There are lots of scary ideas out there about the internet becoming less free and more commercial. Here’s an idea we think can contribute to the sustainability of websites like Readux.
In monetary terms, Readux operates at a slight loss. I pay $7 per month for web hosting and…yeah that’s about it for Readux-related expenses. When you take labor into account though, Readux operates at an enormous loss.
As was to be expected; a girl doesn’t start a literary website to get rich nowadays.
However, we believe that what we do has value, and that’s why we’ve decided to start using voluntary social micropayment systems: Kachingle (based in the U.S.) and Flattr (based in Europe). You can see buttons for both systems in our right sidebar.
If you’re not familiar with micropayments, the idea is that you create an account with one of the above organizations. Choose an amount to put into the account every month (Flattr’s baseline is two Euro, Kachingle’s is five dollars), then distribute it among websites that you want to support.
Both organizations allow you to give money to sites not already “signed up” (the hitch is that they don’t have to accept it), so don’t worry if Readux is the only site you know of that uses them.
To be honest, we don’t expect to earn much money with micropayments anytime soon. (The dream of dreams is to be able to pay the contributors. Sigh.) If nothing else, it’s a way to remind people that real work goes into publications and that that work is worth something.
Also, it’s an opportunity to explore new literary economies, even if they’re not very developed ones. We know that literary and journalistic markets are collapsing; trying out new systems is a way to help our industry evolve and survive.
But there are also things about Flattr and Kachingle that we really love; the biggest point is that they don’t restrict access for people unable to contribute, unlike other payment systems.
As we mentioned when we made our articles available under Creative Commons licenses, the open exchange of information is what makes the internet such a great thing. And we think voluntary micropayments might be part of maintaining that greatness, supporting sites that readers believe provide a real service, and making their continuation possible. Micropayments are part of the internet utopia we want to live in.
So we’re suggesting that you choose a system, create an account, and compensate the people whose labor you benefit from.
This text by Amanda DeMarco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.