Among the many responses to my post on piracy was one which suggested I price my software by country. The general idea is that it’s unfair that someone in the United States is charged the same price as someone in, say, Russia, where economic conditions are much harsher.
I have to say that I agree with this sentiment. Russia isn’t such a warez capital because it’s a dishonest country – it’s a country with many skilled people thrown into chaotic times. In order for some of them to maintain these skills, they may need to stay up-to-date with the latest software. But in order to be ethical, they need to shell out a week’s pay to register one measly program.
I’ve actually talked with other shareware authors about this in the past, and a number of them shared my belief that charging a lower price in certain countries would be a better way to do business. Several of us discussed ways to handle this, but in the end it was decided that it would be so hard to manage that it wouldn’t be feasible. Verifying the country of origin and weeding out fraud would simply require too much time. There are ways to automate this, of course, but most of us need to rely on third-party ordering services so we don’t have much control over the purchasing process – so it would be up to us to handle the extra work.
Most shareware companies are one-person outfits such as my own, and we all find it difficult to balance the many demands of running our businesses. We tend to shy away from anything that’s time-consuming simply because we often have no time left at the end of the day. In my case, I’m not going to implement something if it means I have less time to spend with my kids.
One possible solution is to skip charging by country and instead ask each customer to pay what s/he believes the software is worth. A minimum price would be required to make sure the order processing fees are covered, but the final price would be determined by the customer. This sidesteps the need for any verification, and could potentially even increase earnings since I’d get orders from those who previously couldn’t afford our software.
On the surface I really like this idea, but the more you think about it the more it seems just as problematic. First there’s the fear factor: I rely on software sales to feed my family, so I’m scared to try such a thing. But even if I ignore this (not to mention the issues involving third-party ordering services), there are still a boatload of issues involving corporate sales, etc., that would eat away at my time.
I’d like to hear other thoughts on this so I’ve enabled comments for this post. However, I’m going to disable them once the comment spammers hit, so if you have your own blog you’d be better off posting there and sending a trackback ping.
BTW, I should add that my posting about this does NOT mean that I’m about to implement such a system, since the ordering services for both TopStyle and FeedDemon are already in place. I’m simply thinking out loud about how such a system might work in case I want to try it with future software.