Friday, July 11, 2008

The results of Free

Dave McKean writes to let me know that,

Here's a poster for my show at The Merry Karnowsky Gallery.
The opening is on the evening of the 19th, it's open to public,
anyone can come, I'll be there.

The Gallery is in LA. If you click on the picture you can see it large enough to get the address and time details from it. (You could do it from the gallery link too, but it's less pretty.)

Liz Hand wrote to say "elevator" was, of course, a typo, and I searched and discovered that the complete text of Tom Disch's short story "Descending" is actually online at:

You should read it. Really, you should. It's a short story that begins,

Catsup, mustard, pickle, relish, mayonnaise, two kinds of salad dressing, bacon grease, and a lemon. Oh yes, two trays of ice cubes. In the cupboard it wasn't much better: jars and boxes of spices, flour, sugar, salt—and a box of raisins!

An empty box of raisins.

and continues inexorably from there. I think of that short story every time I look in the fridge and can't see anything to eat.

Over at Teresa Nielsen Hayden says, in one of the comments,
One of the things he did extremely well was write from the POV of characters who aren't terribly bright, or who have limited worldviews. They're never aware they're in a story; and while the story may do terrible things to them, it never sides with the reader against them.
Which did that thing of making me realise something I had observed a hundred times and never seen.


I got an email from Harper Collins this morning, giving some final statistics and information about the free American Gods online read thing we did to mark the blog's seventh anniversary. (If you're interested in the back story, read the entries at up to here.)

The Browse Inside Full Access promotion of American Gods drove 85 thousand visitors to our site to view 3.8 Million pages of the book (an average of 46 pages per person). On average, visitors spent over 15 minutes reading the book.

The Indies [ie. independent booksellers -- Neil] are the only sales channel where we have confidence that incremental sales were driven by this promotion. In the Bookscan data reported for Independents we see a marked increase in weekly sales across all of Neil’s books, not just American Gods during the time of the contest and promotion. Following the promotion, sales returned to pre-promotion levels.

Through an online survey, we know that 44% of fans enjoyed this browsing experience and 56% did not. Some of Neil’s fans expressed frustration with the Browse Inside tool for reading through a whole book. (This poor result is partially due to two problems which were fixed soon after the initial launch – mistaken redirect to the Flash-based reader and slow image load time)

(The reason that independent booksellers were the only places they could see it having an effect was that some of the chain stores were doing a promotion that my books were also in, which fogged the results for them.)

We also received some valuable insight from the 1k people who responded to the User Survey that Neil posted to his blog.
The vast majority of respondents had already read one of Neil’s books, but 20% of them had not previously read American Gods

41% were new to the e-reading format

Response to our Browse Inside Online Reader was mixed – with 44% saying they enjoyed the experience at 56% saying they did not. The chief complaints were that you had to have an internet connection to read the book, you had to scroll to see the whole page and that the load time was sometimes slow. 69% of respondents said that they would like to be able to download. Some people complained that since they couldn’t bookmark where they left off, they got lost between reading sessions.

Back to the 44% who enjoyed the experience….9% of respondents said that they read through 100% of the book and 30% of respondents said that they would use this tool to read the whole book.

In the comments section of the survey many people requested that more of Neil’s books be made available.
As I said back when were doing it, to a bookshop owner worried that I was taking his livelihood away from him,

Anyway (it probably bears reiterating) this is an experiment. Harper Collins are going to be looking at the figures over the next month and longer. If sales of American Gods crash in bookshops -- or if sales of all my other books crash -- they won't be doing it again. If American Gods sells more, if my other titles sell more, on actual Bookscan sales, then I think we'll all agree that you and your fellow booksellers will be selling more books, and will thus have nothing to worry about.

Remember, publishers aren't making their money from free downloads or from free online books. Like you (and like me), they make their money from books sold.
Given that Harper Collins sold a lot more of all my books while the free American Gods was out there, with sales of all my titles up 40% through independent bookshops, I think I can safely say that we'll be doing it -- or rather, something similar -- again. And that the 56% of people who didn't enjoy the online reading experience may be a lot happier with how we do it next time out.

And thank you -- to everyone who initially voted, and everyone who read (or failed to read) American Gods online and everyone who filled out a survey.

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