Who Moved My Book?

It bothers me that the year is now 2012 and book-banning is still a topic of conversation. Shouldn’t we, as a society, have moved past this by now? We have not. And as long as we have individual thinkers, censorship will exist. There will never be a time when everyone agrees on everything.

For most people the term “book banning” causes a knee-jerk reaction of outrage. And it should. But maybe the term is over-used. “Censorship” is probably more accurate. To my knowledge, there’s no big government agency out there insisting that all copies of an “offensive” book be destroyed and that no one is allowed to read it. Most of the reports of book banning are in regards to schools across the country. Parents and/or school boards find something inappropriate for the kids under their protection, and they insist on having it removed from the curriculum and/or the school library.

Some of the reasons they find these books offensive or inappropriate are appalling to me, but ultimately, they haven’t banned the book in question. It’s still available for purchase in any number of outlets. Yes, in theory they’ve kept their child from reading something they consider harmful, but they haven’t stopped my child. In fact, I might be tempted to purchase a book I’ve never heard of before, just to see what all the stink is about. So will a lot of other people. Go ahead. Get in a flap about a book. The author will thank you for the increase in sales.

So, while I support Banned Book Week, I’m not that concerned about it. It’s a week of reading through fascinating stories of well-meaning folks doing stupid things. Meh. Everybody has to follow their conscience. Personally, I’d rather have my kids exposed to some of the ugly truths of the world, rather than shelter them until those things smack them in their faces later on in life. But that’s my choice. Move the books around in the library. Whatever.

However. There’s a big stinky mess going on throughout the Internet right now about PayPal. Here’s an article to get you in the loop if you haven’t heard: PayPal Takes Controversial Stance Against Sex. In a nutshell, PayPal, which is basically an unregulated monopoly, has decided to dictate what books can be available on a bookseller’s website. Smashwords is their current target, but other booksellers, some of them specializing in erotica, are now being told which subjects are taboo. You probably won’t be surprised that the main off-limits topics are bestiality, incest, rape, and underage sex. Sure. Okay. But they’re also adding pseudo-incest (relatives by marriage, like stepbrother and stepsister) and BDSM (which is totally consensual, otherwise it’s called rape).

I understand that PayPal is a company, which gives them the right to deny service to anyone they like, for whatever reason they see fit. The problem here is that they’re a financial institution, and the alternatives to their service are not ones which most people find trustworthy. They’re lobbying in Washington to keep from being called a bank so they won’t be regulated.

This is all kinds of disturbing. I know people who are cancelling their PayPal accounts over this. It’s not the first time PayPal has done something like it, either. In the past, they decided who was and wasn’t a proper charity, denying service and freezing assets of those they deemed unqualified.

So, here’s the question: Are we outraged that PayPal is using its unique positioning to dictate what its customers (the booksellers) can sell, thereby censoring them, or are they simply a company expressing their right to choose who they do business with?

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

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