I think that even more than the 7th Doctor, the 8th belonged to the fans.
The 7th Doctor may have been given free reign in the New Adventures, but his existence within the book medium was pre-defined by three seasons on TV that had already begun the transformation from slightly goofy little guy into insidious and scary universal force of change. True the books eventually backed him away from that new archetype, but the very fact that he was such afigure for so long was really down to all the fans sending stuff into the slushpile that got commissioned. For the first time in over 25+ years, it was the fans, the consumers, who were to a large extent responsible for the direction the series took.
When the BBC took back the book licence, they largely had the sense to maintain the model that Virgin had established (even though IMO their editorial staff may have been sub-optimal compared to Virgin's for pretty much the entire run of EDAs - and yes Justin Richards, I'm looking specifically at you). But that aside, there was a major difference between 7th & 8th Doctors, because the only anchor point the latter character had was the telemovie: beyond that, practically everything was open to interpretation. Up for grabs.
There's always been Doctor Who fanfic, but the reign of the NAs and MAs had introduced a more literate culture to fandom, and filled with with authorial aspirants. Meaning that far more people were used to and enamoured with the idea of laying their own literary claim to the Doctor than at any point previously. For me, this led to my grokking on to the Internet Adventures, a series of moderated round-robins tories that saw those of us involved take the 8th Doctor and develop him and the companions we gave him in ways of our own choosing, collaborating with other fans - not always harmoniously it must be admitted - to create a life, a history, a presence as had happened with no other Doctor before him.
Sadly I think with the advent of the (second) 9th Doctor and the return to a TV-based model of the series what we had with teh 7th and 8th Doctors is gone. The ability of fandom to direct the evolution of the character in any significant way has been taken away from us - there is no slushpile, no oportunity for newcomers (or even most of the old timers come to that) to contribute to the ongoing narrative. It's become a closed shop again, and its very existence has robbed fandom of a degree of vibrancy and creativity - because "Doctor Who is back" and can just "watch him on telly", the impetus and the desire to create our own narrative, individually but more importantly communally, has been kneecapped.
Which is really really sad.