It’s been a few years since Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics was published. In that time, a couple digital cash companies have probably closed their doors, and thousands of web comics have been created by artists with little expectation of even covering their costs.
Peppercoin is the latest company trying to solve this problem (not just for web comics, but for any small purchase, such as music downloads). An article on Technology Review covers the details, and I have to admit it’s a pretty clever idea:
"One transaction out of a hundred, selected at random, is sent to Peppercoin. After Peppercoin pays the seller 100 times the value of that transaction, it bills the customer for all of her outstanding purchases from all sites that use Peppercoin. Since about one out of a hundred purchases is processed, her last bill will have come, on average, a hundred purchases ago. That's the trick: by paying the seller and charging the customer in lump sums every 100 purchases or so, Peppercoin avoids paying the fees charged by credit card -- roughly 25 cents per transaction -- on the other 99 purchases."
But it still requires the user to install new software. The content will have to be extremely compelling for people to install new software they’ve never heard of just to access it. Even BitPass, a competing service just getting started, is completely browser based. As is PayPal, for that matter.
Meanwhile, we recently resubscribed to the local paper. (You know, the physical one that shows up on our driveway every morning.) Imagine my surprise that the comics section is now a full one-and-a-half pages, not just the one page when I was growing up. Now that’s progress.