Today, I invited Mike Saxton to guest-post. He’s the author of the 7Scorpians Triology. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting him face to face at an itsy-bitsy writer’s conference. There’s a special kind of glow surrounding him. He’s got a lot of energy and doesn’t make time for negative nonsense. Not to mention, he’s got a plethora of knowledge and experiences to share. You all should go check out his blog at 7Scorpians.
Okay. I’m turning this post over to Mike. He really keeps up with things Indies need to know.
PayPal, the online payment service we use to process credit card payments, has asked Smashwords to remove fiction that contains themes of bestiality, rape and incest. They tell us they are compelled to do this to remain compliant with the rules of the banks and credit card companies. Regardless on one’s opinions about these objectionable topics, we view this attempted censorship as a bad precedent. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real.
PayPal’s request has caused a firestorm of debate on the Internet about censorship, and what this means for the future of ebook publishing. Most people are horrified at the thought of any censorship, while others believe such content should be restricted. It’s a contentious debate.
Webster’s Dictionary Definition: censor - transitive verb - to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable <censor the news>; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable <censor out indecent passages>
I don't think there are very many people in the writing world who are unaware of the recent decree by Paypal to Smashwords to remove objectionable content as mentioned above. This is a hot topic because the literary world as a whole tends to be avidly against anything that could even be remotely viewed as censorship. But what is the basis of Paypal's request? Is it truly censorship?
Let's take a look. Below is the Webster definition of the word "censor". As you can see, by dictionary definition, what Paypal is doing could be construed as censorship but this is not the entire story. By the way, before I go further, do not construe this as agreement or disagreement with Paypal's decree. It's merely to show that there is more going on than tightwads with a stick up their asses.
For those who are unfamiliar with the business world, Paypal is owned by eBay, which is a publicly traded company. Publicly traded means that stocks are open to purchase to the general public (as opposed to an entity called an S-Corp, in which stocks are not necessarily open to the public and there is an upper limit as to the number of investors). No need to get into further details except for one thing. There is only one primary goal of a publicly traded company: to increase shareholder wealth. That's it. Every goal, every strategic plan, every media interview, every press release, every non-profit donation is meant to increase shareholder wealth either directly or indirectly. The kicker is stock values are mainly based on shareholder confidence.
So what does this little business lesson have to do with Paypal's "censorship" of Smashwords? Well, Paypal can't censor them. They can't dictate how Smashwords runs their business. What they can do, is decide whether or not it's in their best interest to continue to have the site as a client. In the business world, clients are fired just like employees are. When the relationship is not one that moves the company's goals forward, they fire the client. When I was a consultant, I sure did it. We need to realize that Smashwords developed a reputation for carrying a lot of questionable content. I actually decided not to post my books with them because I had seen a number of complaints that "all there is is porn and weird shit" (yes, I actually read that on someone's post).
So flash forward to now. Paypal has removed the decree and Smashwords will move forward as it had before. But what about shareholder confidence? What about taking a moral stand? Remember: publicly traded company. Smashwords is one of the largest, if not the largest distributor of Indie eBooks outside of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. That’s money in Paypal’s pocket and a lot of it for doing nothing more than processing payments. When it comes to building wealth, what do you think is going to win out more? Millions of dollars in revenue or taking some stand against a couple genres of books? This decree was nothing more than a publicity stunt and it worked like a charm. You’ve got to love the business world.
Just remember, next time you see an announcement like this that pisses you off, just wait before demanding petitions on Facebook and spamming everyone’s inbox with conspiracy theories. The world thrives on publicity, positive and negative. If the game makes you mad, don’t play.
Thanks for sharing this Mike. Hope to see you again. And thanks so much for the second copy to your triology. (He autographed it for me.)
And to the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed this and learned something, too.
I must go now. Got blood work to do.
Later in the ink all,