Smashwords is continuing to try to find a way around its recent problems with Paypal. It was reported last week that due to Paypal rules, books featuring incest, beastiality and rape would have to be unpublished. Now the deadline for withdrawing such books has apparently been extended while the two companies continue to discuss a solution.
Protests and petitions have sprung up to fight what some see as censorship. Now Smashwords have confirmed that they are working with Paypal to come up with a more relaxed set of rules that would allow books that feature the taboo subjects to remain as long as they are incidental to the plot rather than the main theme. So erotica focusing on these subjects would probably remain banned, but books that feature them tangentially (e.g. crime fiction) would be okay.
Either way, it’s clear that Smashwords is putting up a fight and is trying to come to some kind of resolution that won’t simply result in a blanket ban on certain themes in the books published via their service. It remains to be seen how far they get, and as Smashwords has noted the problem isn’t Paypal but the credit card companies and banks who are able to enforce their own decisions and pass them along the chain. The question now is whether Smashwords finds a way to continue their relationship with Paypal, or has to take the pain of setting up an entirely new payment system for authors.
This clearly isn’t a Smashwords problem as such, or a Paypal problem. Instead, it seems to be a problem caused by the fact that all around the world most of us are reliant upon a few small number of very similar services. If the US banking industry doesn’t want payments processed for a certain type of product, selling that product online suddenly becomes hugely difficult. And while the debate today might be about niche porn, tomorrow it could be about something else. The only solution would seem to be genuine alternative payment systems, but for the most part they barely exist because ultimately they – like Paypal – are dependant upon the existing system.