Back in February, Neil Gaiman convinced his publisher to give away a full online text version of his book American Gods as a promotion for his latest work, The Graveyard Book. The results are in, and according to Gaiman, sales have since risen for all of his books, including American Gods. So, contrary to popular crotchety-old-people wisdom, even though the book was available free online, people still went out and bought it—and then kept buying. Gaiman, who once had readers bid to have their name put on a gravestone in his novel Stardust, offers more stats about the free-book promotion: 41 percent of the online readers were new to e-book reading, and they spent, on average, only 15 minutes reading (about 46 pages)—hardly enough time to crack the 609-page juggernaut that is American Gods. Some booksellers, for whom free is the F-word, are irritable with Gaiman. He responds to one of them here. From an advertising point of view, it’s a bit weird that anyone is upset, as free samples have been around forever. And it’s not like he gave his new book away as a free download, à la Radiohead or Trent Reznor. This is publishing, where free has an asterisk after it.
—Posted by Rebecca Cullers