The best of online exclusives

For many years, even after the online revolution pushed us all onto the vast Internet for good, it was impossible to legally buy music from some artists or find products like some bestselling books in electronic form.

Holdouts like the Beatles, the “Harry Potter” books and the music catalog of Garth Brooks took ages to go digital.

But the opposite is true as well; we’re starting to see very popular media that’s exclusive to the online world, TV shows and albums and even comic books from bestselling writers that you can’t buy in any physical store or catch on traditional TV networks.

You may already be hooked on some of these, or they may be completely new to you, but here’s a roundup of some of the best online-exclusive stuff I’ve found, much of it free or pretty cheap.

Streaming TV

When shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” from Netflix began competing for big Emmy Award prizes, it became clear that the Internet could produce television shows as compelling as broadcast and cable networks.

There are great original series scattered all over services including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and even lesser-known sites such as Crackle and Vimeo.

My favorite new series online is “Transparent,” a rich and satisfying family comedy/drama from former “Six Feet Under” writer Jill Soloway. It stars Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) as the patriarch of an emotionally scattered Los Angeles family who reveals to his three children that he is transgender.

It’s delicate and daring, with a great performance from Tambor as Maura and an easily digestible running time of 30 minutes per episode for its 10-episode first season. The first episode is available for free on, and the rest of the season is available only to Amazon Prime customers. How good is the series? It finally made me break down and pay $99 for the Prime service. “Transparent” has already been renewed for a second season.

Hulu features two very funny shows built for comedy geeks, the Seth Meyers-driven animated superhero series “The Awesomes” and a “Real Housewives” spoof called “The Hotwives of Orlando” starring Casey Wilson and Kristen Schaal, among others.

Still need more? Try YouTube’s “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” Vimeo’s “High Maintenance” and, next year, Dan Harmon’s sitcom “Community,” which is moving from NBC to Yahoo’s free Screen service.

Online music

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s second solo album, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” debuted online as a $6 download on the website BitTorrent with no plans to release it as a CD. (There’s a deluxe vinyl version that costs nearly $50.)

It follows a trend of artists including Beyoncé releasing albums online first (in her case, last year’s surprise self-titled album on iTunes) before CD versions show up in brick-and-mortar stores.

The online space is a great place to listen to full streams of albums weeks before they’re officially released (iTunes and NPR’s “All Songs Considered” do it frequently) while YouTube and Spotify are rich places to discover brilliant covers, live versions and early demos of songs. SoundCloud has also emerged as a place where artists such as Lorde are being discovered with free music stream releases.

One of the most artist-friendly music marketplaces may be Bandcamp, where you’ll find a huge library of indie fare.

Ebooks and comics

Of course ebooks are a natural for online exclusives that don’t quite justify a print binding or are simply too short or too expensive to get in print. Amazon’s Kindle Singles are a good way to dip into ebook short stories such as “Throttle” by Stephen King and his son Joe King or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher short story “Not a Drill.”

Comic books have been a little slower to transition to digital, but one mega author, Brian K. Vaughan, of the excellent ongoing print/digital comic “Saga,” has waded in with “Private Eye,” which is on its eight online-only issue with artists Macros Martin and Muntsa Vicente. It’s available at for the cost of “name your price.”

And though it hasn’t been updated lately, Achewood is another Web comic (that has been collected in a few books) worth checking out.

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