Monday, 9 July 2012

The dented tin cup

If you follow my blog, or know me personally, then you'll realise that I'm not a fan of DRM on books, music, films or games. Big publishers think people as a whole can't be trusted, so implement systems to try and force people to behave. Whereas I like to think that most people can be trusted, and those who can't aren't worth worrying about anyway.

In my case I find myself sometimes buying things I don't even want, just to support things I like. "Wowzers! A new publisher is trialling making their game DRM-free on GOG - I don't want the game but I want the trial to be a success, so I'll buy it!" or "By Jupiter! The next Humble Indie Bundle is out!" It's a bit like the charity donations we all make (but with a bonus game at the end of it).

In a similar vein I often wish it was easier to donate money to things you have enjoyed. Maybe someone gave away an e-book for free, and I really enjoyed it - I may then want to donate some money to say thanks. Of course, in some cases you can go off and buy another of their works, but you get my point. Maybe you loved the music in a game and wanted the musician to get more money, or were amazed at a particular short story in a collection by various writers. Perhaps someone passed a second-hand copy of a book to you. Maybe you downloaded a torrent to try something out. The point is that it would be nice to be able to donate when you wanted to, to any person or cause or writer or musician you wished, and for it to be easy and painless... well, as painless as giving away money can ever be... A sort of national directory where you just click a button and set an amount and 'ping!' the money goes where you want it.

There isn't one. But it is possible to set up a donation button. I've even done one here! (And a thank you page here). Then people who got a copy of my work for free during a promotion, or via a torrent, or passed on by a friend, can donate on a 'pay whatever you want' basis if they enjoyed what they read.

[Important note to any eccentric billionaires wanting to support writers: feel free to donate to the 'cake, pens and writing retreat' fund.]

"Hey Karl, how do I get one of those?"

If you're a creative person or a worthy cause then you might want one too. There are many payment providers but I only know about Paypal I'm afraid. I should clarify that the person giving money doesn't need a Paypal account, just a bank account.

To create a button, log in to your Paypal account. Select the option 'Profile' near the top of the page, and choose 'My Selling Preferences'. Then select 'Update' next to 'PayPal buttons'.

You can then create buttons for selling items at a fixed price, or setting up a subscription. To create a donations one where people can set their own price, then on the right hand side under 'Related items' you need to choose 'Create New Button'. You can then select 'Donations' as the button type and type in your organisation name/service. Work through the form, setting whatever options you want. Finally, select 'Create Button' near the bottom of the page. This will generate HTML code which you can copy and paste onto your website. There is also a link you can email to people.

At first I was worried about using a donation button, since the information I'd found made it seem like it only applied to registered charities. However, Paypal confirmed that you don't have to be a charity - it just affects how much of a cut they take from every payment. They told me:

"If you were a registered charity, once you had submitted the charity registration details, we would process payments at our reduced charity rate of 1.4% + 20p. With your account, you will be charged our standard rate of 3.4% + 20p for every payment you receive."

I hope that is useful to any other people who want to set up an easy payment or donation system.