200712131210The New York Times very conveniently points out that the biggest selling American graphic novel of 2007 is available for free on the web and has been for some time:

Despite laments about youngsters spending too much time surfing the Web and not enough time reading, it turns out that many of them still want the format of old-fashioned paper stuck between two covers. Since an edited form of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was published as a traditional book in April by Amulet, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, it has sold 147,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks 50 percent to 70 percent of retail sales. The book, written and drawn by Jeff Kinney, has spent 33 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. This Sunday, it will be No. 1 on the Children’s Chapter Books list.

That a book derived from free online content has sold so well may allay some fears that giving something away means nobody will want to pay for it. It also encourages publishers who increasingly scour the Internet for talent, hoping to capitalize on the audiences that a popular Web site can deliver.

Much more on free on the web vs print for pay, including shooting war and other websites.

PS: Do you remember when a story about comics in the Times or Time was a big deal? Now it’s a weekly thing! Yay team comics!


  1. Well, this is certainly very cool! As one might guess from my Flashback Universe site, I’m a big believer in the Free equals Success theory. It’s not a new idea in the Software world, but it’s interesting to see it carried out in other arenas…

  2. Science Fiction authors have been making the case for the positive sales impact of ‘free on the web’ for the past few years and have had tremendous results.

    Publishers and creators seem hesitant to adopt the same model with comics because reading a graphic novel online might be an inherently *better* experience than reading a prose novel online thereby not having the same effect on print version sales.

    Still, experiments are happening. IDW is going to release a free, Creative Commons Licensed version of ‘Cory Doctorows Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now’ at the same time the print edition is released.

    I think it is clear that ‘free on the web’ is the way to go. It is becoming a matter of how best to go about it.

  3. The Wowio service is growing as well, offering creators another outlet for their creator owned material. You can find older books like “Alien Legion” and “Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters” alongside more recent works. The opportunity to read a book for free logically will lead to future purchases of the physical copies of those books at conventions or from publisher web sites. That’s one reason I got hooked up with them.

  4. There is definitely something appealing about a really entertaining comic which can be viewed for free by anyone with an internet connection (a fairly sizeable audience). One big problem, as I see it, anyway, is getting anyone to notice in the first place! And if they do somehow find it amid all the other “stuff” that’s out there and actually come back for more, it has to be good enough to pull them back to spend ten seconds each day reading it. Ten seconds of a stranger’s time is a lot to ask these days. These were my thoughts when I started RICK PARKER’s COMICS & STORIES last year. With plans to publish eventually, and in agreement with some of the points made by others above, I offer my new free online comic strip OEUVRE, at http://www.rickparkercomics.blogspot.com