Wowio.com is down at the moment. The site says they are gearing up to go global, and that they will reopen in July. Over at The Beat, though, Heidi MacDonald thinks something else is up; she hears the company is going to be sold.
Wowio always sounded too good to be true. Customers get to download ebooks for free; creators get 50 cents per unique download. How do you do that? Ads, embedded in each book. The books themselves are PDF files with a number of built-in copy protections. T Campbell peeked under the hood in his blog last year and explained a bit about the nuts and bolts of the site.
A number of folks pop up in comments at The Beat to say that they have done quite well with Wowio. Probably the biggest winner is Chris Crosby, who says
Iâ€™ve posted WOWIO revenue numbers publicly before for my companies (Blatant Comics/Keenspot), so I have no problem with giving an update on that. Since last August weâ€™ve made $93,624.50 from 186,736 WOWIO downloads.
Chris’s properties are among the most popular on Wowio, but others post respectable numbers as well. Bill Williams, of Lone Star Press, estimates his company has taken in about $15,000, and he adds,
WOWIO far out-performs sites like Drive Thru Comics which is a pay-per-download site. I think that WOWIO has proven that giving away ad-supported books works better as a business model than the pay per download sites.
(Bill talked in more detail about Wowio to Johanna Draper Carlson earlier this year.) And Steve Horton says
Iâ€™ve been on the site since April 2007, and my company has made almost $28,000 since then, most of which goes straight to the creators I publish.
The weakness in the model may be finding sponsors. Commenter Ray Cornwall says that many of the ebooks he downloaded had no ads.
One of the things that interests me is that people like T Campbell and Phil and Kaja Foglio, who post webcomics for free, put their work on Wowio as well. The benefit to the reader is that they get to download the comic and keep it; the benefit to the creator, of course, is the money. The question is, is there enough of a benefit to the people who run Wowio to persuade them to keep it going?