Today I have a two mini-rants on my mind, sparked by a cool Kickstarter I saw yesterday. I won’t mention any names, but there have been others like it: projects that look super cool, yet only have a handful of backers and are miles away from their goals. Scrolling down to the backer options, the problem is immediately apparent: “Ships only to USA”. And then there are projects that could be distributed digitally, but have no option for digital rewards.
Living in South Africa has always presented a unique set of challenges when it comes to ordering online. Not only is there the exchange rate and high shipping costs, there are potentially import/customs taxes that can be applied seemingly at random. There are also many places that simply do not ship to Africa, and though this sucks, I don’t blame them. I’ve had a lot of packages disappear into the postal system and never come out. And it’s the strangest things that get ‘lost’, too. I’m guessing there are some Pathfinder fans somewhere in our postal system, as several of my books have gone missing over the years (and this has been a major factor in my move to mostly digital, but that’s an issue I’ve already discussed at some length). In the past year, our postal workers have also been on strike a lot, leading to the already iffy postal becoming even worse, to the point of being almost completely unusable.
All that being said, I have many friends who have ordered things online from overseas and had no problems, with their goods arriving as expected. Generally for items posted with a tracking number, all usually goes well. And there are many other countries with much more reliable postal services, but even they are denied access to awesome Kickstarters that only ship within America. I don’t know why this is, but it seems strange to exclude a huge portion of potential backers. Projects that offer international shipping usually just have an additional fee included to cover the extra cost of shipping outside America. No doubt it’s a lot more work and stress for the people behind the project, but I would think that it would be worth it to get the product to a wider audience.
My second point relates indirectly to the shipping issue: digital rewards. Because of my poor record with the postal service and high shipping costs, I’ll often go for a digital reward instead of a physical one. I realise digital rewards are not possible for all products, but books, card games and a few other types of projects do lend themselves to this. Sure, getting a PDF of a card game is not as awesome as getting physical cards, but it fills the gap between wanting to support a project but not wanting the stress of wondering if it will arrive through the post. Yes, sometimes there are those weird little ‘Thank you’ reward tiers where you can donate but not get anything, but generally if I think a product is awesome enough to back, I want some kind of reward, even if it’s just a PDF.
Digital rewards do come with their own issues, like the fact that they would need to be printed to be used (as in the case of things like card games), and potential sharing of the digital files. However, that should be a choice for the backer to make. Assuming that everyone wants or can afford physical rewards or that they would pirate your digital rewards are unfair and in my opinion, uninformed assumptions to make.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues in the comments below.