Paypal and A Few Links

First: Paypal. I've received a few messages asking why I haven't talked about Paypal's decision to dictate terms to booksellers about what they can and cannot sell. If you haven't read Jane's summary of all the important facts, that's the best source of information I've found.

Paypal's decision baffles me. I do not understand why they're attempting to dictate content sold by publishers. I do not understand why they're doing this, and it makes no sense on several levels. And of course the terms under which they are attempting to restrict content are all focused on sexuality, and not violence. 

But it's not like Paypal has a great record for being logical. Paypal screwed over Regretsy and didn't reverse their decision until the wrath of the internet was visited upon them, and they've shut off services for over other small businesses that sold erotic content. Paypal is doing what Paypal has done for awhile – in other words, like my husband says when someone does something that isn't surprising but drives me nuts anyway, “Expected behavior is expected.” 

So my own best option is to not do business with Paypal if I can avoid it. I do have some other options. But as Jane reported, there aren't alternate options for everyone, particularly those doing business overseas, who may not be able to cash checks in US dollars. 

The larger issue, obviously, is that Paypal has the market presence and dominance to tell booksellers what they can and cannot sell, and can, by virtue of being the biggest transaction service, police content. And sine they are the dominant entity, there's little to do except yell loudly and explore other options. 

However, mad props to Mark Coker at Smashwords who is not only continuing to talk to the folks at Paypal about their terms, but also shares his progress with us.

What do you use Paypal for? Are you changing your habits to use another company for online transactions? What services aside from Paypal do you recommend? 

The Popular Romance Project has a very cool video interview with cover artist Patricia Schmitt. What's amazing to me is that she is self-taught.

Superheroes: The Best of Philosophy and Pop Culture I am over at Kirkus this week, talking about digital lending and libraries, and comparing Amazon to the honey badger

Lord knows Amazon is like a honey badger: it really doesn't give a shit. “It just takes what it wants. Honey badger don't care.” And I don't fault the honey badger for being how it is any more than I fault Amazon for doing what's in its best interests business-wise. In other words, I don't expect honey badgers or Amazon to be cuddly.

And finally: for those of you that love comic super heroes, have a look at this free ebook from John Wiley & Sons publishing, Superheroes: The Best of Philosophy and Pop Culture. It's a free preview, but if you look at the reviews online, it seems to be a very thought-provoking book, ideal for those of you who love comic Superheroes.



The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    Josie says:

    I use PayPal for certain yarn purchases- either through sellers on Etsy, or through Ravelry. For you non-knitters/crocheters out there, Ravelry is an international online community for knitters/crocheters. Often times, members will sell yarn from their personal stashes, to make either room or money (usually both, for more yarn). PayPal has become the most commonly accepted method of payment, as it affords some protection to both the buyer and the seller- there’s pretty much no way around it. Aside from that, I will now avoid using PP wherever I can.

    And can I just say- it really, really burns my ass that the policy only seems to relate to sexual content, and not graphic violent content as well. Why is it more acceptable to write about literally ripping someone’s heart out, or dismembering them than it is to write about boinking your brother? (for the record, the incest genre is not to my taste any more than the dismembering genre is).

  2. 2
    Rij says:

    Just this morning I bought something with Paypal, a digital volume of yaoi manga with explicit sexual content. I bought from and it was my second purchase from them, used paypal both times too. The other option (for me anyway, I don’t know if US residents get more options, I’m in EU) was to pay via Amazon. Either large publishers can get past paypal’s restrictions or they’re not as rigid as the post made it appear.

    I’ve never had any problems with Paypal. I’ve used it buying books from eBay and online bookstores, no ebooks though. I’ve also used it for subscriptions to online streams of TV shows, no problems but no adult content either. Actually this is the first time I’ve heard about any problems with paypal. I’ve heard of lots of trouble between Amazon and publishers but this is the first that I’ve heard about trouble with paypal. I wish I could say that I would consider using other options in the future but geographical restrictions make that extremely inconvenient. I really really hate geographical restrictions on digital content, they make absolutely no sense.

  3. 3
    Lynne Connolly says:

    The Paypal thing is disappointing. It did provide a way for authors to receive smaller payments without too much penalty. In Europe and Australia, cheques are almost unheard of these days. Everything is done either in cash or electronically. So cashing cheques is becoming tricky.
    Many authors are paid by cheque and not all cheques are of the big fat variety. Banks charge upwards of £5 each (around $8) for handling cheques in a foreign currency. Until recently, my bank, Citibank UK, didn’t charge if a cheque was paid into an account of the same currency of the cheque, so I opened a dollar bank account. Now they’re charging, for all cheques and with around six publishers, it will cost me £360 every year to claim money that I’ve already earned. At today’s rates, that’s $573.
    Paypal’s pressure on morality clauses has meant that many publishers, most recently Samhain, have stopped paying or receiving payments that way. That means authors who might only get a small monthly amount are left with cheques that will leave them owing the bank money. The least I can find for handling cheques in a currency other than the one the person lives in (ie even paying a dollar cheque into a dollar account) is £5. I’ve seen as much as £15 (quoted to me by Santander, ironically a Spanish bank now big in the UK).
    With ebay, Amazon and so on dealing in dollars as well as sterling and AUS dollars, it seems so isolationist as to be living in the Dark Ages. With Paypal making things difficult for publishers, that leaves few other courses.
    Since 9/11, opening a US bank account is almost impossible for people not living there. Offshore bank accounts require a substantial investment, £5,000 and up. Wiring money would seem the obvious solution, but it costs the sender and the person receiving the money, so publishers refuse to do that.

  4. 4
    Mikaela Lind says:

    Isn’t there any UK equivalents to Paypal?  I would suggest Payson, but their webpage and menus etc is in Swedish.

  5. 5
    Ros Clarke says:

    Lynne, I haven’t used it myself but someone else recommended Auctionchex.  Looks like they charge £1.20 per batch of cheques (so you can send several at a time), which is pretty reasonable.

  6. 6
    Laurel says:

    I only use PayPal if I absolutely have to. Based on my experiences with them, they are essentially unethical. Funds get arbitrarily held for days at a time which serves no purpose other than to allow PayPal a couple of days to collect interest on someone else’s money.

    The worst example was maybe three years ago. One internet buddy had a house fire. Total loss. Another friend in my internet circle started a PayPal account to collect donations for the victim of the house fire. Once the account reached $5000.00, PayPal put a hold on it. The only reason given was, “Oh, yeah. Once you have that much money in one account we have to hold the funds for a few days.” And then they cited a banking regulation that did not apply on any level. The upshot was that the guy who needed the money didn’t get it for a couple of weeks.

    I know of several instances where they have done the same thing to other people. I have no idea whether or not that is a legal practice, but it’s definitely not right.

  7. 7
    Karin says:

    You should read this New Yorker profile of Paypal’s founder, major jerk and hypocrite
    Peter Thiel. It explains a lot.…

  8. 8
    Pgagnon1951 says:

    This is so weird.  My daughter and niece were recently exchanging comments on The Handmaid’s Tale via Facebook.  So perhaps that is the reason that this whole Paypal thing brings that book to mind.  The obvious censorship issue doesn’t summon up Atwood’s dystopia so much; rather, there is a sense that there are hidden forces operating to further an underhanded agenda.  I read THT a very long time ago, but one of the things that really stayed with me was the way that financial institutions became a tool in the systematic disempowering of women and other undesirables.  It seemed so plausible in a subtly horrific way.  The tactics employed by PayPal and their financial partners squick me out in exactly the same manner.  I’m no fan of the more extreme and/or illegal forms of erotica, but this ill-defined, sneaky attempt at censorship disempowers those with the least power to begin with and is just wrong. 

  9. 9
    Donna says:

    I always list “The Handmaid’s Tale” as the scariest book ever written.
    Also, since I really only opened a Paypal account to shop the Quilt Pink auction on Ebay a few years back and have only used it once or twice since, I’m moseying over to close my account. I’ll certainly let them know why if they’re interested enough to ask.

  10. 10
    PamG says:

    Regarding the publishing/library/Overdrive problem— When ebooks first became lendable, many libraries used Overdrive software despite the fact that it was limited to PCs and non-proprietary ebook readers (Nook excepted).  Over time, Overdrive did address these problems, but the Kindle was the last hold out, and making library books available for Kindle required quite a bit of canoodling with Amazon.  I’m no expert on this topic, but I don’t think that the onus is entirely on Overdrive.  I think that the publishers are exhibiting some definite badger-like tendencies of their own, only they don’t eat beehives and cobras; they gnaw on libraries.

  11. 11
    Jshuppert says:

    I live in Australia, and use PayPal for purchases in foreign currency.  PayPal does the conversion and charges me in $AUD, so I save on foreign exchange fees.  I have used if for purchases as wide ranging as books, embroidery supplies and holiday accommodation.  I have a real problem with their policy, but don’t really have an alternative, affordable, means of doing foreign currency transactions.

  12. 12
    SusannaG says:

    I do not use PayPal, and am less likely to ever do so after reading about this.

  13. 13

    I use paypal for ebay stuff.  They are excellent about reversing charges when the transaction is questionable. But it is a weird set up.  I had a late charge that I was charged a late payment fee on and it is like the snowball going down the hill.  But when I pointed out I was paid in full every month for the last two years or so and there was never a late payment and never a late fee posted to my account, they don’t argue, they reverse it.  So I guess that is good.  I felt very polarized about the censorship thing but after reading so many different view points, I am pretty much thinking Paypal is acting kind of fascist. What can/will be done about it is very complex.  Mark Coker certainly seems to be staying level headed about it all.

  14. 14
    The Other Susan says:

    Oh wow.  I only use Paypal for very infrequent purchases on eBay – last time was in December for a present for my mom.  Sheesh.  Obviously Paypal has an agenda.  Otherwise, why would they care what people pay for through them?

    I’ll consider closing my account.

  15. 15
    DONNA says:

    Does this mean that Ellora’s Cave will not be using PayPal as a payment method any longer? I know that LooseId does not use them for these very reasons –  they’ve stated it on their website for years. They are my main payment vendor and I probably would do a lot less online shopping if PP wasn’t an option.

  16. 16
    De says:

    Freegal is the music service.  A library, or whatever, can buy access and then then ppl download and keep music forever.  It’s like if you went to Amazon or iTunes and used the library’s money to go shopping, only they limited you to X per week.

    They have a new thing called Freading.  Your library subscribes to Freading, they set how many ‘tokens’ per week each patron can use, and then patrons use the tokens to *rent* books.  How many tokens a book is worth depends mostly on how old it is, renewals don’t cost as many tokens as new check outs.  Adobe DRM epub It’s all in their FAQ.  The advantage of this over Overdrive is that there’s not waiting list.  If 50 ppl want to read SpiffyBestseller, they can all read it at the same time.  No 1 patron to 1 copy like with Overdrive.  But my understanding is that they don’t have the newer books.  The discussion I was seeing was mostly libraries wanting to use Freading to supplement Overdrive.

    The 3M thing, has been getting the most publicity in Kansas.  I can’t find anything saying anyone else is actually using them.  But then I’m not digging hard. Here’s their info:…


  17. 17
    GHN says:

    I use Paypal a lot, because I do a lot of online shopping – and using it is easy and convenient, and works with vendors all over the world. and I don’t need to spreas my CC# all over the Interwebs.
    Considering the shenanigans I have read about in the last few months makes me wish there were an alternative with a similar coverage.

  18. 18
    Cialina says:

    This is so disheartening to hear especially since I am a Paypal user and I can’t think of any alternative that I would trust with my bank or credit cards. :/

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