Wowio Returns; Customers Unhappy, Going Elsewhere

Now webcomic provider Wowio is owned by Platinum. How have things changed? Let’s look at a couple of customer reviews.

Sean Kleefeld discovered that some of the books he had planned to download for free will now cost money. They can still be read for free, but only if you’re online, thus removing a lot of the convenience. Moving the price from “free” to “$3.99″ per issue is quite an adjustment. $3.99 is not a deal compared to standard comic pricing, especially considering you don’t get a printed copy. Add in that Plowio is trying to charge for books that are available for free elsewhere, and it looks a lot like gouging.

Willow at Seeking Avalon found that some of the books she was reading are no longer available for download at all, at any price. She goes on to complain (justifiably) about unreadable screens and poor quality. She’s also found a lot of material has disappeared from her pre-Platinum Wowio library. Put together all this poor customer service, and it’s driving her to investigate competitors. That’s got to be the opposite of what Platinum wanted, but that’s what you get when you make the contracts less favorable to contributors. A number of publishers have left the site as a result, or because they don’t want to be involved with a company with such a bad reputation.

Platinum has upped the number of their books available at Wowio, but since they’re charging the same price for online as they do for the print books, I think it’s pretty obvious they Don’t Get It when it comes to online. (Regardless of how many comments Wowio employee Gerry makes in response to critical posts.)

29 Responses to “Wowio Returns; Customers Unhappy, Going Elsewhere”

  1. Adam Says:

    Now that Wowio has changed so much, are there any other ebook sites out there that offer publishers the chance to let users download free ebooks?

  2. Johanna Says:

    I’m not aware of any — DriveThruComics has only a handful of items for free, and they’re mostly preview stuff. It seems a real opportunity for someone… if they can make the economics work.

  3. Bill Williams Says:


    The new version of WOWIO is a totally new thing. I am getting some downloads and a lot of page views with my remaining material. (I honored the freelancer requests to remove material without question.) The old version of WOWIO had real-time reporting of the revenue generated by the downloads. Now for the page views, we have to wait for the final ad bill to be tallied at the end of the quarter meaning that I will not know how much I will make until October.

    Definitely not the cash cow it was before.


  4. chris w. Says:

    I’m glad a got my hands on a good sample of Wowio stuff before this happened.

  5. Nic Wilkinson Says:

    There is a new site (went up last month) at which is free to view and free to upload for creators (press release says the ultimate plan is to fund by advertising).

    It is certainly good for discovering indy stuff you may not hear of any other way, and if you are a creator, for getting some visibility for your work.

  6. jim Kosmicki Says:

    I’m not sure if people are noticing (I certainly didn’t until I started clicking around), but on the books that have a charge, there’s sometimes a phrase that says something like $1.99 or Gift Credit. if you click on the “Gift Credit,” you get a box that says something like “Sponsor X would like to purchase this for you.” If you accept, then it’s like the old Wowio.

    And there are still some bargains. Bill Williams (who commented above) has a book called “Tokyo Pop and other stories” that’s $14.95 at the Amazon link, but $4.99 as a PDF from Wowio. That kind of price reduction works for me. But someone wanting $8.99 for a pdf version of “Confessions of Nat Turner” by Styron, when I can find that at most libraries, or used, for much less isn’t going to cut it. (and the Kindle version from the exact same epublisher is $7.19 from Amazon — Wowio isn’t going to survive as a more expensive option to Amazon versions of ebooks).

  7. Bill Williams Says:

    On WOWIO, the publisher sets the price for the sale of the .pdf books with 50% going to WOWIO and the other half to the pub.

    People in general need to be smarter about selling digits. If you can’t read it in the tub, it ain’t worth all of that.

    You can still read some of my little book of detective stories in the free reader. I have been sampling other books my own self, being a Nero Wolfe fan. That function has worked fine for me.


  8. Jerry Says:

    I’m a little annoyed at Wowio turning what the contract addendum called a Preview into what really is an ad supported webcomic without the blog. I’ve already got a free webcomic. The biggest thing though is not knowing how much I’ve made on views until they decide to report it. Waiting to know until the end of the quarter is crazy. At least before you made some decent cash and you knew how well a book was doing.

  9. Johanna Says:

    I hadn’t realized there was such a reporting delay now. On the one hand, that means maybe a period of time to address problems and rebuild the audience; on the other, maybe we should expect additional changes once those reports come in.

    Nic, thanks for the link.

    Jerry, good point that you don’t want to be competing with yourself.

  10. Jr Says:

    And just so you know, I contacted Platinum about why the charging. They said the artists make the price, not the company.
    I say, If your going to sell a book for 4.99, of course you would want a hard copy. Why buy it. Sell for 99c, and pump it out in volume. Guess were screwing ourselves by overpricing our material. Dont let greed motivate you.

  11. Adam Says:

    I just wish there was a way to price things as free automatically. I mean, it’d be nice to be able for publishers to decide if they’re going to just give away a certain book for free regardless of if they’re going to make any download royalties off of it.

  12. Gerry Manacsa Says:

    As stated in the original post, Platinum is continuing to add a stream of new titles to WOWIO, but note that download pricing has been adjusted across the board for these books since the site was launched — prices now range from $0.99 to $1.99.

    [disclaimer: I’m speaking for myself, not for my employer WOWIO]

  13. Bill Williams Says:

    Giving books away is not an option on the new WOWIO site. I priced most of my work at the minimum allowed- 99 cents.

    There are still problems, but they are getting solved.

  14. Mark Waldmann Says:

    I realize that many of you out here are selling mags on WOWIO and that your perceptions and your comments are based on that but as a person who just wanted to download some interesting books and perhaps a comic now and again, I think this new site and the new management is a bust! I went there tonight to download some of the books I had in my que (Sun Tzu Art of War, Maxims of Napoleon, Caesars Cavalry, etc.) only to find that I can only view them online now with no options to download. Why in the hell would I want to read them online? I want to download them so that I can read them at my leisure, not be chained to the session in order to read the book. This was, in my humble opinion, a few steps backward to a service that I genuinely liked. I always clicked on the icon to say “Thank you” for my downloads so that someone got credit or paid or what have you and truly appreciated it. Now everything costs or you have to read it right there, right now. It is truly disappointing and I will not be going back. Several friends that I mentioned WOWIO to back when it was worth the visit have already stopped going and have no intentions of returning. Commercialism has once again killed what otherwise worked pretty much as designed. As for me, I leave them to their fate which I am almost sure will come sooner rather than later.

  15. Tiff Says:

    Unfortunately, Wowio has not seen fit to ALLOW publishers a way to easy change the prices on their books. :P I’m also not sure if I want to trust them when Lulu takes a smaller cut and pays monthly and Wowio may never pay.

  16. Gerry Manacsa Says:


    The minimum non-zero price is $0.99, but publishers can actually give away their work for free if they choose. The $0.99+ pricing is set to ensure that credit card transaction fees are covered while still allowing a fair return for content creators, publishers and WOWIO.

    On a related note, we’re working on a feature that will enable publishers to bundle their titles, which effectively will allow the price of individual works to be less than $0.99. For example, four books in a series can be bundled together at a price of $2, resulting in an effective price per book of $0.50.

  17. Jr Says:

    All this banter is good. It looks like problems are being solved. It may take some time, but it looks like compromises are bing met on both sides. As with any retooled business, you have to find things that work and work for both sides. IMO

  18. Jr Says:

    Mark Waldmann, I look in the Wowio search engine. Those books have a download price of 1.99 except Caesars Cavalry which is not listed. Check again

  19. Bill Williams Says:


    Why would I want to give work away on a third site? My webcomic is already free on Graphic and Lone Star Does a third free venue really help me?

    I look forward to the day when WOWIO can catch up to Drive Thru Comics when it comes to bundling product.

    As a publisher, I am disappointed in WOWIO’s relaunch too. The search function on the site is worse now. If you really want to find something, you have to remember to use quotation marks.

    And the money is much worse.

    My enthusiasm has gone from high to marginal at best.


  20. Gerry Manacsa Says:


    I’m definitely no expert on distribution strategy, and I didn’t mean to imply that giving away the books was the right approach for you. I just wanted to clarify that “free” was a pricing option open to any publisher who wants to use it.

    Regarding the search issue — we’re not aware of any problem or changes in the search function on the site. While it’s possible that some glitch occurred immediately after the initial launch, it should all be working normally now. I did random tests on a few of your titles and the books seemed to come up as expected. Feel free to email me with details of the issue that you’re seeing if it continues.

    [disclaimer: I’m speaking for myself, not for my employer WOWIO]

  21. Mark Waldmann Says:

    To Jr-Thanks for that update but I already knew about the $1.99 price which was my point. These were in my que before as free downloads and now they cost. I am sorry but the draw, my reason for going to WOWIO was to download free books that interested me. If you take away the free option and instead replace it with pricing or the ability to only read the book online, you remove the draw and thus remove those like myself who came there for free (FREE) books. That was my whole point. Also, the book on Caesars cavalry is apparently no longer there along with some others in my que so that ended that. I will not be going back. Nuff said on that. Take care Jr

  22. Tiff Says:

    I found how to change my pricing, but I am still less than enthusiastic about this whole deal and will be removing all of my books by the end of the month if things do not pick up.

    My out of country readers are most upset… because even though Wowio is now global, there are not any advertisers at all, so they are still getting the raw end of the deal.

    Although.. now my US readers are upset because there’s only been ONE sponsor and one download and they already read it on my website, so why bother with reading it on Wowio. (I also don’t like giving Wowio money to hold onto for months at a time. My greatest fear is that they aren’t going to pay.)

  23. Johanna Says:

    That’s a big question mark in some people’s heads, whether Platinum will pay as promised, since they’ve had recent problems in that area and seem to have lost money over most of their corporate life. Wait and see, I guess, and hope for the best.

  24. Johanna Says:

    I see now that some Wowio publishers are being more specific about what, exactly, they’re offering. I just got a press release today in which the provider is announcing a new comic available. They specify that it can be read online worldwide for free, that downloads in the US will be free, and downloads elsewhere will cost 99 cents. I’m glad to see them setting expectations from the start, given the confusion over the recent changes.

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