The Litte Cash Register that Couldn’t: Why the PayPal Ban Should Scare You #paypal #censorship

March 6, 2012

Chances are recent policy implementations by PayPal to refuse to process the transactions of all books from online eBook retailers such as AllRomance Ebooks, Smashwords and Bookstrand unless they remove certain books from their virtual shelves has not yet affected you. Indeed, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Who cares if you can’t buy fiction that includes bestiality, incest, rape or underage sex? Good riddance to bad rubbish, you might say.

I could appeal to you on literary grounds and say that the subjects they have decided to ban are strong themes in many classic literary works.

I could appeal to you on ideological grounds. These books are not illegal. Fiction that describes criminality is simply fiction. It doesn’t endorse those behaviors. It simply deals with them in a fictional realm, which is perfectly legal. Like thrillers or murder mysteries.

But I’m not going to do that. (Well, I have, but let us move on quickly).

As a writer, I find that metaphors are marvelous tools for allowing you to see a problem clearly. You search for an analogue, a similarly patterned event, against which to test your understanding of the issues. And all week I’ve been doing that. Asking people for metaphors for this situation. This was a real eye opener. One writer said it was like going to the bank and having the teller ask you what you were going to spend the money you were withdrawing on before he or she would give it to you. Another person said it was like an electrician deciding on what you should have on your book case. There were many, and they were all good, but none of them really hit the mark.

Finally, I realized the reason it was so hard to come up with a metaphor for this is because it’s so absurd. But finally, I came up with one.

This is like having the electronic cash register refusing to operate whenever you try and make a purchase of a book it decides it doesn’t like.

Now, please consider. If this cash register has decided not to be operational for my book… what sale will it decide not to process next?

So be scared. Be very scared.