Amazon has just split its ebook top 100 list into a Free and a Paid list, giving much more useful insight into what people are buying and reading digitally.
To me, the most interesting thing is it shows is that the classics — the traditional fare of free reading — have some serious competition from new works which, for various reasons, authors or publishers have chosen to distribute free. (Not quite free: they’re subject to Amazon’s US$2.00 WhisperNet charge for international downloading). You have to look towards the end of the list to find a high concentration of the traditional classics.
A lot of these free titles, of course, are self-published and there are quite a few from established authors that have been offered as promotions. It’s a great way to get recognition and cut-through: launch as a free ebook for a limited time then switch to paid, or sell more hardbacks and paperbacks.