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An open letter to Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2001 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Scott,

I?m writing this in response to *your* response to Jerry Holkins?s rant about ?Coin of the Realm.? For the most part, I agree with what you said: you?ve never said that micropayments were available right this second, you?ve never pretended that micropayments are the only option, and you?ve certainly never claimed to be the Lord High Mucky-Muck of the comics scene (although it seems that a lot of people *want* you to take that role--but that?s another story entirely).

However, I do take issue with one of your final points. At the end of the page you claim to have ?offered a solution? to the problem of making a living from online comics. The thing is, you *haven?t* provided a solution--not yet, anyway. There?s one vital piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed before your micropayment system can truly be considered a ?solution.?

As I see it, your main purpose with ?Coin of the Realm? was to ?sell? the idea of micropayments to two specific groups: the consumers, who would benefit by paying less money for better content, and the artists themselves, who would benefit by having more people willing to pay for that content. That?s fine, but the idea still needs to be sold to the one group that plays the most vital part in making micropayments a reality. I?m speaking, of course, about the business and technology people who would set up and maintain a micropayments system online--and it?s not entirely clear how *they* would benefit from doing so.

The main obstacle to the system is one you?ve acknowledged already--namely, that others have tried, and failed, to set up similar systems in the past. In light of this, and in light of the recent dot-com debacle, it?s going to take a helluva lot of persuasion to convince the average businessperson that it?s worth his or her while to make micropayments available for everyone to use (or not use, as the case may be).

I can think of a lot of questions that would come up on the business and technology end of the micropayments system. For example: Should a micropayments company expect to compete directly with credit card companies, and if so, how? What sort of ?entry price? does one set for both artist and reader to get them set up to make the transaction? What sort of storage medium should be used on the consumer?s end (flash memory devices, perhaps, or those little ?clik? drives that Iomega?s making now)? How do you keep people from ?counterfeiting? by copying the bits of code that represent money? And, most importantly: What sort of benefits, monetary or otherwise, does a company gain from people using their technology to push pennies around?

Scott, I cheerfully acknowledge that you?re not necessarily the one to answer these questions. I?m certainly not going to answer them--I don?t know enough about the technology to make sound judgments on that end of things. For all I know, some or all these questions may have already been answered by someone. My point is that there are real practical issues that need to be addressed before either artist or reader can benefit from micropayments.

In closing, let me say this: nobody ever changed the world by wishing. Publishing a big list of how and why you want the world to change can be a step in the right direction (hey, it worked for Thomas Jefferson, right?), but in and of itself it accomplishes nothing. Revolutions come about when somebody stops wishing and starts *doing* things to remake the world in the shape of their visions. That ?somebody? could be you, Scott, or it could be me, or it could be anyone. But until that day comes, the ?solution? you propose is still just science fiction.

--------------
Alycia Shedd
shed8216@uidaho.edu
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Scott McCloud
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Joined: 23 May 2001
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2001 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points all, Alycia. One thing though:

Quote:

but the idea still needs to be sold to the one group that plays the most vital part in making micropayments a reality. I?m speaking, of course, about the business and technology people who would set up and maintain a micropayments system online--and it?s not entirely clear how *they* would benefit from doing so.


Believe it or not, at least some of those people are reading these exchanges also, and often talk to me about just such issues. Keep an eye on my site and this board for future updates. As soon as one of these ventures becomes viable, you'll be the first to hear about it -- and you can bet I'll implement it!
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