Saturday, February 10th, 2007

How much do you want to pay?

We were inspired by something John Buckman is doing at the online record label Magnatune. When you buy a CD, Magnatune asks “How much do you want to pay?” and gives you a price menu. You can’t pay nothing, but you get some latitude. You can low-ball them a bit, or, if you’re feeling grateful, pay more.

It sounded like a fun idea to us. We’ve had people—and not a few—pay twice to thank us. But we’ve also had emails from people who say they’ll buy a membership next time they get their pay check, disability, etc. That kills us, so we’ve given out a lot of “pending” membership.*

The “typical” amount is the old fixed amount: $10 for a year’s membership, $25 for a lifetime membership. I’m dying to find out if we take a bath, break even or pick up a few extra bucks. Anyway, we’re going to try it out until Valentine’s day at least. (Speaking of which, don’t forget the ten-million book/Valentine’s day/President’s day bookpile contest.)

We learned about Magnatune’s idea watching a Japanese piece on John Buckman on YouTube. Buckman was in Japan to speak at the New Context Conference 2006. The guy in the cowboy hat interview him in English, added highlights from his talk, and explanatory wrapper in Japanese. (Here he explains the pricing idea, but those are the only English words, so I have no idea what he says about it.)

Buckman is, of course, also the founder of BookMooch, the largest book-swapping site out there.** LibraryThing and Bookmooch have warm relations—lots of shared users and mutual linking—and I’ve spoken to Buckman a few times. He “gets it,” so we’re happy to borrow an idea from him.

* My favorite “pending” account was the U. S. diplomat in central Asia, who wondered if she could pay us when she rotated back and we couldn’t offered to send us a check via diplomatic pouch. I really want to send a CueCat via diplomatic pouch!
** Judged by Alexa traffic (28,185 vs. 31,032 for PBS on 2/10), not that Alexa means much. PaperbackSwap has been around longer, and may have more members, but it’s a walled garden and, we think, not going anywhere until it opens up.

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