letting them dictate what can and can’t be in your writing. What’s to say that they won’t expand their restrictions to include violence, graphic sex, or anti-American sentiment?

At this point in time, there’s really no harm in selling your book through PayPal. But keep this news in the back of your mind … because I wouldn’t be surprised if the battle between “the artist” and “the censor” rears its ugly head again in the future.


  1. Nick Caruso

    I don’t thinks that it’s too fair to pass judgement on PayPal’s business decisions. Smashwords CEO, Mark Coker, has censored authors himself for non-erotic materials. He’s own hands have censorship dirt on them as well.

  2. One of the largest issues concerning PayPal is that it acts like a bank but offers none of the protections of a Federally regulated bank. (More here: http://money.howstuffworks.com/paypal7.htm) It isn’t required to maintain security measures, competent customer service or dispute resolution departments. PayPal holds large amounts of their customers’ money, makes millions of transactions, and offers credit and debit cards. It is an illegal bank that is able to use their near-monopoly status to bully retailers.

    I’m an erotic writer who is affected by this policy. I’ve also written a detailed post at: http://www.khajj.com/censorship-by-any-other-name/ that offers resources for writers and people looking to take action.

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