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March 26, 2008
Update on the Gaiman Experiment
Neil Gaiman posted an update on the experiment of making American Gods free online to read. Numbers from Harper Collins, which is hosting the e-book, show a decent number of unique views and a fair number of page impressions. If their numbers and my math are right the average viewer is reading about 45 pages online, which is 1-2 chapters.
That's not much for a full-length novel, but apparently it's enough to interest people, since H-C reports that weekly sales of the book have gone up threefold since the start of the experiment. Sadly there's no way to correlate sales data with the free online read data. Perhaps it's new readers, perhaps it's people remembering they meant to buy it anyway, or replacing an old copy. Perhaps it's people dissatisfied with the cumbersome online interface but interested enough to invest their cash in getting a better interaction.
One experiment is just a data point and doesn't necessarily tell us a whole lot. However, the positive trends in all these numbers are probably good enough leverage for Gaiman to push the experiment further. We shall see. Meantime, it's probably not wrong to say "free books online sells more paper copies." I think that's what Cory said last year.
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