Comic book sales are on the decline, just like most other print media. Comic book stores are closing their doors, yet movies based on comics are doing great in the box office. Some avid fans still support their local comic book stores and there is still a nationwide subculture of collectors. How can comics adapt to the changing market? What can they do to stay relevant?
The Digital Age
Some comics have moved the the digital arena in the form of websites and ebooks. Comic producers have provided free sample content to entice readers. According to this 2012 Los Angeles Times article, “DC is the first company to offer single comic book issues through Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Book Store” (Ben Fritz). Fritz goes on to say, “So far this year, DC’s digital comic book sales are up 197%.” Things seem promising for digital comics.
Promising though it may seem, a lot of publishers are still scratching their heads as to how to increase sales and stir up interest in new readers. I think most would agree that the Internet has altered the business model for not just comics, but all media, very drastically. It’s up to the artists, authors and publishers to figure out a model that works in this new digital age. In an age where content is given away online, how can value be placed on content? What should publishers charge that won’t scare readers away? What would you pay for a 10 page issue? How about a 30 page issue?
Still, the benefits to digital comics as a new platform are limited. In an interview with Wired.com, Ira Rubenstein, executive vice president of Marvel’s Global Media Group said, “The personal experience of holding a book in your hands is something you can never re-create in a digital experience.” This rings true to me on a personal level. I love books; the way they smell, feel and look sitting on my shelf. Digital comic books just don’t have that same lure.
The Fans Determine The Future
It’s ultimately up to us, the fans, how well comics will flourish. In a world of free, of instant downloads and smart phones, why drive to the comic book store to browse? Amazon.com and Half.com provide used books at cheap prices. Buying the books second hand save us some money, but the profit doesn’t go to the local shop owner. What do we want? Do we want digital or print?
The big names in comics, namely Marvel and DC, will continue to thrive. But what about new authors and start up companies? In the same Wired.com article as mentioned above, author Michael Moreci notes, “Simply put, people are more likely to pick up a classic Avengers title than a new superhero series from an upstart publisher.” This is sad but true. Personally, my Batman comics outnumber my comics from unknown artists and start up publishers. Is this a fault of mine? Should I go out of my way to familiarize myself with newer comics? How about you, do you make it a point to explore new publishers?
Here are five links to Indie Comic publishers. If you have the time and desire, browse some of the sites. It’s up to us to find and fund the heroes and myths of tomorrow.