You Know It When You See It

And here comes the next spectacular ruckus regarding indy-writers and the (relatively) non-elected, totally bureaucratic and ham-fisted powers of our universe. This one, for a marvel, does not involve, at whose door can be laid the last couple or three of these shindigs. This one involves Paypal, that pearl of great price … and fairly substantial fees on transactions although not too onerous as these things go, certainly better than pawn shops and payday check cashing establishments without a particle of the stigma and it usually makes up for the convenience of the transaction and who am I to object, actually?

I don’t, just accepting the reality of the situation – although I have known people who do. Personally, I am enormously fond of Paypal; their security of accounts is awesome, they are unbounded by temporal national and state boundaries, and their small-vendor tools are marvelously useful to the freelance artist/writer/editor. If they are ever in a death-match against Bank of America, I cannot stoutly affirm that I would bet the farm on the former … but I would cheerfully wager at least a couple of large tubs of tomato and squash plants. (Yes, I have an enduring grudge against B of A – why do you ask?)

Anyway and back to the subject at hand, it is with sadness that I have to admit that Paypal has been forced into playing the heavy in the latest censorship-of-the-writerly set. Ghastly details here and one of many responses here. Essentially, Paypal has informed a number of online publishing outlets which use them to transfer payments that certain topics are beyond the pale, so to speak … and that unless such outlets as the ever-popular, henceforth cease and desist from publishing and distributing certain material, otherwise the benefits of the aforementioned financial institution will be withdrawn, et cetera, et cetera. Yep, 900-pound gorilla exercising their 900-poundness-pull in the social-financial arena. Here we go again.

Those verboten topics topics include (so we are informed) “bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica” which are things that at first glance and toward which all right-thinking good citizens would object, disapprove, decry and condemn. OK, then – at first glance and blush, all of these are condemned by law and man, if not by meter, and by good taste. (Which lets most of Hollywood out…)

But … how does one go about judging. No, I hate to fall back on that old standby … but seriously – who judges? And by what standard other than a case-by-case basis? This one is so broad that it can be massaged and stretched to incorporate quite a lot of material … some of it by well-established and traditional writers, or very, very best-selling ones. Bestiality – I can think of two examples off the top of my head, besides the one Smashwords writer who first brought this matter up on a LinkdIn group. His book, BTW, is called Wet Goddess – guy falls for a dolphin. One of Carl Hiaasen’s books features a character who marries one. And the Twilight series features a werewolf heart-throb … which is a stretch as far as bestiality goes, but one that I wouldn’t be surprised to have someone take, just for the sake of argument. ‘Rape for titillation’ – well, there goes several thousand yards of bodice-ripping novels. ‘Incest’ – tell me, wasn’t there some ghastly memoir on the best-seller lists a while back about just that? Underage erotica: there goes Lolita

My point is – again, this is a standard so broad as to be essentially useless. Worse than useless, for it would enshrine two tiers of writers, two kinds of books: those whose writers are well-thought of, or well-established enough that they can explore any or all of these themes in their books, and get payments processed for them … and the other tier – struggling indys all … who wouldn’t. This is the indy-book equivalent of that ghastly CPSIA legislation of 2008, which sought to banish all kinds of lead contamination from anything which might conceivably come near a person under the age of 12 … and instead put the kibosh on home-crafters and workshops making kids clothes and toys, and children’s books printed before a certain date … because there might be lead in the ink.

(Just FYI – my books are up at, also. I can truthfully say there is no bestiality, rape for titillation, incest or underage erotica in them. Just some rather mild adult erotica, and I’m not saying in which books or where – for that, you’ll have to read them yourself.)

Cross-posted at

8 thoughts on “You Know It When You See It”

  1. I would imagine if half the books in the writing universe had these subjects PayPal’s policy would be different.

    I have become ambivalent towards PayPal.

    Recently I discovered on my old sports car the shocks – which I had bought on ebay for $300 – were shot.

    Like a pair of old shoes suddenly you have an epiphany that – things are not as they should be .

    So I call PayPal and after waiting the obligatory 30 minutes to get someone live – discover that their records apparently don’t go back as far as my shock purchase. (they were a good 6-7 years ago).

    I mean, with disk storage prices as high as $100 for a terrabyte I can see why they delete those old records ;-)

    Anyway my “lifetime” shock warranty is worthless without a receipt.

    Getting back to my main contention – that if the numbers were higher for them they wouldn’t be so sanctimonious – ebay apparently sells a lot of porn ( not that I have ever bought any of that ;-) and apparently PayPal’s policy for a long time was to not offer their services for people who purchased “in that area”.

    Well apparently they wanted “some of that action” and reversed that policy.

    So I would say that their piety is predicated on potential sales – or am I too cynical?

    I think – as a buyer – you have a lot less protection with PayPal than simply paying with your own credit card. Some years ago – without veering into an unwanted tangent (for once) – a seller cheated me out of a refund for a defective item. He apparently knew there was only a 30 day window for a buyer to protest and dragged out our correspondence to 30 days.

    After that Paypal told me “Lo Siento

    That wouldn’t happen had I just put it on a credit card.

    All that Paypal is selling is a little more convenience – nothing more.

    Oh – Bank of America? Like Comcast i have never heard of anyone praising their service.

  2. I am basically a First Amendment purist. Unless something involves a crime under the common law [which would cover snuff films, kiddie porn, etc.] I believe that any adult should be able to read, see, or hear pretty much anything. I have thought of doing paypal for online shopping at eBay or Amazon; but not bothered. It is just as easy to use a prepaid Visa or Mastercard, gives you the benefits of using a credit or debit card, and if the transaction is compromised it does not expose your bank account the way a debit card would, or make you liable for massive credit card fraud like a regular credit card would. All you have at risk is what you put on the card.

    I am more and more inclined in these strange days not to engage in commerce with those who attack my principles and beliefs. Something I think should be more common. Paypal has the right to limit its transactions any way that it wants too. But I have a right to decide that I do not want them to decide what I can and cannot buy based on whatever changing criteria they wish to impose. I will not trade a moment’s convenience for granting them the power over me.

    Subotai Bahadur

  3. @Subotai – a market oriented guy who thinks that markets should determine things?

    What a strange attitude in this country these days ;-)

  4. Granted – there are a couple of ways to work around Paypal, and it has become very, very convenient to use it in the last couple of years, sometimes even more convenient than the credit card. Remember that story a couple of weeks ago about that Greek entrepeneur who wanted to set up a website to sell Greek olive oil and other specialty products, and got the unending runaround from the local banks in their quest to have the ability to process CC payments? IIRC, the financial authorities loaded them with a years’ worth of paperwork, inclunding wanting (I kid you not) a stool-sample from every one of the board members of his little corporation? Eventually the entrepeneurs gave up and went with Paypal for payment processing.
    This imbroglio with writers is the tempest-du-jour, though, as a lot of indy-writers use Paypal, and there are a lot of indy-writers using Smashwords to publish and distribute e-books. I think that a lot of them are furious at being screwed with by Paypal – because being indy-writers they are the most vulnerable to being screwed with … just because someone, somewhere has gotten into a high lather and decided that ‘something must be done!’ and assumed that this particular course of action would go down easily and without resistance.

  5. Paypal is free to do business with Smashwords or not as it sees fit. I agree with you at this is a silly reason. It doesn’t seem different to me than Steve Job’s directing Disney to end its association with McDonalds because of hamburgers.

  6. Mike – Yep – it was one of ebay’s shrewdest buys – unlike some of their other buys. Trying to use the web to find out what their business Turkey was – but Google isn’t helping.

    It was a “good” one as I recall…

Comments are closed.