Are you accepting bitcoins yet? And, should you?

A bitcoin is not a physical thing, it is a virtual currency; you cannot toss it to start a football game, roll it for illegal drug activity or fold it into a paper plane. Bitcoin owners keep their bitcoins in a wallet and when they use those bitcoins to purchase items, they just transfer the cost from their wallet to the seller’s wallet and that is pretty much that. Since bitcoins are not physical things, you cannot send half a bitcoin, but you can transfer any percentage of a bitcoin.

Since I started to research this article, the value of one bitcoin has fallen from $621.37 to $578.59 – I’ll let you know what the value is when I finish this article, but the point is bitcoins are subject to fluctuation.

I very much doubt anyone reading this has an expensive product they are selling so fluctuations would not be a major factor, but remember you keep your bitcoins in a virtual wallet, and let’s says your wallet has ten bitcoins in it. These would have been worth $10,686 last November, now their value would be $5,786.90, Look at it this way, last November you could have brought 10,686 of your favorite friends a $1 cup of coffee each, but now, only 5,786 friends would get a cup of Joe. If however, in a real wallet you had $10,686 last November, today you would still have $10,686 – and 10,686 friends!

Most publishers will, at some point, want to balance the books and disclosing the value of your wallet is an easy enough thing. Turning the bitcoins into currency that you can toss, fold or fly is not as straightforward as you would think. There are basically three ways, two of which rely on your offering your bitcoins for sale and hoping someone buys them. There are other ways, but if you are really considering offering bitcoins as a form of payment, the above selling method is your best bet. What you cannot do is just cash them in, someone has to want them, and at an acceptable price.

Many years ago The Economist used to publish at annual review of how much items cost by the number of Mars bars you would have to hand over. A cup of coffee was one Mars bar in 1972, in 1977 it was three Mars bars etc… sound sort of familiar?

What if you have to make a refund on a subscription paid for by bitcoins? This could be interesting. It is quite conceivable that a customer could cancel their subscription and the refund for the "unused portion of the subscription" actually has a dollar value of more than was originally paid. Finance departments around the world will quake in their boots.

Bitcoins certainly have a value, but whether their value currently applies to subscriptions seems doubtful. Since I have been typing this article, the value of a bitcoin has dropped by $6.00, but since it is all virtual, should I really care?