Tuesday, August 22, 2006

INDUSTRY RANT: Digital VS Print - is it over already?

Call me crazy, but winds of change are in the air...
I've spoken often about digital replacing print as the main source for comics, at some point in the near future, mostly positing that there needed to be something one step beyond the current batch of iPod's, PSP's, eReaders, and technology to accommodate it, but lately there's a real sense, if you read between the lines in the comic internet, that things are possibly steering that way sooner.

And when I thought on it for a moment, whether that's possible, it hit me, it could easily happen any day, regardless of technology, because there's a failsafe. All we need is a big publisher to take the leap, let's say Marvel. Say they stopped printing comics tomorrow, seems crazy at first, that is until you think it through and come to tradepaperbacks, they're already selling increasingly more, and across the board, so that's the key. You can abandon print comics because you still have the trade collections to offer all those left behind the digital bandwagon. The best of both. You've got the format, process, and channels already existing to accommodate trade publication, you just flip the switch to digital, and increase production for trade collections. Then you have your monthlies, pamphlets, or singles, whatever you want to call your standard comic book, available online, digitally, and collect those now digital serials into print tomes for any and all.
Regular comics in small digital doses, and longer collections in print.
Bases covered.

There's not much to lose.
Sure there'll be some fallout from those who won't switch to digital, nor want to just read trade collections, but it's likely such a negligible amount, that you could take the bold step, or leap of faith. The comic industry, for all it's recent growth and success, is still incredibly burdened by rising costs and utterly outdated in terms of systems of distribution and reach, and with corporations running the big publishers, as mere licensing units for other media, there's no onus to ride the market til it's eventual last gasps. Just switch to digital, take your lumps, improve/expand your trade production/distribution, and start chasing that younger, larger, and very much needed, young demographic that wants all things digital any way!

So, yeah, digital is coming, it's eventual, I don't think there's any way you can argue the cost benefit of digital to print, it has to win because of that, it just makes too much business sense to continue and ignore, but it may be a lot sooner than most anyone thinks, or realizes...
With comics cheap and easily accessible again, the way they used to be!
Call me crazy.

6 comments:

Joel said...

I can see your point, in fact many indies are doing that now with the online comics and then collecting trades of them for print.

I don't think digital will ever fully replace print, that's like audio-visual media completely replacing books. Can't speak for women, but real men need something tangible they can read in the special "thinking" room ;)

Jason Martin said...

Ahh yes, that's what magazines are for... comics are too long for those reading doses...

But yes, I mean as the main mode of delivery, not only.

Brant W. Fowler said...

I have no doubt digital comics will figure prominently in the future, but I really don't see them replacing print comics. Reading comics on the computer just isn't the same. Maybe it is great for the generation coming up, but I for one like to sit AWAY from the computer to read my books. I don't think I'm alone in that.

Jason Martin said...

Hey Brant!

No, you're not alone, I'm sure the vast majority in fact agree, but I'm suggesting that maybe we'll be forced to go digital for our monthly fix, or wait for the trade...

If that were to happen, many of those reluctant to follow books digitaly might be swayed (might) by far cheaper out of pocket impact, and lack of print options (aside from trades at longer intervals)...

Just pure speculation.
I'm not advocating it :)

Jason Berek-Lewis said...

Hey Jason, I largely agree with you. Even I am moving to kill off floppies, the cost, especially in Australia where you pay $6.00 per book is prohibitive.

However, there is one crucial element that you haven't considered in your post. If tomorrow, everything moved to digital, with TPBs coming out every 6 months, nearly every comic store in the world would go bust!

Almost instantly the industry would lose one of its key distribution outlets. Although I realise that the number of comic stores has collapsed, there would still be thousands of business owners and employees who would lose their livelihoods.

I'm sure it will happen soon, but it will mean the end of comic book retailing as we know it.

Jason Martin said...

Hey Jason!

Again, I'm not advocating it, just seeing how it could happen... regardless of the impact, and that's those who wouldn't switch, and everything built around the current print model would certainly be impacted, as you say.

So yeah, regardless of the impact, I could see "comics" doning fine by making the jump (as opposed to a slow transition), but I'm not calling for it to happen necessarily.