With Print Comic Book Sales Weakening, Is a Digital Future the Answer?
Comic book enthusiasts are considering the advantages of big publishers, such as Marvel and DC Entertainments Inc., providing digital content in addition to print each week. Online websites—Comixology.com and Marvel.com—are providing digital versions of the much loved print format, but local retailers fear its affects.
Many publishers are pursuing the digital platform aggressively, and want to support local retailers as best they can. While DC Entertainment Inc. is viewed as the most aggressive publisher out of the “big two,” Marvel and DC both split the distribution market share almost in half, and is also the one, according to local retailers, best supporting the initiative when it comes to both parties being able to profit from the digital content.
Recently, DC launched a companywide initiative to re-launch its entire catalogue of titles, and partnered with Comixology.com to pursue new digital markets. Dubbed the “New 52″, DC’s mission was to attract new readers by bringing the company into the 21st century, offering same day-and-date digital and print comic books.
“With DC they introduced ‘The New 52′ initiative with this digital movement in hopes to gain lots of new readers,” says veteran collector Will Cafasso. “With digital in particular, I think DC has a huge case of having their cake, and eating it too.”
Similarly, Marvel Comics are giving retailers the opportunity to take advantage of the platform.
“Marvel works through our distributor, and you can get comics with digital download numbers in the book,” says Paul Sager, owner of Continental Comics in Northridge, CA. “When you go to download it, they ask what store you bought the comic from, and at the end of the month, they pay the comic store a dividend.”
Some retailers are seeing the service as being a product of our time, and that the industry should explore different opportunities in the hopes of attracting a greater number of readers.
Still, there are a few retailers who are responding to the new offerings of digital content and online exclusives by pushing the new platform as an “addition to” service. They don’t see it overshadowing the sales of print comic books and graphic novels.
“I see more people using digital for like a movie trailer or to try out to see if they like the comic,” says Sager. “People will still want to collect and read a comic because of the touch, smell and nostalgia of it all.”
Regardless, some hobbyists wish to exclusively take advantage of online sources that offer digital comics to save space and time.
“I was sick of all the space my comics were taking up,” admits Cafasso. “I was moving apartments last summer, and I began to notice just how much space they were taking up. When you’re buying something like 30 plus comics a month, bagging and boarding all of them, that space really starts to fill up quickly.”
According to Freeman Portlyn, owner of Brave New World Comics in Newhall, CA, regardless of whether the industry’s future is within the digital market, as a whole it needs to take advantage of every possibility to grow.