A smart new way to handle payments

For those who weren’t aware, Smart Mobile Studio came out earlier today.  I’ve been following the project for a while, and when it was released, I went to purchase it…

…and couldn’t.  The payment processor they’ve got set up doesn’t like free email accounts (which pretty much everyone on the entire Internet has) and the only alternative they offered was to mail them a check.  (Seriously?  Do they think it’s still the 90s or something?)  And they didn’t even accept PayPal, which is kind of ridiculous in 2012.  So, note to anyone out there who wants to handle payments for something: please avoid Digital River like the plague until they shape up their act.  Do not make it difficult for your customers to give you their money.

So I emailed Jon Lennart Aasenden about it, explaining the problems I’d had.  And it’s kind of magical, the way words like “your broken payment processor just lost you a few hundred dollars” can motivate people to act.  I had an email back from Jon within about 5 minutes, and a new purchase link about 3 hours later.

It was with a service I’ve never seen before, called Gumroad.  And I was a bit shocked at how simple it was.  They asked for my email address and my card data, and that was it.  No signups or logins, no restrictions, no runarounds, no ridiculous forms asking me to fill in my mailing address when I’m buying a digital download… nothing.  It was just like handing the cashier my card at a physical store.  They took the card info, processed the payment, and emailed me the download link.  Hopefully the Smart team will be smart enough to set this up as their default payment system!

My experience there was what online payment should have been like all along, and seeing it now, I’m a bit surprised that it’s taken someone this long to come up with it!  It’s one of those things that seems obvious in hindsight.  And according to the email I got from the Smart team, it was just about that simple on their end too:  “Gumroad made me go WOW when I started to worked with it.  Everything was set up within minutes.”

I looked around their site a little, and it really does look like it’s just that easy to set things up, with a simple JSON-based REST API.  The one downside I noticed was that the cut they take of payments was a couple percentage points higher than other, more established services such as PayPal or Google Checkout.  (Though I suspect that if they get more business, economies of scale will allow them to bring that down.)  And they provide an optional callback system where their server can call your server to allow you to process things on your end, to do things like generate a license key, or update a user’s account with new data.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the system.  This is something I’d like to see become successful.  So if anyone out there wants to handle payments for something, please avoid Digital River like the plague, and try Gumroad instead.  Your customers will thank you.


  1. Did they provide a private link to you for this? There doesn’t appear to be a purchase link using Gumroad on the Smart Mobile Studio website.

    BTW: I purchased SMS through DigitalRiver but am keen to see what the process looks like with Gumroad.


  2. Jolyon Smith says:

    When was the last time you actually handed your card to a cashier in a store ?

    There is a reason that card payment processing is a bit more involved online – security. In a store there is implicit trust that you are the correct holder of the physical card in your possession. When you’re just dealing with a bunch of numbers, that trust cannot be relied on nearly as much.

    Consider – I know my card details well enough that I can complete purchases even if my card is at home in my other trousers. If I can do that, then so can anyone else. It’s convenient, but it’s also a somewhat worrying thought.

    I shall check out Gumroad, but I’ll be looking for red flags, not just well greased pathways along which to easily slip. 😉

  3. I’ve been using share*it (which is effectively digital river) for selling my videos – I don’t have any complaints so far (other than their online help is terrible – and incorrect) – but I’ve yet to poll the people who have made a purchase, which I’ll be doing shortly.

  4. Digital River / ShareIt (and other services) also handle the tax deduction and tax payment depending on the buyer’s country and other factors (like the presence of a European VAT ID). Legally they are the seller of the product to the end user. This means zero tax handling for authors, much easier compared with a ‘payment processor’.

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