I’m a huge fan of free things, especially free entertainment — really, who isn’t? Daily Bits has combed through the web, turning up a treasure trove of 17 graphic novels, all available for download.
We’re sure every comic book retailer reading these words is going kerplotz right about now — that is after the tempest that erupted after Boom Studios announced they were giving away the entire first issue of their new book NORTH WIND on MySpace.
Now first issue sampling online is pretty much accepted fare these days; even DC does it. So why the hue and cry that erupted on the private CBIA retailer’s forum, with store owners vowing to stop buying Boom books and all support of the company? Well, a couple of things. The online freebie was available at the exact same time as the first issue went on sale, and Boom had neglected to warn retailers about it.
NORTH WIND itself is a fairly entertaining yarn of struggle in a Santa Monica frozen solid after the advent of a new Ice Age.It’s written by David DiGillio whose other credits include the TV show TRAVELLER. While Boom head Ross Richie and marketing guy Chip Mosher struggled on CBIA to explain that they were only trying to promote the book, or as an article at CBR explained Boom believe online sampling works:
There’s evidence to support that having something available online for free leads to both increased awareness of the physical product and, ultimately, increased sales. “CrossGen basically did the same thing with their ‘Comics on the Web’ initiative, seeing re-orders increasing 54% and orders for their whole line increased 30% a week after they went live,” Chip Mosher told CBR News. “DC just had a massive hit with the ‘Heroes’ hardcover collection and all that material is all online [for free]. Then there are the collections of online material that have recently come out, from ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ to ‘Girl Genius’ to ‘The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto’ which is listed as #98 in all books on Amazon.com. That’s not just in the Graphic Novel category, that is in all books!
Retailers weren’t having it. Or as one put it, “Boom has been recoded for prepaid preorders only for now; I need to invest shelf money on companies who want to help me sell books.”
While Boom — which has hitherto gotten almost universally good press and retailer reaction — surely made a mistake by not properly warning retailers of the move, perhaps the biggest question of the era is: can you still sell it if you give it away for free? The evidence is mixed, but one case ripe for inspection was covered yesterday in Vulture, namely Radiohead’s IN RAINBOWS:
Following yesterday’s news about Radiohead’s In Rainbows topping the album charts, the New York Times marvels this morning at the fact that 122,000 fans paid full price for the record, even though it had been freely available on the band’s Website for the three previous months. To what can this seemingly inexplicable success be attributed? The Times’ Jeff Leeds asks a record-store owner who speculates it was that consumers wanted “a physical, archival high-fidelity master recording,” instead of the medium-quality MP3s that the band distributed in October, even though retail versions of In Rainbows ripped in full lossless audio have been circulating on file-sharing networks for over a month. Also shooting holes in this argument is the that, astonishingly, 28,000 people bought the album on iTunes, which sells files of an even lower bit rate than the ones originally offered by the band.
So, who really did pay retail price In Rainbows last week? TVT Records president Steve Gottlieb points to whom we suspected all along: old people who’ve never heard of BitTorrent.
As of now, the promotion has been declared a success; Boom seems to be trying to make things right with retailers by promoting their MySpace pages on the download page for the second issue of NORTH WIND.
You can see the trailer for NORTH WIND here.