A feeling of excitement abounds in the world of type — and for good reason. Consumers have never been more conscious of type as they are now, and more and more people are taking graphic design into their own hands. I believe the digital type industry is nearing a tipping point much like the music industry did nearly a decade ago, which is why I created FontSlice. In the year 2000, a typical music purchase was around $15.00 — the average price of a CD. That all changed in 2003 when Apple launched the iTunes Store. In six short years, the music industry nearly doubled in size, going from 800 million dollars to nearly 1.6 billion dollars in sales.
By significantly reducing the average transaction cost, the barrier to consumption was lowered, which caused the actual size of the market to expand. At a recent TypeCon, Roger Black suggested that the type industry might evolve in a similar fashion; his last slide read 99 Cents, though few designers would place such a low value on the tremendous effort that goes into creating a new typeface. Amazingly, the iTunes revolution was accomplished without fundamentally changing the dollar value of the music itself, since the cost of a digital album was about the same as that of its physical equivalent. The music industry followed the path of least resistance; artists would continue to produce music the way they always had — in albums — while Apple worried about the details of dividing and distributing the content to consumers.
FontSlice serves a similar purpose to the type industry. Consumers are able to purchase only the glyphs they need for a particular project, whether it be a few letters or an entire character range. This allows consumers to incrementally purchase fonts via multiple transactions, paying for each glyph individually according to a nonlinear pricing model; the first glyph might be $1.00, the second $0.95, the third $0.90, and so on. After each transaction, the user is able to download an abridged version of the font containing only the glyphs they've purchased. If the user eventually purchases every glyph in the font, the total amount paid will simply equal the retail price of the font. This pricing model encourages consumers to make repeated purchases until a font is complete, much like iTunes users have incentive to complete an album after purchasing several tracks. Using this system, type designers can continue producing fonts the way they always have — in standard font files — while FontSlice worries about the details of dividing and distributing the font to consumers.
FontSlice has come a long way in the past few months — the patent application is filed, the website is developed, and the support system is in place. In fact, there's only one thing missing — fonts. We'd like to see every font available on FontSlice, and we're ready to listen to the type community to make sure that happens. Let us know what you think about FontSlice in the comments below. We'd love to hear your feedback. If you'd like to learn more about FontSlice or if you're interested in a distribution agreement, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let typographic evolution begin.