After a year and a half of development and limited beta testing, news broke yesterday that BitTorrent opened their BitTorrent Bundle platform to all. Authors and publishers can now apply to join a program which offers one of the more unusual takes on the freemium model, and earn 90% of revenues (less payment processing fees).
Now being called a paygate, BitTorrent Bundle is in some ways a cross between the freemium model used by many mobile games and the paywall used by some websites. It's a flexible model which enables creators to set limits on how much of a work can be consumed before asking for payment (freemium) or move the content behind a paywall after a certain number of views (just like the paywall on many websites).
That is a unique model, and it is being launched at a time when other business models, including streaming music businesses like Spotify, are being questioned.
"Taylor Swift sparked debate over the state of music in recent weeks; the value of a stream, the value of a record. The value of art shouldn't be up for debate. It should be up to artists," said Matt Mason, chief content officer for BitTorrent.
It has since been downloaded 4.4 million times, though we don't know how many times downloaders have paid to receive the extra content. "As with Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Thom Yorke’s decision was, from the outset, not to disclose sales data. The choice to share that information is at the artist’s discretion. As it should be. We have to respect the artist’s decision," says Straith Schreder, director of content strategy for BitTorrent.
The BitTorrent Bundle program is still invite only, which you can request here. You'll need to provide basic contact info as well as details about the works you wish to sell.
Creators are being admitted to the program at a controlled rate so BitTorrent can vet the platform, Schreder said. "We are not being selective per se,” she says. "Our goal is to make paygates available to all artists. We believe art has value; we want everyone to have the ability to sell their work direct-to-fan using Bundle. As with the rollout of the self-publish email gate feature in September 2013, we’re greenlighting paygates in batches. This allows us to QA the platform, and make sure that each publisher is properly set up. We want the paygate experience to be the best possible one for creators and their fans."
With the average ebook size under a megabyte, BitTorrent Bundle isn't going to be of much use to authors. But even so, it's still worth keeping an eye on. Bundle could prove useful for direct sales of audiobooks or graphic novels, each of which run into the hundreds of megabytes.