This email began transmitting Monday, March 5 to hundreds of thousands of registered Smashwords members, mostly customers.  It is not going to Smashwords authors and publishers because they already received a substantially similar update in the March 2 email which only went to authors and publishers (PayPal #3).  This is the first time most customers of the store will learn about the PayPal discussion.


Smashwords Member Alert - March 5, 2012




1.  Read an Ebook Week sale on now at !

2.  Censoring ebooks – The Smashwords/PayPal conundrum

3.  Helpful links

4.  Account access info, opting out (at bottom of email)


Your Smashwords page:^^username^^

Smashwords account created:  ^^joindate^^







Our annual Read an Ebook Week sale is now underway.  The sale ends Saturday.

Access over 20,000 free and deep-discounted ebooks.

Simply click to then click to the Read an Ebook promotion catalog.

Here’s the direct link:

There are four coupon codes you can use for participating books:

25% off:   REW25 – 2,300+ ebooks

50% off:   REW50 – 5,700+ ebooks

75% off:   REW75 – 900+ ebooks

100% off:  RE100 – 2,800+ ebooks

In addition to the limited-time deals above, Smashwords offers over 100,000 original ebooks at everyday low prices.  Over 13,000 Smashwords ebooks are regularly priced at FREE.  The average price of a Smashwords ebook is under $5.00.

Why are our prices so low?  It’s because you’re purchasing direct from the author.  When you purchase a Smashwords book, the author earns 85% of the net proceeds from the sale.  Thank you for supporting our authors!

Smashwords ebooks are multi-format and DRM-free, so you can read them on virtually an e-reading device, including the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iPad/iPhone/Touch, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, personal computers and most smart phones and tablets.

You can also purchase most Smashwords ebooks at your favorite ebook retailers, including the Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store.  The codes above are only available for books purchased at the Smashwords store.  In the future, we’d like to expand this annual promotion to our retail partners.



2.   PayPal Censorship


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 associations.   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.

This story, out today by TechDirt, does a good job of summarizing the timeline of events and the issues involved:

The case has even spawned a hilarious $.99 parody ebook titled, TWO PEOPLE HAVING SEX

There’s a petition at if you wish to sign it:

A few independent privacy-rights and anti-censorship organizations have stepped in to challenge PayPal on their policies, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).  More are likely to sign on.  Here are some quick links:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation:


Our view at Smashwords:  We believe it’s wrong for credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions to censor legal fiction.  We believe this censorship is targeting a small subset of erotica fiction.  The same censored themes are prevalent in much mainstream fiction.  We believe it would be unfair to authors and readers alike for any organization to censor what writers are allowed to imagine and what readers are allowed to read.  If the PayPal restrictions were broadly implemented, many mainstream classics including Nabokov’s Lolita or Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind could technically be banned.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with its depiction of rape could be banned.  Even the Bible could fall under the net since it contains scenes of rape and incest.  We doubt a ban would be taken to such extremes, but therein lies the danger of censorship.  Where does it stop, and where do we draw the line?   It’s difficult for Smashwords or any other retailer, distributor or publisher to assume the role of moral arbiter when there’s so much grey area.  We’re engaged in ongoing discussions with our counterparts at PayPal to reach an equitable solution.

If you’re interested to learn more, or learn what you can do to help fight censorship, you can read my prior most recent email to Smashwords authors on this topic here: 






How to read Smashwords ebooks:

Frequently asked questions:

How to publish and distribute ebooks with Smashwords:

Smashwords blog:

Connect with fellow Smashwords readers and authors at Facebook:


Enjoy Read an Ebook Week!   If your favorite author isn’t yet at Smashwords, please ask them to publish with us.

Best wishes,



Mark Coker



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