My job can be a bit repetitive and boring, so I like to keep myself entertained with podcasts and audiobooks. I listen to several hours of content every weekday day (well night since I work 3rd shift). One of the podcasts I listen to is Podcasting 2.0, a show about the open podcast movement, and value for value, hosted by the founders of The Podcast Index Adam Curry and Dave Jones.
For a few months now both Adam and Dave have talked about value 4 value (v4v) audiobooks, and in episode #146 they brought the topic up again. When the topic first came up a few months ago I started thinking about how to go about v4v audiobooks and over time I’ve made some notes and fleshed out some ideas. But after the discussion in episode #146 I decided to start writing and get my ideas out there.
First and foremost everything should be open source. Not only is the Podcast Index open source but so will be the forthcoming Blog Index, and so is the best OS in the world Linux. And let’s face it, when projects are open source innovation happens quicker and new ideas are easier to accept. It’s estimated that 60% of the world’s websites run on open source software, and with Microsoft seemingly becoming actively hostile towards their customers that number is bound to only grow.
There should be dedicated audiobook apps for Android and iOS. These apps would query the podcast index for feeds that contain the audiobook tag only. The standard should also include the ability for podcast 2.0 enabled apps to add an audiobook section that again queries only the feeds that contain the audiobook tag. Having both options allows users to decide if they would prefer a standalone app or to house everything in one app.
The app should also be required to have a lighting wallet built in. To avoid developers being forced to maintain liquidity for their users the wallet should prompt the user to connect to an external wallet like Alby or a self-hosted lighting node during setup.
The desktop app should have all the same functions as the mobile app but will also include the ability to download and store audiobooks that have been paid for. As an Audible user I’ve had books I’ve paid for be removed from my library due to licensing disputes, now I no longer have the ability to go back and enjoy those books again if I wanted.
The loss of books I’ve paid for has led me to use a program called OpenAudible to download and store my paid for audiobooks on my own NAS. I feel that users should not be forced to use third party programs to download the content they paid for, this is why I feel the desktop app should have this function built in.
Users should be able to sync their purchases and downloads between the mobile and desktop apps. Syncing data could be accomplished through an addon for server software such as Nextcloud, TrueNAS, Unraid, Umbrel, or even through IPFS.
I’ll be honest I’m not totally sure on the best method to sync across devices as I’m not a coder. Somebody call the people over at Podverse and find out how they do it and just do that.
There should be two payment options for authors:
- Fixed price
- Pure Value4Value
Why offer both? Value4Value is about “Time, Talent, and Treasure” so there is more than a monetary way of giving back. Time: promote to your social media followers. Talent: create artwork for the chapters. Treasure: donate Sats to support the author. The goal would be to get authors to embrace the open audiobook standards, but some (more likely most) at first would be unwilling to even try an open standard if the only option was to give their work away for free in hopes of getting paid.
This is why authors should have both options, let them start out selling their books in an open standard aand then as authos try the pure Value4Value model and find it works, others will hear how sussevile their peers are and become more willing to try pure Value4Value. I see the fixed price option as the on ramp for authors to the Value4Value model.
In the spirit of Value4Value, audiobooks would be paid for with Sats which are micropayments of Bitcoin that are sent over the lightning network. The full price of the audiobook should be displayed on the details page with the equivalent amount of Sats displayed below the fiat price. I recommend showing both fiat and Sats because the Sats number will look much larger and psychologically the larger number may scare people away. For example at the time of writing if an audiobook cost $20.99 it would costs 78,971 Sats. 78,971 is the same amount as 20.99 but it looks much larger and some people will have a difficult time getting over that mental hurdle.
Users should have the ability to choose how they wish to pay. The first option is to buy the audiobook in-full for one time purchase. The second option would be a pay as you go model. With the pay as you go model you could have two options:
- Buy each chapter individually.
- Stream Sats as you listen.
When you buy each chapter individually, you would pay a percentage of the total cost of the book per chapter. So if you had a $20.99 book with 20 chapters each chapter would cost $1.0495. I would say that the cost per chapter should be rounded up to the nearest whole cent to not only simplify payments, but also to add a half cent premium for the added cost of multiple micropayments. So each chapter would cost $1.05 for a total cost of $21.00.
Streaming Sats as you listen would be broken down by the minute for each payment. So again we have our $20.99 audiobook, and let’s say it’s 8 hours long. So 8 hours is 480 minutes, dividing 20.99 by 480 equals $0.04 per minute or 150.35 Sats per minute at the time of writing. Authors could also choose to add a premium for streaming Sats, just to make it equivalent to the per chapter price. So the steaming Sats cost would be $21.00 vs. the one time purchase price of $20.99.
Now in the true spirit of Value4Value authors should have the option to release their audiobooks for free and let the listeners decide how much to pay. This method has worked well for 2.0 enabled podcasts such as Podcasting 2.0 and The Jupiter broadcasting Network. Value4Value has also worked well in the music arena, the artist Ainsley Costello has made over 1 million Sats in a short time with her song Cherry On Top.
This could be accomplished with a dialog at the end of the book as discussed below by err head on Mastodon. When the user finishes the book a dialog would be presented with the option to leave a review and donate however many Sats they desire. If a user really likes the book and feels it’s worth more than normal, maybe they decide to write a glowing review and donate 150,000 Sats which, at the time of writing, is $39.23 USD. This would mean the author and anyone in their splits (discussed below) would actually come out making more for the sale of the book.
But why would an author put their book out for free with just the hope of receiving value back? Well first, for exposure. How many musical artists have started out by uploading their music to YouTube for free only to become breakout hits and end up making millions? The same thing could happen with audiobooks. Imagine if the Harry Potter series had been released this way, people would instantly download it, listen to it, love it, and donate huge amounts begging for the next book. They’d spend their time talking about it on social media prompting more people to download and listen to it which would mean more people would donate in hopes of encouraging J.K. Rowling to put out the next book.
There’s also the human psychology aspect to Value4Value, when you buy something you are less likely to give the creator any more money. When the creator gives it to you for free and asks you to pay what you think it’s worth there is a social pressure to value something you like higher and therefore give more than what you would have paid if presented with a fixed price. You are also more likely to promote free content to friends, coworkers, and on social media thereby increasing the reach of the author and giving back non-monetary value in the form of free advertising.
Authors can also add splits to the book. So let’s say our 8 hour $20.99 book is self published but the author pays for hosting and an editor. The author could add splits to send 50% to themselves, 30% to the editor, and 20% to the hosting company or IPFS node. This could help authors reduce upfront costs associated with writing by letting them negotiate to pay half the cost upfront and then add the editor or hosting service permanently in the splits for all sales. This would also incentivise the editor and hosting service to promote the book to their followers to try and boost sales.
Reviews should be cross platform, users should be able to view a book’s review in any app and see all reviews submitted on all apps. This might be a good place to integrate Nostr to serve as the backend for logging reviews, but I’m not totally familiar with the Nostr protocol so I can’t say for sure.
Reviews should also have a small cost, I’d say between 200 Sats ($0.05) and 500 Sats ($0.13). This will help prevent spamming of the reviews, and will help reduce the amount of paid for reviews.
err head via Mastodon had a great comment about reviews and so I’m going to most it here:
“I too have been pondering this
On the financing side, I prefer a more V4V model. The main change I would make from the standard podcast V4V is to bring up a dialog at the end of the book, suggesting a boostagram. The amount of the boost and the text appearing as a cross app comment would make for a very effective quick review.
Since there’s no paywall, downloading is trivially easy, and an important option for mobile apps which may be out of network coverage at times.”
I agree a pure V4V model would be ideal but authors might not be willing to upload if they can’t guarantee a minimum price. But there could be an option for the author to select a fixed price or pay what you want even if it’s zero. Users could then choose to pay afterwards.
I love the idea of a dialog at the end of the book to prompt a review with the user able to set their own amount. Though I do feel there should be a minimum amount, say 200 Sats?
err head replied to this idea with the follow:
“> say 200 Sats?
I’d say author configurable.
I’d argue if you really hated a book a 1 sat review has a certain zing to it 🙂
And a million sat review both pays the author’s team and shows a high level of satisfaction with the work”
I’ll be honest I hadn’t thought of it that way, as soon as I read this I thought of one book in particular that I would have given a 1 Sat review of due to how bad it was. Yep I’m on board with this now, no minimum for comments.
err head followed up this comment with this idea, which is also golden:
“Some fun ui differences for the audiobook medium, comments should either be hidden by default until the chapter is finished, or display the previous chapter’s comments.”
So there it is, my blunderbuss of ideas for Value4Value audiobooks. As always, take from it what you will, if you don’t think something is a good idea then don’t use it, you won’t hurt my feelings….much.
To see the discussion on Mastodon click HERE