Digital Comic Sales–Can’t Buy The Numbers January 16, 2012 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns – Tags: Archie comics, comic book sales, comic books, ComicsPRO, Dark Horse, DC 52, DC comics, digital comic sales, digital comics, Image Comics, Marvel Comics, Mike Pascale
Contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. All pictures copyright their respective owners.
I’m neck-deep in storyboards for the next couple weeks, so the next few columns will be short.
Appropriate for any discussion of a new year is new formats. Comics are no stranger to this, as there are not only Web comics and Kindle comic editions that have been available for years, but the iPad and even iPhone are also allowing users to get their monthly fix of four-color fun. (Or black-and-white wonder, though these days b/w is much less desirable digitally. Probably another reason for lack of “real” inking over the last several years as well–who can appreciate or even notice, let alone study, gorgeous brush work, delicate pen control or fine cross-hatching and feathering on a 3-inch iPhone screen?)
It’s no secret that digital comic books gained popularity and momentum last year, nor that everyone expects that to continue in 2012. What is apparently secret is the percentage of total comic book sales that are digital vs. print. Amazon and Barnes & Noble freely give out this information (Amazon said that e-book sales began outnumbering all print book sales as of May, 2011) but Marvel, DC and the other major publishers do not, at least as far as I know.
Why not? What are they afraid of?
Oh, yeah–their retailers. Amazon and B & N are their own retailers, and make their own e-readers. So they really couldn’t care less which format outsells the other (except when it comes to margin costs of course) and therefore are happy to announce the details. But the comics publishers still depend on physical retailers (i.e., comic shops) for the bulk of their sales so far, so it’s not in their best interest to tout that digital is out-gaining print–even if it is.
Interestingly, in an interview with CBR last month, DC’s Executive VP-Sales, Marketing and Business Development John Rood said, “I still am delighted that this is a genre — and I trust other publishers are equally delighted — where we’re not talking about cannibalizing [the core business]. We’re not talking about one platform being a replacement for the other.” (See the full interview here)
Yet he didn’t give exact numbers. Hmmmm… Granted, he did say more details will be released to attendees at the ComicsPRO (Professional Retail Organization) membership meeting on February 9, but will they, Marvel, Archie, Dark Horse and Image be giving specific breakdowns of digital vs. print sales, percentage increases/decreases, and consumer research preference results?
I’ll share more secrets and pop more preconceptions next week.
P.S.: I’m scheduled as a guest on the KissMeComix.com Internet radio show, “Lipservice”, this Wednesday, January 18. Specifics will be announced once I know more! As for art, I will be cheerily available (and available to eat Cheerios) for your commission requests at the end of the month! Just ask Craig here.