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Waring: Contains Gratuitous Acronym Abuse

Do me a favor. Check out this page of webcomic honor-system goodie purchasing.

Whoops! Wrong link, that would be the Jonathan Coulton honor-system music recording purchase page; I meant to give you this one instead. That would be Chris Onstad’s new Achewood non-physical goods honor system purchase page. I’ve been kind of wondering when this sort of formalized storefront might make a prominent appearance in webcomics; there are plenty of pay-what-you-want operations primarily for things like wallpaper (viz.: here, here, or here), but those have usually used a “send money and tell me which item you want, I’ll send you stuff” mechanism. This formalized, storefront approach is new (or at least, new to me).

It’s even got the equivalent of the “I already stole it” feature over at JoCo’s page, in that you can buy an open pass for all current content or all current and future content for prices that represent some significant discounts from the nominal list prices. Consider: the current ANPGHSPP features fifteen items prices at US$3, and another six at US$6, for a total declared value of US$81; all of this can be yours for US$25 (approximately a 70% discount), or all of this plus all future content for US$50 (for a discount of 38%, assuming you never download future content4).

Given our discussion last week about perceived value and the appeal of a bargain, Onstad appears to have created a mechanism that will encourage people to give him money in exchange for work he’s already done, for essentially zero distribution costs. There is no part of this experiment that doesn’t work to his advantage, and it’s worth closely studying. If this is something that other creators can emulate, I’d suggest they do so.

It’s got to be especially appealing to Onstad given his stated dislike of the merch-fulfillment end of running a webcomic as a business. Achewood currently features a sponsorship page, subscriber-only material, and this ANPGHSPP, but no traditional store where one may exchange money for tangible goods. This is a damn shame as when Onstad was willing to produce tangible goods, there was terrific stuff there; I’m still willing — years later — to exchange money for the fabled and possibly mythical second Achewood Cookbook, but if making such a thing brings him no joy to a degree that would outweigh the benefit of my money, then I’ll have to live without. Finding a balance between creating art (to your own satisfaction as well as your audience’s) and keeping the lights on isn’t ever easy, and if the ANPGHSPP is a balance that Onstad can live with, good on him.

¹ Or WHSGP for short.

² Or JCHSMRPP if you prefer.

³ Also known as the ANPGHSPP; of course, if you neglect the “A” part, then the JCHSMRPP would also qualify as an NPGHSPP, as downloadable music is an NPG.

4 There are presently twelve additional items listed but not yet available on the ANPGHSPP; assuming they each end up going for the lowball price of US$3, that’s US$117 declared value for US$50, or a 57% discount. Undoubtedly, some of those will be priced higher than three bucks, and “anything forever” means more than just the presently-listed twelve future items, making for a significant potential savings.

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