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Reading the new TCJ #301 interview with +Michael Kupperman and Al Jaffee, it occurred to me that declining industries seem to counterintuitively react by trying to cover MORE bases poorly, rather than provide better value for the things they're actually most capable of doing well. Kupperman made a remark about magazines and print media responding to digital culture by dumbing down their content to hopefully attract a larger audience.

I think the same idea applies to specialty shops, bookstores, comics shops, etc. -- in a changing market where suddenly you're not the only available outlet for whatever it is you sell, the answer is not to sell MORE at dwindling profit (see Borders, et al), it's to get BETTER at selling what you are best at selling, what you provide that another may not, or at least not as well as you.

In terms of comics shops, carrying a complete line of books so that you never miss a sale is no longer the best business practice. Your bottom line is choked with maintaining an ever-expanding backstock of books, trades, hardcovers, deluxe hardcovers of the same books and trades. Like as not you're providing a better browsing experience for a shopper that will later purchase that book on Amazon at 40% off cover.

But Amazon can never be as good as even a mediocre comics shop in stocking things for a specific customer base, things that don't work with the mass market in the same way. For example, The Beguiling in Toronto has a good stock of regular comics stuff, and a great stock of manga -- but one of the things that makes them irreplaceable is their stock of weird stuff, untranslated European and Japanese books, out-of-print books, minicomics, art books. And a knowledgeable staff that can talk confidently to a shopper about whether or not that Igort book is available in English, or whether this is all the Blueberry volumes, etc.

I definitely think the comic book direct market is on its way out, at least in its current form. It's just too backward a system, still based on the mid-70's newstand market it was formed in. Pamphlet comics are dwindling in importance as book collections and original book length stories gain ubiquity; it's only a matter of time before the periodical market is dominated by digital/handheld releases, with the collected editions being the first time they appear in a print form. And there are many MANY more places that are better at retailing books cheaply than your average comics shop. But the best comics shops, and the ones most likely to survive over the next 5-10 years, are the ones smart enough to double-down on what they're best at, which is essentially boutique/specialty bookselling, as opposed to mass market bookselling.

I think both have a place in comics shops, but the current system is squarely based on weekly Wednesday-based revenues, which means the fate of most comics shops is tied to the fate of weekly periodical comics, on some level. People are more comfortable reading comics on their computers and phones and iPads than ever before -- that isn't going to change, and it's foolish to think that corporate entities like Marvel and DC, owned by Disney and Time Warner respectively, are going to act to shield the comparatively tiny swath of direct market retailers from the coming shift to a majority-digital publishing world. Just as it's crazy to expect dwindling newspaper audiences to act in an altruistic way to buy newsprint papers that are smaller and smaller, filled with more ads than ever, but with increasingly dishwater content between those ads.

What comics shops are good at is the EXPERIENCE of comics -- not just browsing, looking through old comics or back issues, seeing what's new week to week, but FINDING comics, discovering new work, being around other people interested in comics, actively engaging with a hobby or artform or just an afternoon distraction. The best comics shops seek to amplify this experience, create more unique value for their clienteles, and make themselves a destination, as opposed to simply another place to buy a thing.

We're still adjusting to this new world where we're connected instantaneously to... every other part of the world. Increased connectivity means increased competition. Companies gobble each other up and become more and more similar as they diversify. Maybe it's the way our culture has been organized up to now that makes us try to be better at everything at once, but it's my feeling that the next phase of our new information society will be one where specialists fill the cracks between the larger entities, carving out their own niches in territory that might otherwise be unfriendly. I think this applies just as much to the creative, content-driven side of things as it does the mercantile side -- although it's increasingly hard to tell the difference between the two.
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Dustin Harbin's profile photoIndigo Kelleigh's profile photoBenjamin Birdie's profile photoEric Newsom's profile photo
50 comments
 
My LCS is the worst at all of those things you said they should be the best at. It's a small shop with hardly any back issues, 1 person working at a time, only caries the big 2 publishers (everything else has to be special ordered). They live on the Wednesday rush.
 
Well said. Digital bookstores are definitely great for letting you find what you are looking for but they're not as great for finding what you don't know you're looking for. All of these recommendation engines they build certainly work pretty well but they don't beat browsing a rack of books and having something catch your eye that you wouldn't have sought out otherwise.

I think this is an issue for people making lesser known, small press books. On the one hand, it's easier to get your work onto something like Comixology or Graphicly or even Amazon than it is to get it into a Barnes & Noble store or even a lot of comic shops. But once you're in there you're lost in the depths of an immense website that is most likely never going to showcase your book in a way that a reader is going to stumble upon it easily. That can happen a lot easier in a comic shop.
 
Yeah I feel like the comics shop owner can be at his or her best when they're as much a curator as a retailer. Many people's best memories of shops is having a clerk handsell them something, less out of an interest in money (for instance there's never been any commission system or even recognition for sales at Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, my alma mater) than in just wanting to spread around good stuff.
 
I would like to go to a comics-coffeehouse like the one in the movie KICK-ASS. I like coffeehouses and I like comic books and I like people. But what do the physical comics matter anymore when the digital comic book platform is so much better.

Honesty, the only 2 reasons I go to the comic shops are that the major companies still don't offer their full lines digitally and #2: I like the people.

But: if I were still going to my old comic shop, I would have quit comic shops altogether by now and cut my losses with the restricted digital selection.

I know that I am not typical but if there is a chance that my experience is in any way shared by other comic buyers, then the direct market is doomed. An industry cannot survive on good intentions and retail-level interpersonal relationships alone.

Heck, in my case, I actively work against my own best interests by patronizing comic shops. I live in a tiny apartment but own that vital iPhone device. I should be phasing out my my Direct Market patronage because it is a detriment to my lifestyle. That said, I am going to the shop today.

Meandering, sorry.

I worry about the health of the comic retail market due to society as a whole's shift away from luxury/entertainment/arts being primary in physical retail. My favorite record shop in NYC shut down years ago. What does that mean for my favorite comic shop?

Meander: end.
 
I pretty much agree, Darryl. I feel like people get huffy about "supporting your local retailer" but I think that doesn't work in every case -- if your local retailer is like Neil's, and doesn't act in your best interests as a customer, then you're supporting mediocrity. Not to mention that, in a world where everything's more connected, you have the option of supporting a non-local retailer that DOES do the things you want, provide the experience or the stocklist you're looking for. There's less reason than ever to sink money into the same old grubby comics shop you've endured forever.

Take all this with a grain of salt -- I not only live just a few blocks away from a GREAT comics shop, (www.heroesonline.com), but I worked there for 14 years, have a great relationship with the owner and staff, and so I get even more awesomeness out of them. So maybe I'm a little Pollyanna about insisting on a certain level of quality, because I've always had a high level of access to pretty much anything I want comics-wise. And am a savvy enough consumer that if Heroes doesn't have it or can't stock it easily, I just buy that ess online, no problemo.
 
Interesting thought about supporting just good comic shops. Being a Heroes customer and a former NYer I forget that there are tons of places that ONLY have shitty comic shops.

When the coming collapse comes and only the good, smart shops are left standing, should those shops be ready with a strong web presence to provide the much needed comic buying experience to people in other places that only wish they had a great comic shop near them. Or does it not matter since graphic novels can already be bought cheaply through Amazon and floppy comics are going extinct? Is there anything an LCS can offer to people outside of their physical vicinity that would increase their business and not put them in direct competition with big guns like Amazon?
 
Yeah, the owner at my LCS would specifically order single copies of things because he thought I would like it. He was almost always right.
 
Rich, I think good comic shops just can't compete longterm for "regular" stuff. Why pay shipping and risk damage on a book that's only 20% off cover at best? On the other hand, Shelton has been doing increased business the last two years selling high-grade Silver, something he's REALLY good at, has a great eye for, and is a trusted name in the grading/collectible community. So that's the kind of thing he will always be better at that any mass market retailer, and he can carve his own niche out.
 
With Diamond being the sole distributor for the majority of comics, I'm surprised that Amazon hasn't stepped in to that arena. They already have all of the invoicing, shipping and stocking systems in place.

If comics do embrace the digital medium, I think comic shops will become even more essential. Not for new material since it won't be as prevalent in floppy format, but as a source for finding older ones like Dustin said. Do you know what caused a resurgence in collecting basketball cards? They stopped making them for a few years in the 80's. If there aren't actual paper and staple comics coming out, collectors will flock to people like Shelton.

Has there been any talk about some sort of digital downloading station at the LCS level that the shops can make a little money on? No stock to carry, no shipping or upfront costs to buy books, no risk on new titles/publishers.... I think it would be a pretty sweet deal for the retailers.
 
Good post/topic/comments. High five!

Few random thoughts:

- I would not say that it is crazy to expect DC and Marvel to protect the DM. The DM is the bird in hand. The DM is the movie theater. Hollywood could go straight to Netflix. Straight to their own version of Netflix for each studio if they wanted to. Straight to the audience. But, Hollywood is smart enough to go to the theater first then to the digital audience. Get paid twice. Day and Date is not just stupid, it is suicidal and the audience is not even really asking for it. I'd give the DM at least one week exclusivity before I'd make the the download available.

- This all makes me think about why I first went to a comic shop. When I was a kid I had mail subscriptions to just about the entire Marvel line. I eventually ended up in a comic shop because of what I could not get through the mail. I went in for back issues and then discovered stuff I could not get like Dreadstar, Marshall Law, TMNT and all the crazy adult stuff I'd never seen before. Despite the fact that mail subscriptions were at least 20% cheaper, I dropped the subscriptions and went to the pull list because the comic shop had all the weird stuff.

-The whole idea of buying digital from inside a comic book store at some kind of station or kiosk is never going to work. Look at the music industry, Tower Records and look at Borders. Borders spent millions trying to figure out a system to get people to buy mp3s in store. It's just never going to happen in a way that does not lose money. I spent 7 years in Borders watching them try to figure out how to make money of digital money and digital books. That bird has flown.

-As far as digital goes, dang, everyone needs to step back and take a look at all digital media/content/business in general and see where the money is going. If you put comics on a digital device then what is it? It is not a tangible product any more. It is not a comic. It is content. Let me say that again. It is content. Look at how the digital world works. Who makes the money? The content creators? No. The guys making the money are the ones that control the content delivery device (cell pad pod phone) and the guys that control the bandwidth (cable/phone/wi fi/internet service provider etc.) If all your eggs are in the digital basket you are not competing against Marvel anymore. You are competing against Angry Birds. Good luck with that.
 
Shannon:

A comic doesn't cease being a comic if it isn't on paper. I mean webcomics are a serious thing. And digital comics are also a serious thing.

Semantics are a dangerous game, but saying that everything digital is just "content" isn't a realistic examination of the work, the world or the scene. 
 
Shannon I think you're talking more about aesthetic concerns -- I'm not saying "it's right and proper for pamphlet comics to give way to serialized digital content," but I do think that's what's going to happen. And digital content IS a product.

The DM isn't a bird in the hand -- as it currently stands, the DM is the retail arm of the content mills the big publishers have become. DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and even some of the larger companies are basically maintaining IP's and licenses. The 120,000 people who buy a HIT comic, like a top-selling comic... that's not a very big number in terms of a national entertainment industry, much less a global one. The Didios and Quesadas of course maintain that their first loyalty is to brick and mortar comics shops, but what does that mean? They're both employed by mega-conglomerates, as a part of a wing dedicated primarily to entertainment. Their first loyalty is to shareholders. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But it does throw cold water on the warm fuzzies that the DM thinks it's protected by.

The fact that it's HARDER to render revenue from digital content doesn't make it impossible, and it's SO clearly the way entertainment is heading. Think of video games: that industry's been around for what, 30+ years now, and it's more profitable than movies or music, and it's mostly digital. You have to buy a physical CD for bigger games, yes, but look how much of that purchase is controlled. Your idea that Hollywood is too smart to not get paid twice for movies is a nice one, but I don't think it holds water -- Hollywood makes movies, but it's people who go buy tickets. If people would prefer to watch them at home or on their phone or wherever, that's where movies will go. If you think you can rail against this kind of thing, just look at newspapers. You can say how much cultural and informational value they present all you like, but if people prefer to get their news from Fox News or the Huffington Post, then that's that. You can't make someone buy something they don't want, at least not for very long, in such a competitive, saturated marketplace.

Edit: just saw Darryl's post above. Agree.
 
-I read Dustin's coment saying "The Didos and Quesadas" and my brain read Dildos and Quesadillas.
- I'm not being clear on what I mean by content vs. product. Yes. Comics is comics is comics. What I mean is that a comic book, book, magazine etc. stand on their own. Digital media is content that depends on the viewing/reading device. It is a product that is dependent on another product. The cell pad pod phone mac PC etc. The money is in the device not the content. That could change, but history puts the real money on the device.
-But sure, go after that digital customer. Go after all of it. I'm just saying you could help the DM a little with exclusivity. A comic book is a different experience than a digital comic just like a trip to the movies is different than watching Netflix. But, if I can see a movie on Netlfix the day it comes out, I'm not going to the movie theater. I'm just saying multiple venues are better than less.
-Video games are actually a great example. The video game industry has somehow managed to keep it's hardcore fanbase lining up for midnight releases of a physical product they walk out of a brick and mortar store with. Somehow, despite piracy etc. they still have a fanbase that want that "first kid on the block" feeling. I don't know how they have pulled it off but the hardcore comics fan/collector is similar so it is worth looking at.
And another thing to think about as far as movies go price points. At the movie theater, how much of each ticket is the movie studio getting? Those big opening weekends justify big expensive movies. Now, how much money with the customer pay for the cell pad pod phone version? As much as the movie ticket? I don't think so. That pie is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller. I'm curious to see how price points will play out as we become more and more digital. Will the comics customer want to pay the same for a download as a print comic? Will the downloads be able to compete with piracy? We are on about letter B of an alphabet of unknowns.
 
Shannon, I now see what you mean.

I have some vague thoughts on the matter but essentially, I am of the belief that the entertainment industry as a whole is shifting toward that direction and comics doesn't have the power to reverse that stream. People access fun through devices nowadays. More and more.

:-/
 
Yeah I think you're talking about something else. I'm not at all saying that the DM SHOULD go away, I'm saying that it will. It's an economic likelihood, because think of it this way: digital comics are super cheap to print and ship. The big immovable cost that print faces is paper, ink, and shipping all that paper and ink all over the place. DC and Marvel are paying lip service right now to comics shops, and I agree that placing digital release a week behind print release gives a leg up to shops. But the longview says that that's leaving revenue on the table, which in a lightning fast entertainment market seems... unlikely for a savvy company that needs to keep shareholders happy.

Whether or not that's better or worse than anything is a separate issue. My post is mainly about what I feel will separate the cream from the milk going forward in a shrinking print marketplace.
 
Yeah, I agree with the inevitability of it. Just look at those empty spots in your nearest strip mall where a record store used to be. I just think day and date will needlessly speed it up in an illogical way. I've not bought a DVD since I got Netflix. The only CDs I've bought in the past decade or so have been as gifts for others. But to get back to the original theme of your post, yeah, the stores that will survive will be the stores that can give their customers what digital can't and by turning them on to stuff they did no know they wanted. But, come to think of it, comic shops originated without Diamond. They were just little niche shops that had the stuff you could not get on the news stand.
 
I hate thinking about it, but it's true. There's no magical need for comics to exist as monthly-floppy-printed-things to make them comics. They were made that way in the first place because it was the cheapest way to get them out and make a profit on them. Digital is cheaper and as more people get used to it the more it's going to shift that way.

I've already watched the first industry I entered (newspapers in the early '90s) cannibalize itself and enter self-destruct mode. It's worse over there because the stockholders demand that they maintain their historically high profit margins. But instead of adapting to the new reality of the internet and digital, corporate newspapers screwed it up and tried to keep doing the same thing, but saving money by cutting staff to the bone (except for advertising, of course) and expecting the survivors to put out more with less. Even back in 2000 we thought it impossible that they'd get rid of the photojournalist staff and just have the reporters take point-and-shoots with them. But that's exactly what happened. Corporate doesn't give a damn about quality, as long as there's still content to push out.

And so you see what's happening to the local paper in your town... if you even still get the paper copy. I don't want to see a repeat of that in the comics industry.

I hate to see comic shops go but it's going to happen. I think places like DCBS here in my town will hang on longer; they're not Amazon but they are specialty, let you set up a pull list for shipping, and have a good discount. But even that trickle of physical books is going to be trades and collections of the most popular digital stuff eventually.

And better embracing digital than clinging to dead tree delivery service like the newspapers did.
 
Two dueling questions I'd ask here. You've mentioned The Beguiling, Heroes, and Rich referred to New York stores. You're talking big city, urban stores. It strikes me that they're going to have a larger customer base, with probably a larger budget and a wider variety of tastes.

A store like the Beguiling can stock untranslated and art books, and afford the staff who talks about them because they have that market base of customers. A store in Charlotte can do that. Can a store in, say, Waynesville or Rock Hill?

So questions: In the future, can great comic stores (or comic stores at all) only exist in urban areas with a larger, more varied customer base? If so, how does that limit the exposure to comics to those who live outside of those markets?
 
Shannon: it's not illogically sped up. In fact, comics are illogically BEHIND other forms of entertainment re: digital product.

Comics are catching up with the digital reality
 
Good point Darryl. We are weirdly just now seeing real digital release from large companies in 2011? Although part of that is the act of reading comics is different on mobile screens; I think we've been slow to adapt our eyeballs. As we get used to using mobile devices more, we're acclimated more to reading "pages" in non-page forms. I'm not -- I still can't read comics on screens, even my big computer screen. But I don't represent the majority of the market. 
 
Yeah I get that Darryl. It's really amazing that it has taken this long for comics to get to where music was 10 years ago. Marvel just joined up with Comixology so I guess that makes Comixology the iTunes of comics. But--- to go "day and date" when no one is really demanding it seems illogical. Streaming movies has been in place quite a while now but you still have the DVD and BluRay copies exclusive to retailers for a while before the movies and TV shows are on Netflix, Hulu etc. I just don't see Warner's logic in it. It's like slapping the comics retailer in the face just to get an article in USA Today. We'll see how it plays out soon though. I suspect that first week of the new 52 will look like a huge success in both the DM and the digital sales. Tom Spurgeon said something to the effect that he was more interested in seeing how things looked around issue 23. I'll be surpirsed if a lot of it makes it to issue 13.
 
No-one? Everyone that buys digitally demands that, so that is just flat out wrong.
 
Yeah, in most nerdy circles where people are lapsed comics readers, one of the biggest turn offs is waiting for digital release while other people are already talking about the book.

As someone interested in making digital releases work, is Comixology kind of the Diamond of digital? I seem to recall hearing their profit percentage structure isn't super great. I wonder if it would be possible for a group of independent creators to build something slick, nice, and functional with better profit margins for creators. It'd be insanely cheaper to prime color comics work for digital distribution but in an actual marketplace (as opposed to webcomics, where your audience would sooner blow up a liquor store than actually pay you for your work).
 
Sorry Blue. I guess I don't know much about the wants and demands of the paying digital comics customer. I have not personally seen any clammoring for day and date from the comics buying public. Of course, I have never met a paying digital comics customer. I know hundreds of people that read web comics but I don't know anyone that has ever paid for a digital comic. But I guess they are out there somewhere in large enough numbers for Warner to radically change it's comics publishing business model.
 
Just read a comic forum or twitter, won't take you long to find some other than us.
 
Benjamin, no idea about the financials, but if publishers put all their work up they'll have a better bargaining position as far as technology partners goes. Comixology has the most content in one place, certainly.

If everyone keeps it secret and it is a bad deal - Comixology, Graphicly or whoever (and the companies rather artists do so) then the public will never know and never be on your side, either.

As far as your indy creator site - it could be a really simple task. E.g. all you need is a html pager and a web browser - like htmlcomics was or the ubiquitous previews on newsarama, cbr, etc. of the first few pages of a comic. Plus the database to activate viewing rights for a given customer and do accounting. So a simple, solved problem that part. If you want fancy obfuscating flash apps due to paranoia about content copying that will cost you rather more and give you considerably greater support and admin headaches.

Your problem would be aggregation and advertising in this case more so than the tech.
 
I'd also be wary of it being primarily web based. I was thinking more of an app, but it's probably the same concerns in terms of execution. But, comics on the web. Yecchhh! ;D
 
Web = everyone in world can read it. App = well off people with phones can read it. The latter set almost completely enclosed by the former. Both is what you want. But there are comic reading applications already - content just needs to be packaged for it.
 
Web = No one will pay for it. App = People have to. But I definitely see your point. As a webcartoonist I have a slightly...antagonistic relationship with the platform.
 
I don't mean on the web as in free webcomics - but as in log in to view type deal, in a nutshell. See Wowio for example of a blunky version.
 
Right. I've seen stuff like that but I haven't seen many instances of it working. There's a pretty significant consumer hurdle in getting a person to pay for comics in a browser, at least as I've seen.
 
This is way off of Dustin's original topic (sorry) but it has me thinking- who will have the leverage in that relationship. My assumption (based on nothing really) was that Comixology etc. are paying some sort of licensing fee to Marvel DC etc. I could be wrong. But, my question is as this goes on, who will dictate the terms. The content creator or the content deliverer. This is just pie in the sky thinking on my part. I guess in the long run, money/demand will dictate which kind of content will be created but I just wonder if a Comixology or similar company would have the influence to dictate to Marvel DC etc. what kind of comics they create. What kind of influence has iTunes had on the music industry in that way I wonder?
 
What kind of influence does Diamond have on comics publishing?
 
Well, maybe none other than the after the fact business of thinking about what kind of copy they want to submit for Previews. I'm thinking in terms of the rejections and/or censorship we've seen in eBooks as the precedent. Would a company running some eComics app have problems if Marvel were to put out something like Marhall Law or DC something like The Filth. Is Miller's Bin-Ladnen-punching comic signed up to be on an app yet? Sorry, I'm a question guy. Not an answer guy. I'm not a pessimist but I do get paid to think of and test worst case scenarios all day so it kind of spills over into everything I think of.
 
I think Diamond's influence is seen more with smaller publishers, as Diamond has a history going back to the mid-90s of rejecting comics from their catalog based on quality or low (sub-2000) sales numbers. I understand their position, they clearly make less profit distributing these books, and it's not worth their time dealing with green publishers who don't really understand the business, but I also know that these policies have kept books and creators from reaching the direct market.
 
Yeah I guess I meant that question rhetorically, as in, "Diamond has an immense influence over publishing." As Indigo points out, the effect of the Diamond minimums recently has pretty much kiboshed the alternative pamphlet in terms of direct market distribution, and thus in many cases altogether. The exclusivity deals Diamond got the major publishers to sign after the mid-90's collapse, the way their preferred publishers get upfront space in their ordering catalogues, not to mention trade out cover real estate, etc. Plus being a chokepoint to sales in the direct market. When Diamond takes a day off, I can say from a LOT of direct experience, the whole direct market loses money, because it's conditioned to expect new books on Wednesday, and sales just aren't the same on Thursday or Friday. Although that's not really germaine to publishing.
 
+Shannon Smith 'Mormon' Steve Jobs might have a problem as seen in several cases already. A naked Oscar Wilde comic was there? And a Project Gutenberg kama sutra. Stuff like that. But Comixology I just discovered has Our Love is Real https://comics.comixology.com/#/issue/11692/Our-Love-is-Real-1. And do have Garth Ennis. :). I've done a little of that testing kind of thing myself, so no problem. They have Kick-Ass and Wanted speaking of that sort of thing, so I'd be sure they'd want Miller craziness too.

No idea if they would sell actual porn comics or not, of course. Might have an 'adult' portal if they did I suppose, like the DC or Image ones.
 
Agreed. I was just thinking of their influence on Marvel/DC's actual comics content. But yeah, I've seen the Diamond submission forms and rejection letters. "chokepoint" sums it up. At least in that area, eComics at least should be better for the smaller guys. Fingers crossed. In most situations, if the choice is Diamond or something else, something else would be my pick.
 
Yep. And someone in Capetown or Oostende or Santiago can do something, too, hopefully, to add to comic number 8,675,233 set in New York City.
 
Less interest and declining print sales also means distributors will be under financial pressure, too. So greater than zero probability they collapse in the short term. You would hope the publisher types have a plan to jury rig something together in that happenstance.
 
Hey I'm no expert but I have a digital comic with Comixology.

If you have general questions (ie, non numerical ones) I'm happy to answer what I can.

Also, I'm a customer of digital comics. If you want the best word on the subject, go find David Brothers: 4thletter.net and he also does the Digital Comics reportage for Comics Alliance. He is the authority.

Also, look for my friend Niki Smith niki-smith.com for her all-platform digital comic releases. She knows everything there is to know about digital comics as an independent publisher.

By the way, digital comics customers do want day and date. And we want it yesterday ;-)
 
This is a really interesting discussion. A very interesting time for comics and a lot of other industries due to these massive technology and economy shifts that are happening right now.

In regards to the web vs. app discussion is that in a great example of how quickly thinking on this stuff changes, last year people were writing articles about how apps were the future and the web as we knew it was dead. Now with HTML5 coming fast and strong people are beginning to realize that they can develop rich content to work the same way in a browser as it will on a device. Amazon just launched a browser-based Kindle reader last week. Graphicly seems to be shifting their model to web-based comics vs. app-based comics because it opens them up to a wider audience and allows that audience to do more things with the comics like share and interact socially with them.

Digital still has a pricing and DRM issue to work out before it can become big though. I think someone needs to develop a Netflix-style subscription service and I'm sure Comixology or someone will. But I'm not sure how much more the creators will get screwed with a service like that even though it would be great for readers.
 
A lot of collector nerds in comics - so making it hard or impossible to download comics and file them and sort them will definitely reduce sales and make them less money. Some people will be philosophically opposed to the paranoid corporate content delivery and won't pay until the DRMness changes. Either way, you can of course get almost any comic of note for free if you want. And people can certainly do that to 'back up' their obfuscated/crippled/restricted other content purchases. Some will of course not want to waste time with both, cut out the middleman and just go direct to the most usable source and cheapest source instead.

Having a web version you can view anywhere in big screen (or small screen) without carting around a laptop or hard disk or filling up that phone you might have mp3s and tv and movies on as well is a point of difference from the free download bittorrent variety, too.
 
All that DRM business to me... well, It's like listening to people talk in another language. Or, it's like me listening to my many World of Warcraft obsessed co-workers talk about that world. Things that people are willing to dump money into often baffle me. One of the things about the gamer world that baffles me is that a lot of those fans are paying for a subscription/account AND they still shell out money every few months for the new version that comes in a box from Best Buy or Amazon. It boggles me.
Personally, I don't feel the need to possess nice things. My collecting days are behind me. If there was a subscription based platform that could do for comics what Netflix does for movies, I'd probably be happy to set up the monthly direct draft from my checking account. I don't know that I would ever login to something to pay to read one comic but I might pay to login to something where I can just toggle through and pick from hundreds or thousands of comics. One of the great things about the Netflix model is that I do not fear getting burned. If something sucks, I just stop it and try something else. But, streaming movies is still in it's infancy also. I've read a lot in just the past couple of months about the studios wanting to pull back the reigns. If that whole model fell apart or changed in the next 18 to 28 months I would not be surprised. (I may be devastated though. )
Still, if I know a comic shop has stinky old cheap back issues from the 70s and 80s that I can get cheap, I'll go there first. That's just my preference but I don't know how many comic shops could survive off me and my $30 worth of dollar comics.
And on another tangent- I wonder if someone at some point at a Warner board meeting spoke up and said, "Wait. Comixology is going to get a cut of our comics. I thought we were comics. How the eFFF did we not create our own Comixlology?"
 
No Dustin, it is that YOU are so GREAT at topics that they multiply in my brain to the point where my skull can not contain them. (I would blame it on the airbag to my head but most of my ranting came before the wreck.) (Sorry.)
 
Well I agree that it's odd that the companies don't simply make and market their own apps, although then again companies never seem to be particularly good at that sort of thing, and the way entertainment technology seems to work is that whatever is easiest and has the biggest selection becomes dominant. Video games seem to be the only industry that has made company-controlled hardware the standard, and it's probably because of that that video games are so much more profitable than a lot of entertainment industries in a digital marketplace.

But I don't know much about video games! I do know a lot about comic book stores though, and I do think that those of us who enjoy the shop itself, the rooting through things, the smell of old comics.. I think we're in the minority. In terms of people who want to comment or complain or rail against the coming change, we're the vocal majority, but in terms of people spending money, we're the tiniest slice. That's part of my point, in saying that Marvel and DC act correctly in their own interest, just as consumers of comics act in what they see as their own interest, whether that's print or digital or free or stolen or downloaded or whatever. Comics shops need to act in THEIR own interest, and not wait for Marvel and DC and Diamond Comics to hold some fantasy umbrella of protection over them.
 
it makes sense in a one-sided business sense, but it'scounter productive
just like how comic companies don't have their own stores for print comics. It becomes unweildy and not reasonable to expect that people will want to keep track of 5 different digital "stores." People want an "iTunes." They want a store that they can visit and find everything they're looking for (or at least most of it) without clicking over different things
that's how everybody wins
 
Disney owns the patent for digital comics viewing (via CrossGen), although that may expire soon.
They are also doing a decent job selling Disney DigiComics in England and Italy (and also on iTunes, but with less depth).
Marvel's DCU seems to be doing okay...

As for paper comics... that market will disappear in five years. Why would a store take a risk on a print comic which might not sell when it has an instant back-issue bin via Diamond Digital (or, if they are stupid) Comixology? It's similar to how Marvel and DC moved marginal titles from the newsstand to the Direct Market, and how the newsstand market became marginalized. The publishers move the paper market to trades, artist editions, and...Print On Demand. (See: Warner Archives, Lightning Source) Imagine being able to create your own anthologies on Marvel.com! Or collecting all of the Alex Toth stories from DC!

Comics shops are currently independent specialized bookshops. How many mystery or science fiction bookstores exist in this country? More likely, they will become a mix of used bookstore/pop culture shop. Many are already diversified, selling toys, t-shirts, DVDs...
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