Sunday, September 4, 2011

Digital Horizons: New 52 Goes Live

A lot of talk this week about DC's New 52, and the accompanying same-day digital release plan. Time Out Chicago talked to several retailers to find out what they think about the potential threat digital comics pose. Based on this article at least, retailers seem for the most part unconcerned. One says, "If you’re a person who likes your comics digitally, you’re probably already getting them, for free, from pirate sites." A logical conclusion, and I hope for his sake that he's right, but anecdotal evidence makes me question the universal truth of his statement. I, for one, am one of those dreaded print comics readers who has now made the switch to digital (and would never think of pirating), and so is Scipio of The Absorbascon, and at least a couple of the readers who comment on his blog. Scipio is much less apologetic about this transition than I am, and honestly it makes me feel a little better to hear a former comic shop owner say this:
This is not a decision a former comic bookstore chain owner makes lightly. Stores that purvey entertainment "hard-copy" (e.g., video rental stores, bookstores, comic shops, computer game centers, record stores, video arcades, news stands) are, mildly put, not doing as well as they used to. The digitization of most forms of education/entertainment is a major coup for the accessibility of information of all types... but it's brick and mortar stores that are taking the blow. While many are making ingenious attempts at adaptation and leveraging of the new tech, the handwriting is on the wall. Or, perhaps, more accurately, on the screen of the touchpad. God has numbered the days of their reign and brought it to an end; it has been found wanting; its kingdom is divided and given to the Apps and the Netflix.  
On a more hopeful note, as far as the conventional direct market goes, another retailer notes in the Time Out article that "Record stores didn’t completely disappear [due to digital-music downloading], but the chain multimedia stores did. We’ll still have a place in the same way that Reckless Records does, despite iTunes."

In an article on, DC Digital SVP Hank Kanalz is quoted as saying, "What we heard anecdotally is that people have been coming into comic book stores and buying more titles and asking about digital delivery." Which is nice, but doesn't really mean anything. I mean, I offered anecdotal evidence above, but I'm a blogger whose decisions have very little impact, not an executive making decisions that potentially have a huge impact on the comics industry. Couldn't DC, you know, actually look at some real numbers or something in order to back up this decision? Or is it that the numbers wouldn't support their friendly-to-retailers stance, so they stick with the anecdotal evidence?

Even more interesting to me, though, is that the same article speaks of DC's "plans in motion to make all 75 years of the company’s publishing output available at some point." I haven't heard this plan explicitly stated before now, but I certainly hope that's their plan. They have a lot of good stuff in their back catalog that I'd love to see made available digitally. 

Despite whatever reservations I have, I will agree with Kanalz that this is "an exciting time for comics." It's certainly good news for digital comics that Justice League 1 has set digital records. I hope in the long run it is good not only for people like me who like to read comics digitally, but for the industry as a whole. 

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