imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

a blog that reclines to the left


Save those quarters

2 July 2003

Ampersand reports that Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, has a new comic on his Web site, The Right Number, which you can read over the Web for a quarter.

That is, if you pay him a quarter, you can view the comic up to 32 times over the next six months.

That is, if you deposit at least three dollars into an account at BitPass, you can then deduct 25 cents from that account in order to view the comic up to 32 times over the next six months. The other $2.75 can be used to pay for other McCloud comics, or the works of Dr. Joshua Ellis, whoever he is, or products from whoever else signs up with BitPass in the future. If you never do anything else with that BitPass account for a year, you get charged an inactivity fee of three dollars a month.

(I can’t tell how much of that quarter actually goes into McCloud’s pocket, and how much BitPass takes; the FAQ for BitPass “Earners” is password-protected.)

Ampersand remarks: “If it works, this will begin the next age, and maybe — just maybe — a new flourishing of comics worth reading.” Unfortunately, micropayments have been touted as the future of the Web for the past five and a half years, and I see nothing about BitPass to make me believe that it will succeed where its predecessors have failed.

Craig Shirky’s Case Against Micropayments is as compelling as ever. The effort of deciding “is this thing worth buying or not?” is a transaction cost that a consumer pays with every purchase, no matter how low the purchase price. To save themselves the burden of making this decision over and over and over again, consumers usually prefer subscription-based, unlimited-usage services over pay-as-you-go services, even if they would save more money with the pay-as-you-go option.