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The BitPass revolution?

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It’s a deceptively simple idea: Facilitate small payments for online content. But BitPass could have huge implications for indie filmmakers and other artists for whom neither an advertising business model nor a subscription model makes sense. BitPass makes the micropayment dream a reality. You can charge as little as a penny. And it just…works.

At first, from a distance, BitPass looks like PayPal. But it adds a simple innovation that makes all the difference: The “spender” (BitPass’s word for customer) gets her stuff right away. Once you have your BitPass card, you just click once to buy, click again to confirm, and you are immediately experiencing whatever it is you just bought.

BitPassIt’s in beta right now, but it worked beautifully for me. I went over to BitPass and had my BitPass “card” in under a minute. A few seconds later I was experiencing Scott McCloud’s new online comic, The Right Number. For a quarter. And then I downloaded some (DRM-free) music for 50 cents. And then a dime novel. For a dime. And at that point I had spent less than I would have for one corporate rock song at the Apple iTunes Music Store.

BitPass is new (public beta launched June 30), and the “earners”–BitPass’s term for artists/sellers–are restricted to those who are working closely with BitPass for now (although you can sign up to be ready when BitPass finishes its beta period).

But you can still get some cool stuff right now, and I would highlight one artist in particular:

coverScott McCloud: “Genius” is a term that should be used sparingly and should be used to describe Scott McCloud. His 1993 book Understanding Comics is one of the greatest books I have ever read on playwriting and filmmaking–and it doesn’t appear to be about either of those fields at first glance. Whenever I launch a major new project, I read three books: Aristotle’s Poetics, David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife, and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. The notion for the “forensic” 3D animation in my movie Nothing So Strange came directly from McCloud’s writing on icons. As a former script reader, I really wish budding screenwriters would stop reading Syd Field and start reading McCloud’s far more illuminating examination of “sequential art.”

Scott McCloudScott McCloud’s second book, Reinventing Comics, a less theoretical work, basically laid the groundwork for what he’s doing now online. McCloud has been dying for micropayments to be a reality for a long time (he’s listed as an advisor to BitPass), and, with his inimitable clarity and skill, he partly explains why here.

McCloud has just launched a feature on his site/blog called The Morning Improv, in which you can track his efforts as he composes a comic for “one hour each day, whatever comes into my head.” The feature will be free, although apparently soon you will be able to vote on the titles of the strips he creates for an online micropayment donation (you’ll literally be able to put in your two cents).

More fully realized is The Right Number, a beautifully told story (part 1 of 3 apparently) that showcases McCloud’s considerable and varied talents–at drawing, prose, story structure and more. The great thing about McCloud is that he is not just a visionary and technical innovator (the dude just can’t stop thinking)–he has the goods to show that wonderful art can be the result of innovation. He engages your mind, but he gets you in the gut, too.

Thank BitPass for this: There are no annoying ads to look at while you experience The Right Number. McCloud didn’t have to seek corporate sponsorship. And you don’t have to pay a $20 subscription fee to see his work. All you put at risk is a quarter. And believe me, by the time you get to the haunting conclusion of The Right Number, you’ll be happy to have spent the quarter.

Further reading:

Scott McCloud: I Can’t Stop Thinking #5: Coins of the Realm

Slashdot discussion: Scott McCloud tries Webcomic Micropayment

CBR News: He’s Got Your Number: McCloud Launches ‘The Right Number’ Online

US News: Interview with Scott McCloud

PaidContent.org: Guy Kawasaki is at it again

Nothings.org: Micropayment barriers

(Cross-posted to Brian Flemming’s Weblog and Nothing So Strange)

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