Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ Fares OK Online

Van Jensen

Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book writer. In addition to ComicMix, he contributes to Publishers Weekly and Comic Book Resources. He lives in Atlanta, and his blog can be found at

5 Responses

  1. Jonathan Miller says:

    Oddly enough, if you read the entire letter (contained in Gaiman's actual blog post here:… ), rather than just an excerpt, it seems that the "free book online" experiment was a pretty unequivocal success for the publisher and Neil. His sales rose by somewhere around 40%. The issues that just over half the online readers were basic technical issues (well, except for the "you need an internet connection to read the book," which was baffling to me given the circumstances), most of which are–or, according to the blog entry, were–easily solvable. And 44% of the readers who responded to Harper Collins' survey said they enjoyed the experience.I'm not sure why your article uses the phrase "fares ok." With a substantial increase in reported sales and a high percentage of happy "customers" for what was, after all, a shot-in-the-dark experiment on the publisher's part, I'd call it an unmitigated success.(And let me assure you, I don't work for Harper Collins and have only met Neil Gaiman at readings and signings. I just read his blog.)

  2. Van Jensen says:

    More than 60 percent of the people who tried reading it online didn't enjoy the experience. So, on that side of things, it was a failure. Which you have to take into account, along with the good side. Maybe "mixed results" would be more appeasing a description?

  3. Van Jensen says:

    EDIT – sorry, 56 percent.

  4. Jonathan Miller says:

    I dunno, a 40% across the board increase in hardcopy book sales during the specific period the book was made free, plus the stat that says the promotion got 41% of the total free readership to try reading a book online counterbalances the people who said they were unsatisfied with the online experience. Especially when one considers that the complaints (leaving aside the people who just weren't happy they had to have an internet connection to get a free book) involve fairly minor issues that Harper Collins says they've either fixed or will fix for subsequent releases.Between the increase in sales and the larger than expected number of people reading the book online, I think it's a win for Harper Collins. And, at 44% to 56%–out of the people who responded to the survey–I think it's probably a win for the viability of online reading as well. Not a bad ratio for the internet, actually.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      Part of the problem with LONG download times is that Harper Collins chose to put "American Gods" online as "captured images" instead of as text. This meant that every page was a picture, not words. This kept the book less easily copied to other files. But there are inherent problems with reading from images rather than text. One is that you can't resize the text. You can't use "text to speech" software. You can't search out specific words. Or bookmark your place nearly as easily. And pictures take MUCH longer to download than text, effectively cutting off the book from people still on dial up connections.ComicMix doesn't choose to do much of ANY of that kind of hobbling of the product to maintain control. That is cool.I don't like Zuda. I think that they have a sucky comics reader. It's clunky. Slow. And the pages of the comics are in a size that reminds me more of Sunday Funnies than Comic Books. I have trouble reading past the INTERFACE and seeing the comics for themselves. The ComicMix Reader is much more transparent and intuitive. You can forget it's there and just "flip though the pages."I would think that anything that can show a 40% increase in sales in the short term has to be considered a success. At least an experiment well worth repeating. I also think that having a majority of the people come away with a negative reaction HAS to be seen as a major red flag. That changes to an interface that is intentionally user-unfriendly need to be made.