[SEE NEWER LIST] Erotica Book Banning Round-Up

[ETA 1: For my previous in-depth post on the PayPal / Visa / MasterCard / Siren-BookStrand / All Romance eBooks Book Banning Fiasco, go here.]

[ETA 2: I made a new updated round-up. All of the updates will be on Part 2. Please link there, not here. Thanks!]

Let’s Get Serious

I really don’t think it has hit home to the vast numbers of writers who publish ebooks how tenuous our hold on internet distribution really is. No one in my RSS subscriptions outside of the tech world save Sarah Hoyt and David Gaughran commented when half of the Internet protested SOPA and PIPA. It’s unclear whether most independent authors just didn’t understand how dangerous those bills were or somehow thought they were beneficial (!) to them out of some misguided belief that it’s important to fight “piracy” using a sledgehammer when a scalpel is required.

I realize it’s hard to show sympathy for fiction mixed in with bad fiction (poorly produced content in this case), especially if the writers affected write in subgenres you may find offensive. The problem is that with categories so broadly defined as “rape for titillation,” you’re talking about subjective opinions. I think a lot of people secretly get off on sexual violence in crime novels. So what? Under these terms, any police procedural or SVU-like story with any details whatsoever could run afoul of such guidelines. They’re so broad as to be meaningless, even though what they’re meant to do is shame erotica writers into quitting or writing vanilla sex scenes. Because that’s the ultimate goal here: to make business run as smoothly as possible without customer complaints and payments in danger.

Here’s what I posted to Tessie L’Amour’s first post:

Ah. As you said, good implies a value judgment. Perhaps different labels would have been clearer.

Of course companies have the right to choose what they publish. What concerns me is the tendency of some authors to breathe a sigh of relief because the majority of THEIR work isn’t on the ban list…yet. Instead of calling Visa, MasterCard, and Pay Pal to contest their conflation of erotica with pr0n, Bookstrand caved in right away and starting deleting and quarantining books. This is their right; it doesn’t make it ethical or reasonable or even a good business decision.

PayPal has indicated to Selina Kitt — who, for those who don’t know, runs her own estore for erotica — that it’s not just the step-children and barely legal stories that are unacceptable. Their rep made clear that PayPal (eBay) considers BDSM, an incredibly broad term encompassing everything from silk scarves to dungeon play and beyond, to be rape and therefore in violation of their policies, no matter what Visa and MasterCard may say. While this sounds ridiculous, it should make all writers extremely nervous. The slippery slope of pr0n police ‘creep’ has turned into a full-on series of broad ‘lurches’ and ‘leaps.’

To me, this indicates that they are simply doing keyword searches to find ‘obscene’ titles and are too lazy to actually screen samples and such, meaning that there are likely many, MANY more titles not in compliance with their policies that have slipped through the cracks because authors weren’t as overt in labeling them. All it will take is one irate, prudish customer to complain, and the whole process could start all over again. PayPal may arbitrarily decide that romance bookstores aren’t worth the hassle and simply freeze the accounts anyway and seize the funds without explanation. They do this ALL OF THE TIME.

The bottom line is this: when a few companies with enormous amounts of power suddenly decide to cut out half of your revenue stream (whether or not there is a fundamental misunderstanding of your business), the only option left that will ensure the other half of your revenue stays viable in the future is to fight, and fight publicly.

Link Round-Up

Selina Kitt:
Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship (Lots of Comments)
Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship (Personal Website)

Marlene Sexton:
PayPal, BookStrand and Censorship
PayPal, BookStrand and Censorship, Part 2
PayPal Is At It Again!

Dear Author:

Monday News and Deals: Paypal Obscenity Crackdown, Fake Amazon Reviews, & Earnings Roundup

Tuesday News: New Nook Pricing, Kindle Rumors, Reader Data, and Paypal Clarification
All Romance Ebooks Clarification

Adelaide Cooper:
Bookstrand, Paypal and Site Move… Oh My!
The PayPal Fiasco Continues
Indie Authors Now Banned from BookStrand

Tessie L’Amour:
Censorship spreading to eBookstores?
All those angered by censorship should take notice
BookStrand stops selling Indie titles entirely
All Romance eBooks has unilaterally de-listed some of my books

One-Handed Writers:
Censorship… Who Has the Right?

Putting the World According to PayPal in Perspective (Funny)

BANNED from BookStrand and All Romance eBooks (Katie Cramer)
Banned by PayPal (Saffron Sands)
Here’s the Thing… (Rachel Boleyn)
Censorship And PayPal: UnConstitutional and WRONG (J. S. Wayne)

Business, Idiocy, Independent Publishing, Problems, Publishers Behaving Badly, Publishing Industry , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 responses to [SEE NEWER LIST] Erotica Book Banning Round-Up

  1. Hi, S.V.!
    I wanted to thank you for the link to my own observations on this fiasco at my blog. However, I felt you needed to know you misquoted my name as Wayne Borean (?) when in fact it is J.S. Wayne.
    With regard to your own post, I can’t help but agree. One commentator on my blog quoted Martin Neimoller, a German minister, on the dangers of not speaking out when you know something is clearly wrong. The petition to urge PayPal and credit card companies to stop this random and senseless censorship is gaining momentum and strength, and hopefully, enough readers and authors will recognize the precarious situation we’re in to vote with their wallets and make PayPal see reason.


    J.S. Wayne

    • svrowle

      Whoops! So sorry about the wrong name, J.S. I fixed that.

      I do hope that authors and publishers reach out not just to PayPal but to the credit card companies for a clarification of guidelines or a review, if possible, of chargebacks on erotica ebooks. I bet if any amount of effort was expended on this, the data would prove ebooks are nowhere near as high risk in terms of fraud as other adult entertainment.

  2. S.V.
    Thank you for taking the time to put together such a comprehensive list of links on this issue.
    Great post and I couldn’t agree more!

    Saffron Sands

    • svrowle

      Thanks, Saffron! I think it’s an important and under-reported topic, so I’m just doing my part to give it a signal-boost. 🙂

  3. Great post! Its not that we lost PI, barely legal or whatever. I mean it’s worth fighting for, but its the precedent. As you stated, PayPal had said they consider BDSM rape. What if they decide they consider M/M, F/F or TG obscene? What if anal is targeted? What if your political or religious views are censored? Consider the power PayPal wields. You’re brand of erotica may not have been targeted today, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

    By the way, I got a new post not on your list. I’m directing people here for that list. Thanks for putting it together.

    • svrowle

      All good points, Marlene. Did you see that Mark Coker’s language on rape was a little unclear? I think he means they’re just banning rape as titillation, but there is nothing to stop people from being titillated by reading any other kind of fiction where rape is explicitly described — and that’s most crime books, a lot of historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, horror… why is it okay to be titillated by other genre fiction about rape but not by erotica? Simply because some people find it distasteful? How are “torture p*rn” films like Hostel or their literary equivalents so much less subjectively offensive yet not under any of the same restrictions?

      If it comes out that erotica has a low chargeback rate (and Selina Kitt has the sales numbers supposedly to prove it), there is NO excuse for the CC companies to keep treating it like visual pr0n or the rest of adult entertainment. This will show that there are underlying prejudices at work here, that some parts of American commerce glorify violence and simultaneously shove sexuality on consumers but shun it when prudes call it “deviant,” meaning anything other than vanilla missionary position m/f sex.

      I’m actually working on two posts now – one on the discrepancies between the warnings and the restrictions, and another round-up post. I will be sure to include your post. Please leave another comment here if you find other links that I’ve missed out on. Thanks again!

  4. I’ve linked this entry to mine: http://eripike.blogspot.com/2012/02/erotic-censorship-and-home-for-homeless.html

    You might be interested to know that No Boundaries Press is fighting by offering those homeless “questionable” titles a home in their store. They’re also taking very little sales fee for their sales (25% if I understood correctly).

    • svrowle

      Thanks so much, Erica! I will add your post to my upcoming round-up #2 tonight. That’s really good news about No Boundaries Press, as well. Good to know someone is standing up to the corporate bullying.

  5. Thank you for this reasoned, passionate and clear-worded post. It means a lot to have your voice added to the chorus. And thank you so much for the wonderful link list you provide at the bottom. Brava!

  6. E T

    PayPal make a big play on how safe your money is with them and how trustworthy they are. A viral slogan campaign ‘PayPal: if you can’t afford to lo$e it, don’t use it’ would attack that position?