Posted on August 21, 2013 in Archive

How comic book publishers and readers are embracing digital


Digital comic book publishers have begun to unveil their state-of-the-art superpowers and have set themselves up as a force to be reckoned with.

DC Entertainment recently announced two new features that provide readers with more opportunities to interact with their comic books.

The first new piece of technology is DC², which adds dynamic layers to a single panel and allows readers to explore different elements, including images and word balloons.

It also gives writers and artists the ability to incorporate more detail and visual content in a single panel.

The second feature, known as DC² Multiverse, provides readers with a unique opportunity to shape the story and they do this by experimenting with the different characters and subplots available.

Each chapter of a DC² Multiverse comic has a variety of story outcomes; for example, readers can elect to follow Batman or Catwoman through the streets of Gotham City, and they can choose which weapons they want their characters to use.

Co-publisher Jim Lee said they want to carefully monitor how readers react to the technology before integrating it with other titles.

Both of these new features are great examples of integrating technology with written stories.

A lot of digital books released lately have positioned themselves as video games with linear stories, which is potentially frustrating to fans of both media, alternatively, having a branching story stays true to the written form whilst utilising digital technologies.

The new features are part of a digital refurbishment the company initiated in 2011, a company-wide move that also included publishing all titles “day-and-date” digitally, which means publishing them online and for the same price as print copies.

As a result of the digital reboot, DC Entertainment recorded a growth of 125% in their digital department between 2011 and 2012.

Digital comics in North America were estimated to bring in $70 million in 2012, which is almost triple the $25 million made in 2011.

And while this growth might sound small compared to the estimated $680 million from print sales in the same period, it is a huge leap from 2009’s estimated $1 million revenue from digital comics.

Approximately one million digital comics are being downloaded from DC’s platforms per month but, as with most things related to digital publishing, the exact figures for digital comic book sales are difficult to track down, as publishers are reluctant to release detailed data.

Having said that, it’s evident that digital comics are a complimentary force to DC’s print comics, which experienced their best sales in a decade, up 13% on June last year.

This trend isn’t limited to DC Entertainment either.

Marketing director at Image Comics confirms that his company has recorded steady growth in the digital department; and IDW publishing, which is a smaller American publisher, said they have also seen a 20% growth rate.

CEO of Comixology, David Steinberger, said 180 million comics have been downloaded since the cross-platform marketplace app was launched five years ago.

Comixology allows readers to buy comics from the largest range of American publishers and is intended to attract fans that stopped reading comics due to storage or accessibility difficulties.

According to industry experts, some of the growth can be attributed to changing demographics; for example, co-publisher with Jim Lee at DC, Dan DiDio, said that their fastest growing demographic is women aged 18-24 years, a group who haven’t always been the biggest comic book fans.

Another contributing factor is adaptations of comics in other media, such as movies. Hollywood hits like The Dark Knight Rises have a knack for inspiring fans to trace the story back to its original source.

The consequences of this industry growth are far-reaching, and not just for the publishers who are have seen a significant rise in profits, but also for comic book fans – old and new.

IDW’s vice-president of digital publishing, Jeff Webber, said digital comics are making comics more accessible to people who don’t want to collect them, and making them available to as many readers as possible is a wise business move.

Image Comics, who have recently made their titles available for purchase without DRM, are one example of a rising number of publishers who are attempting to provide customers with different ways to buy comics.

Digital comics have the potential to attract new readers the same way that digital erotica and romance books do.

There’s a certain stigma attached to buying these things in public, but digital devices make them more private.

While it might be cool to like Batman or The Avengers, it’s not nearly as trendy to have piles of old comics spilling out from underneath the bed.

Digital comics are a more accessible and portable solution – and one that readers are obviously much more comfortable with.

An alliance, much like the famous Justice League (an alliance of multiple heroes to do more good than one could alone), between comic book publishers and digital technologies is beneficial to the publishing companies and readers alike.