Well, sort of.

As you may have read by now, Amazon has come up with an ingenious way to – who knows? – one day make a profit. It has nothing to do with selling books or selling anything else.

I’m not sure it will catch on, but we can try a test, right now. Just click here if you want to tip me. Amazon lets you send as little as $1, or as much as $50. And if you change your mind any time within 30 days, because I’ve written something particularly goofy or offensive, they let you change your mind and UN-tip me.

Remember that idea you read here that saved your marriage? That dot-com stock you avoided losing your life savings on? Click here.

If everybody clicks and sends something, two things will happen:

  • I will be able to buy a new car. I won’t buy a new car, of course – there is nothing at all wrong with my 1996 Saturn. I will buy another “historic document,” perhaps, or a warehouseful of Walgreens shirts. But I could buy a new car.
  • Amazon will make a ton of money for moving some electrons around. Which – because electrons are a lot lighter than War and Peace – may actually put it in the black. A color I believe it deserves, because like many of you, I’ve been an Amazon fan for many years. (Just not a fan of its stock.)

Amazon takes 15 cents from each tip, plus 15%. So on $1, they take 30 cents, on $50, they
take $7.65. But I don’t begrudge it in the least, because they’ve sent me so many free coffee mugs over the years, and sold me books at preposterously low prices. (I do think competition will eventually drive that 15% down.)

I absolutely don’t want anyone to feel obligated in any way to pay to visit this site. Seriously. Still, what boy doesn’t like a little extra money?

Amazon provides a “pay” icon that I may or may not start appending at the bottom of this site, like the hat on the pavement by the mime. But this is no Stephen King deal where “I won’t finish the novel unless 60% of you pay me.” I get a big kick out of doing this web site, and learn at least as much from you as you may from me. (But forget it: even after you get Amazon Pay Pages of your own, I ain’t payin’. Well, maybe a little.)

Where this becomes interesting for Amazon is if a few million people do what I’m doing, and set up pay pages; and a few tens of millions do occasionally click here to make payments – or donations.

(Your local charity could use this system to raise money. Amazon even supplies an automated “thermometer” to show your goal – $10,000 to buy new uniforms – and how close you are at any given moment – $8,742 – and how many people have contributed. Amazon is one smart cookie.)

With 10 million people in the habit of clicking $5 a week, on average, to buy stuff, tip folks, and make contributions – well, I figure that would add nearly $400 million a year to Amazon’s coffers. So enormous have Amazon’s losses been – it lost $1.41 billion last year – that even this would not entirely stanch them.

But talk about a potentially high-margin business! Imagine how profitable your own bank would be if it had no checks to process – just electrons – and siphoned off 15% of every dollar you spent.

(Someday, with 100 million people averaging $20 a week – I suppose you could imagine $16 billion a year flowing to Amazon, and that would make for a pretty penny.)

My instinct is that this will never happen. If this nifty idea takes off, competition would
drive that 15% way down, and split the market. (You don’t think Citibank’ll want a piece of this action? Visa? Amex? Yahoo? Sears?)

To explore setting up a pay page of your own, click here. But wait! I don’t want to distract you from tipping me – first, click here!


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