Are Print Comics Dying?

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No_Name_

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Edited By No_Name_
No Caption Provided
There's no question about it; publishing is struggling. That means books as well as graphic novels and comics have had a rough time over the last several years. Recently, an article at Publishers Weekly about the decline of the Borders bookstore got me thinking about the future of publishing, in general, and how a big chain like Borders could not only affect publishing as a whole- but it could also be viewed as representative of what is happening to the publishing industry.

The Borders Group has been struggling for the last several years; having suffered losses, being forced to refinance and struggling with changes in their management- the recent PW article cited yet another issue the company is facing- the suspension of shipments from publishers. So the question is, what does this have to do with the comic book industry?
== TEASER == 
Like many other industries, publishing has suffered the ramifications of a struggling economic climate- but the economy isn't the only thing they have had to combat. The release of the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle have led to reading books and graphic novels digitally- cutting out the private retailer. Companies like Comixology and Grapic.ly have created online applications that allow readers to download their comic books and graphic novels and read them on go. The advantage is that you don't have to carry the books around, and the quality of the art in a digital comic is of a higher resolution; which for many, makes for a more enjoyable experience. Not to mention, you can organize your comic library and collection digitally- much as you would with music. So, will the digital market monopolize the comics industry and eventually make print comics a commodity?  

No Caption Provided
We first saw the collapse of the comics industry back in the 90's between 1993 and 1997. During that time, approximately 2/3 of comic book and specialty stores closed their doors to the public. Those comic shops that have stuck around, have struggled to compete with bigger stores and online distributors like Amazon, where  readers can generally purchase the same graphic novel for considerably less money. However, as much as the comic shops across America have assisted publishers throughout the years, most publishers have seemed to embrace the idea of selling their comic books digitally. While you may not be able to get the latest issue of Batman on the DC Comics Comixology iTunes app, you only have to wait a couple of weeks--which for the not-so-avid-reader, isn't that big of a deal.
 
What does the future hold for print comics and books, in general? The easiest comparison to draw to the present state of comics is music. Music was first distributed through LP records, then tapes, then CD's. Now, music is distributed primarily digitally (which is partly attributed to Apple's monopolization of the music market- but that's another issue entirely). Yet, even though the digital age is changing the comic book industry, I do not believe that print comics will ever go out of style. Comic readers tend to be collectors, and many fans value the experience of holding their funnybooks, smelling the pages and curling up to read on the couch- something you just can't duplicate with the iPad; no matter how convenient it is. I for one hope that print comics continue to thrive, but what about you?      

How do you think the digital age will affect the comics industry? Do you think that digital comics will eventually replace print comics? If so, what will happen to comic stores?
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Theodore

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#1  Edited By Theodore

I hope not, I love to hold my comics

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DH69

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#2  Edited By DH69

i prefer holding an actual book in my hand, i know its real that way :p. only problem ive ever had with actual comic books are all the ads, limited copies, and the delays caused by holidays, and none of those issues are enough for me to consider abandoning printed comics for their digital offspring.

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jarraku

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#3  Edited By jarraku

I aggree there something about actually reading a comic that is soo enjoyable

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Primmaster64

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#4  Edited By Primmaster64

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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deactivated-5c6600594117e

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I do NOT like the digital comics one bit.
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CaptObtuse

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#6  Edited By CaptObtuse

I really, really don't like digital comics, but I've resigned myself to the eventuality that someday soon that will be the only option.  I've already begun the shift to trade-waiting, and envision a future where I read the monthly installments digitally, then buy the trade of the things I like.  The only problem with that model is, I won't really have the option to resell my digital copies like I do monthlies in order to recoup some of my cost.  I still haven't quite figured that one out yet.

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CATPANEXE

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#7  Edited By CATPANEXE

I dont believe so. The format will be added, but any smart company will not become all inclusive to just one product type.
They have too much to win by presenting every format possible, and thats what i believe we're seeing.
A friend and I had a discussion about the worlds end one time, and a part of that focused on whether people
would still buy things. Our decision was yes, because humans are natural consumers, and hold the trait of nostalgia.
Being that as it is, people will want comics which are " old school " thus the printed comic format will have a costumer
base for some time just in that.

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dfstell

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#8  Edited By dfstell

Print won't die.  But Digital offers a chance to grow and print sales are so pathetic right now that it won't take much for digital sales to dwarf print sales.  That just means that digital will become where the focus is at the publisher level.  They'll be happy to print those comics and sell them in the direct market as long as it is profitable, but you might not be able to get every title that way.  The end result is that I think we've already seen the high-water mark for single-issue, superhero comics.  The last hurrah probably will turn out to be Civil War.  
Personally, I think digital has a lot of promise.  I have zero attachment to storing all this crap in my house and would rather have it digitally, even if it is via comixology and isn't really "owned".  I also think that digital will result in a better variety of story types.  We won't have 5 different Avengers books.  We'll have one or two, but we'll gain a horror, crime and a romance comic because digital is going to be about appealing to more than us 30-45 year old white guys.

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Black_Lantern_Bison22

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I really hope the print stays. I just read an article in my newspaper about how a bookstore in the town-next-door is closing a the end of the month, and it was rated the best bookstore in Ohio! They blame digital books too. I really love the feeling of a comic in my hands, the smell and all that nostalgic stuff. I just can't imagine a world without printed comics. It isn't just the book either, just going to the shop is worth the paying price. you don't get to meet other fans or talk shop with a computer or e-reader.

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rkmar00n

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#10  Edited By rkmar00n

nothing beats a good old yellow-paged 1970's MAN-THING #1 smell.
 
nothing beats seeing the advertisements from the previous decades. Those are the little things...the small idiocricies of unsheathing an issue from its bag n board. The carefulness and joy from opening a first issue for the first time. I will never tire from a phycal copy. Simply put. 
 
There's not a whole lot of $$ these days for me so I usually just wait for trades and I try to buy locally as well (sometimes). Plus, the waiting sucks. I'm suffering until I get more of issue #80 of Walking Dead. 
 
nuff said

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DarkCanuck

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#11  Edited By DarkCanuck

I sincerely hope not. Much like music, movies and videogames, digital versions of media are far more ephemeral and less valuable than hard-copies. Regardless of the reliability of the source (for instance amazon isn't likely to go out of business anytime soon, so your digital licenses through them are safe for now) and regardless of the quality of the digital copy you have umpteen redundant backed-up versions of, the fact of the matter is you don't own a real thing. If you have a book, it is your book. Maybe I'm a cave-man sticking to outmoded ideals but I require that feeling of ownership. With music, movies and games, I don't mind the digital distribution model but for reading materials, I doubt I'll ever make the switch.

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robokungfu

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#12  Edited By robokungfu

Digital print is much like the current fad of 3D movies.  It's just that, a fad.  There is no substitute for holding print media.  Yeah there is theoretically no limit to what you can store on some internal memory, but decades of people holding books will never go out of style.  Also, the collectors of the world would never switch to this gimmick.  

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ohrenclez

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#13  Edited By ohrenclez

i do own the comixology app and like to read so digital comics when i don't hab´ve my comics with me, but reading the digital comics could never replace holding the real comics in my hands. and a digital comic book library doesn't looke nearly as cool as having your comicbooks in a huge collection on your bookshelf

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AdamMadeley

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#14  Edited By AdamMadeley

I really do prefer to read printed copies of comic books. I feel that a part of the fun experience of reading something solid in front of me much better then reading of a low resolution computer screen.

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NightFang3

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#15  Edited By NightFang3

You know what they say, "The more things change the more they stay the same".

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dondasch

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#16  Edited By dondasch

Print comics are not going to roll over and die just because there is an option of digital comics.  That's all it is, an option.  I prefer having an actual comic/graphic novel in my hand rather than viewing it digitally, but to each their own.

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oldgum

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#17  Edited By oldgum

Masterpiece is better to be printed. Anyway holding a good novel before go to sleep is always better than holding a iPad.

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Vorien79

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#18  Edited By Vorien79

There is no replacing the feel, smell or experience of holding an actual comic.  I got into comics because I could afford to get a few of them with what little allowance I received. Now a kid would have to save up an get an iPad first?

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thecheckeredman

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#19  Edited By thecheckeredman

As a cartoonist who publishes his work on the web first, I do plan on collecting my comics and offering a print and ebook version of the book when the time comes.  I will offer the book POD (print on demand) to eliminate inventory, storage, and shipping hassle and unnecessary print run excess. 
 
I don't want print comics to go away.  I love reading comics in hand!  That being said I don't read any NEW comics at all.  They're for too expensive for the scant content and so few of them actually interest me anyhow...if I want to read print comics I look to quarter/dollar bins and/or trades.     

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Fhiz

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#20  Edited By Fhiz

as long as most comics aren't released digitally the same day as their physical counterparts, then no, not for me they're not.

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kungnima

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#21  Edited By kungnima
@Jake Fury said:

" I do NOT like the digital comics one bit. "

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Icemizer

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#22  Edited By Icemizer

Yes they are. For two reasons comics will eventually fade away as a medium. First economics will eventually cause your LCS to close. Just not enough cash coming in to keep the doors open. Second as younger generations become used to getting their comics electronically the thought of actually going to a store to purchase an actual physical book will not be something they will want to do. Little Billy would much rather go over to little Jimmys house with his Epad loaded with comics to share them.  Now this wont happen overnight, there are to many of us old guys who still love the feel of comics in your hand as we read them but the future is coming.
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Trodorne

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#23  Edited By Trodorne

In a blog i did last month which you can check out here. right now iPads and other touch pad like techs are still expensive to buy at $600 + monthly plan. though archie comics offer their sonic the hedgehog comics as downloads at the itunes app store. 
 
 Print can stay alive. but if it is going to survive through a wave of online apps then there has to be more promotion for the original copies. there are special bar codes now adays that can be scanned or have its picture taken using the iphone or others that when transmitting the code it can give that comic buyer certain access to material online that one could not get from a downloadable comic.
 
 but this idea of downloadable comics is a double edged sword. it can in a way bring in new comic readers and keep the franchise going. it can be like movies where all non comic readers would just buy their 99 cent copy online and forget about it. while we still reap the rewards of still having regular comics. BUT. if more and more people are buying into the online app and more people are switching from the paper comic to online.... well im sorry to say this but regular comics prices will become that of trade paperbacks.  and frankly we all should be scared.

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welshguy

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#24  Edited By welshguy

I prefer to be physically able to hold the comic/book.  I have an ipad and whilst I have kindle and have purchased two books, its just not the same experience reading from it. I haven't even bothered to check out the comic apps on the ipad as a result

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Decept-O

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#25  Edited By Decept-O

Nicely written article and a topic that continues to pop up, doesn't it?   I think there may be a market for both digital and print comics.  
 
How long that will last, though, is questionable.  I think it won't be too terribly long, however before all printed material sees a marketed increase in becoming available digitally and that will happen when the younger generation of today decides they will go that route.   
 
It is simply a matter of time.  
 
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ShomyCar092

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#26  Edited By ShomyCar092

Print can't die.... Shure dig copies have their advantages (storing them for example), but print feels right and better..... Dig can't replace print.....

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RedheadedAtrocitus

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    The only advantage I can see having the digital age come to comics is to have out of print/limited print and extremely rare editions there for the holding (i.e. Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #1).  After all, why fork over thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for classic stories when one can have it at the touch of a fingertip on an iPad or Kindle?  No, it isn't the same as having those actual issues in your hand...but considering the rarity of such comics I doubt you would actually be opening them to read with your bare hands anyway.  
    As for digitized comics replacing the print medium, I'd have to say that there is the possibility, but that it is highly unlikely.  Media revolution has always existed, and I liken this concern of print comics and digitized comics to the way movies have changed.  Originally you had beta, then videocassettes, then DVDs, then HD-DVDs, and now the latest incarnation is Blu-Ray.  All of it stemmed from a desire to see clearer pictures when viewing film and hence it was a revolution instigated by demand.  The potential revolution I see of print comics to digitized comics would not be faciliated by demand but by practicality.  Unfortunately practicality cannot replace the actual feel of the print in your hands, for which I must say I'm still quite the fan.  High resolution pictures cannot replace having an actual comic in one's hand.   Print comics are going nowhere.
    For this reason, I can see only three possible futures for comic stores.  Either they stay the same at how they are and will continue to operate as they always have, or they will just simply shut down.  The other future is that the number of comic retailers are scaled down in number.  I'm inclined to think that the first of the three possibilities will happen.  But then again I'm usually always optimistic.   
    Oh and as a tidbit, I think its interesting to note how Babs mentions the collapse of the comics industry in the mid-1990s.  The culprit behind that whole disaster though was not the economy at large, for all one has to remember is just how much of an economic surplus there was in the country during the Clinton regime.  And there certainly wasn't a publishing crisis as there is now.  Instead, it was greedy speculators that tried to revolutionize the comic industry into being a mini-Wall Street.  Unfortunately it was a gamble that spelled disaster, a disaster which an historian I hope we have all learned our lesson from.
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Trodorne

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#28  Edited By Trodorne
@Decept-O said:
" Nicely written article and a topic that continues to pop up, doesn't it?   I think there may be a market for both digital and print comics.   How long that will last, though, is questionable.  I think it won't be too terribly long, however before all printed material sees a marketed increase in becoming available digitally and that will happen when the younger generation of today decides they will go that route.    It is simply a matter of time.    "
its funny you say that cause lets look at the standards in which youth have to do school. rather focus on reading and writing from a book. all written work being done in english or any other essay type format is required by all teachers to have it printed not written. 
 
 so kids now don't have the technique to be able to write or do hand writing. and when they read things on the computer its bright and everything moves fast at the pace in which technology has imprinted onto them. from having them watch tv at a young age with quick flashing lights and fast commercials to fast internet and getting information at the speed of a click. 
 
 its not till kids get to 17+ that there is more of an appreciation for print that books become something more of a past time, plus ive seen more manga being sold to kids as japan seems to still have influence on the pokemon yugioh generation.
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JToves

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#29  Edited By JToves

It's interesting to watch what publishers are doing in what Clay Shirky calls "post Gutenberg economics" - in other words, instead of publishers filtering content and printing, the world of the internet allows almost anyone to become a publisher and the world at large has to filter the result. Theres an even more interesting idea from a  venture capitalist named Fred Wilson about the constriction of markets that are or can be converted to end-to-end-digital businesses. He has pointed to the music industry where all of these same conversations took place - basically that we are often only an unforeseen innovation away from everything changing quite dramatically. 
 
While I myself love comics, collecting and reading for almost 35 years now, I self publish now and digital sales only took a month to exceed a year of print sales. The hard truth was in the numbers - the growth of digital reading extended in my case to the comics I was publishing digitally. At least one reader made it a point to contact me saying he was actually waiting until my comics were in a digital format (not enough to make a case for anything I am sure but it's worth at least mentioning). My sales aren't massive, but they were easier to promote to digital readers, easier and less expensive to publish on digital reader systems, and far easier to get feedback from readers with ll the same contact information. 
 
I still maintain a print on demand version of my comics, I likely always will. But I can't overlook the potential posed by digital readers systems when retail outlets will barely give a self publisher like me a chance when a digital reader customer is.

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Trodorne

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#30  Edited By Trodorne
@RedheadedAtrocitus said:
"     Oh and as a tidbit, I think its interesting to note how Babs mentions the collapse of the comics industry in the mid-1990s.  The culprit behind that whole disaster though was not the economy at large, for all one has to remember is just how much of an economic surplus there was in the country during the Clinton regime.  And there certainly wasn't a publishing crisis as there is now.  Instead, it was greedy speculators that tried to revolutionize the comic industry into being a mini-Wall Street.  Unfortunately it was a gamble that spelled disaster, a disaster which an historian I hope we have all learned our lesson from. "
that part is true, the industry itself tried to cash in on people by saying that hey this comic is a #1 issue so its value would only go up over time. with also the selling of foil varient covers the comic industry was in a boom for a short burst of time but those people who got into comics at that time thought they were going to get a great deal and resell the issue for 50x what they paid. 
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Decept-O

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#31  Edited By Decept-O
@Trodorne:
Yes.  I don't have kids but I am learning via friends and family that a lot of educational materials and ways the youth are learning has essentially switched to electronic methods, like the computer.   ( I mean, duh, on my part )
 
So I think the mind set of having comics digitally for the younger generation will be a larger appeal, if the comics industry survives and also if you factor in the devices which I am sure will be more prevalent, I see printed comics becoming less of an option.  I think they will still exist but not as prevalent; it just hard to say when that may be.
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comicbikerscott

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#32  Edited By comicbikerscott

i think print will die and make digital publishing more neccerssery
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DeadKittens001

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#33  Edited By DeadKittens001

I think that what we will see is a move towards an all digital comic world, but at some point the companies will strike a deal with the print on demand companies to make their rosters available that way.  
 
If I were a comic book shop I would start making a move to become less of a comic shop per-se and more of a gathering place for comic fans in general.  Maybe a digital comic cafe sort of thing, with wi-fi and everything from coffee to energy drink and soda, Comic themed snacks and food, and events.  I think for most of us going to the comic shop isn't just about picking up comics.  Comic shop proprietors are kind of like bartenders for the geek underground anyways.  

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Illyana Rasputin

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#34  Edited By Illyana Rasputin

On one hand, digital formatting is a necessary ecological solution. I will miss seeing it, but I proactively condone anything that benefits the environment. Also, as an artist, I save hundreds of dollars on supplies with the tools currently available on-line. Save a tree!

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zzax

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#35  Edited By zzax

I don't think so. This is mainly because the comic companies (and a lot of  the entertainment industry)  are run by people that do not understand technology. They treat digital comics like just a data version of the print comic. 
 
If they want it to work, they would set up a model similar to the marvel online, but modified. They should do a yearly subscription like Marvel and have new releases delayed by about 8 months. For the subscription you could access the companies back catalog. But if you wanted the newest issues you would have to go to the store (as not to kill comic retailers). Also they could allow the comic stores to sell the yearly subscription cards or cards for online purchases (like Xbox live and Itunes cards). This would allow the comic retailers to make some money from this as well.  
 
I guess you could argue that some of my grey area acquisition of digital comics for my Ipad has cost the comic companies some money, I honestly contend that it has actually led me to make additional purchases I would not have normally made. Through trying out the first few issues of comics like Power Girls, Secret Six and X-force, I actually added them to my pull list. 

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The Mast

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#36  Edited By The Mast

People are just so impressed at what the digital age can DO for comics, and it IS amazing. It's a phenomenal option to have, but I really don't think it has ever come close to being a threat to print comics, at all.  Everyone's just like, "HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THIS NEW THING WE CAN DO!", and even then it's people with iPads. Even then, it's not everyone.
 
If they ever are, it won't be for a very, very long time.
 
The biggest threat to print is the companies themselves. I hope they don't push digitisation in such a way that it FORCES comics out of print. CDs have suffered the same fate in a lot of ways. CDs are still a perfectly usable and viable medium, but because bands feel forced to go digital, collectors are being forced to suffer some bands dedicating themselves to only being digital now. Like The Smashing Pumpkins.
 
I think, worst case scenario, comics may end up released monthly online, then serialised in a trade paperback, kind of like how some bands and artists CHOOSE to put out their work on vinyl for collectors. For that reason, I think that single issues are more under threat than printed comics in GENERAL, but even then I'm having trouble seeing that.
 
The very fact that vinyl is still alive and not dead proves that comics have nowhere near an expiration date in print yet. I wouldn't fret at all. The digital medium will improve to the point that some fans can choose to go entirely digital, but I don't think it'll ever evolve beyond a wicked option for those who want to try it. I just don't see it happening at all. 
 
With regards to the decline, these ARE harder times. I know a guy who manages a comic store and they are undoubtedly harder times. However, I think too much is invested in the personal element for it to ever die. People generally love going to the store and talking to the regulars, I know I do. For one thing, I live in London. Within a 15 minute walk there are four comic stores. One of which, Gosh! Comics (Best comic store in London) has been around for 25 years this year. It's not huge, or a chain, and it's had competition. The only one of those stores that is a chain is Forbidden Planet, and that has grown, far from being threatened. Granted, it sells merch and cult merch more than comics now, but you know.
 
Then there's the likes of Comicana, which has also survived for more than a decade. I started going there in 2000, so it's obviously been around a long time too. That store is the smallest, specialises in back issues and has survived. I think it's like the news, you know? If you believed everything it said, you'd think it wasn't safe to step out your front door.
 
If anything, the biggest threat to printed comics is the panic over what the threat might be to printed comics, because THAT may lead to knee-jerk reactions of, "OH GOD WE HAVE TO GO DIGITAL TO SURVIVE!"

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DavidRose

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#37  Edited By DavidRose

 The simple truth is, print is dieing. Inventions such as the Kindle, and the ipad, and even Barnes and Noble's, Nook, are the type's of things that are saving companies in print from bankruptcy.
 
 And I don't see any difference in the comic book industry. If it's cheaper for both the company and the consumer to buy comics digitally, believe me -- it will happen. It'll take time. A LOT OF TIME. But eventually, print will fade. But the real question here is, will there still be an actual physical copy of comics for those who still desire them? I believe the answer is yes. And at the very worse, I don't see why a print on demand format couldn't be created.
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The_Warlord

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#38  Edited By The_Warlord

NO

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FoxxFireArt

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#39  Edited By FoxxFireArt

I wil always prefer to hold a book in my hand over a digital copy. I even need to buy a larger bookshelf for all my books, comic, and manga.
 
The only reason I read so many manga online in scanlations is that's how I stay up to date with the rest of the conversation on certain series. Certain manga publications in the US are months if not years behind the publications in Japan.
 
In other cases, scanlations are the only way to get the true story. Since poor publishers, such as VIZ Media,either censor or alter the mangas for the U.S. market and refuse to offer a more authentic alternative.
 
Manga in Japan is publishing quite well. Back in November One Piece volume 60 sold over 2 million units in only two days. Back in August, Volume 59 sold 1.8 million in one week.
 
My issue with digital distribution is when it comes to maintaining that collection. Electric devices break down. What happens if you lose your electric reading device of choice? What if it's broken or you run out of memory space? Could you lose your entire collection and have to buy it all over again?

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Trodorne

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#40  Edited By Trodorne
@comicbikerscott: 
I think that is a horrible outlook on the situation. 
@DeadKittens001:
  Thats they type of place comics shops in a way should be. personally if i owned a store with the vast collection that my employer has. would also run a digital comic cafe where people can sit down to get free looks at the new digital prints. and if they want the actual prints they can get them from us or go home and down load them. 
 
 If anything i want to encourage people to hang out and talk about what they love and have those movie type moments having debates whether or not lois lane can legitmately carry supermans kid. (which she can't). that you can have kids come in on their own with out the need of parents holding their hands every second and buying a copy of the latest issue of spider-man with money they earned from cleaning driveways...*tear*
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#41  Edited By ComiCCloseup

 
 
 

" I do NOT like the digital comics one bit. "

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#42  Edited By Joe Venom

I hope that digital does not replace printed comics, this will only lead to an increase in the pirating of comics, ever since I was younger I have always dreamed of running/owning my own comic shop but at the rate things are going it just does not seem like a wise idea.
 
I guess im just a collector at heart, heck some shrinks might label me a hoarder, considering all the recreational bagging/boarding/boxing I do, but I'll take printed over digital any day

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#43  Edited By roadbuster
@Babs said:


0. Are print comics dying? 
1. So the question is, what does this have to do with the comic book industry? 
2. So, will the digital market monopolize the comics industry and eventually make print comics a commodity?  
3. What does the future hold for print comics and books, in general?
4. I for one hope that print comics continue to thrive, but what about you? 
5. How do you think the digital age will affect the comics industry? 
6. Do you think that digital comics will eventually replace print comics? 
7. If so, what will happen to comic stores? "


0. I'd saying print comics as a whole is struggling and suffering a downturn but not necessarily dying... both the industry and the fans are trying to figure what what price points, formats, distribution, etc. each is willing to tolerate.  Some buy only trades, some periodicals, some pirate, some quit entirely... likewise the publishers look at different page counts, price points, promotional schemes, while testing retail strategies like variant covers, digital subscriptions, etc.  At the current state of attrition things will change, but I don't anticipate the extinction of print comics, perhaps merely its endangerment. 
 
1. As you point out, print is struggling in general (most of it being long form content which is becoming more and more subservient to internet-styled information), however retailers like Amazon have adapted and thrived.  The Kindle is, reportedly, the largest selling single item Amazon has ever carried and digital Kindle books are outselling print books 2-to-1 (Top 10 bestsellers and other caveats but you get the gist).  Amazon is the world's largest book retailer (granted its media sales only surpassed Barnes & Noble- their online and retail shops- in 2007) which is only continuing to grow whereas even the juggernaut Barnes & Noble is starting to see a decline (their online sales a pittance compared to Amazon, but combined with their brick and mortar sales they're just behind Amazon right now).  It's hard for comic book publishers to look at that and say they want to continue to follow the model of the declining business rather than the one that's on the rise even in distressed economic times. 
 
2. Monopoly will save it in my opinion.  Digital has so many industry benefits (discussed in #5 below) the real problem right now is getting everyone on board.  There's no official standardization for the digital product across the board and adoption of some formats has been half-hearted.  Once they all decide this is going to be a major aspect of their business and take that frightening leap forward, digital comics can really begin to move forwards... but no one wants to be first- to be the one to sink in all the R&D, to bear all the risk, and then have all the competition follow after their success (or learn from their failure) as free-riders.  It's a big game of chicken waiting for that optimal moment to move first- to succeed, be the leader, and define the format and digital age- versus fail first- to anger your fans, retailers, squander your brand, and potentially lose all your IP to piracy if you don't know what you're doing- OR run out the clock on the current retail / print model and let comics IP continue to waste away.  The publishers are united on the retail front and for comics in general, but this is one area where they are in fierce competition because whoever rules / defines / succeeds here will dominate the comics industry for decades to come... but that division makes it harder to step forwards too.  As the clock on the current model continues to count down their desperation and incentive to be daring will rise and- who knows?- if desperate enough, maybe even to cooperate / unify....
 
3. We'll have both print and digital but eventually digital will prevail.  The technology and ethics aren't there yet but they will be.
 
4. I love print.  Working in IP actually gives one an acute appreciation for the distinction between content and the tangible... I still enjoy and want things that are real to share, hold, gift, or sell on a secondary market.  Print comics are already a fetish, so they will always remain so and always have a market but the advantages of digital are too large to discount.  Sort of the way Americans will always have a certain affinity for large gas guzzling muscle cars even if the market, technology, ethics, and ecological demand push us another way.  There will always be print comics, just to what degree I don't know.  The industry is failing to hit the 100,000 mark on a semi-annual basis now, there's no question of decline, the question is where will be the stable point for print as a fetish. 
 
5. True digital will huge for comics.  No inventories, no worries about selling out (just sell according to interest), forever sales of back-issues, instant and accurate data feedback, more robust cataloging and databases making writers and editorial more effective, etc.  Additionally, I'm excited about the progression of the medium.  Computer assisted coloring has done a lot to transform modern comics, digital lettering, cgi model referencing, photograph manipulation software, etc... but at the end of the day all of it is compressed down into a 2D static page... depending on the means of consumption, future comics may include hyperlinked editorial notes, hypertext narration, non-linear progression, animation, sound, 3D, interactivity, etc.  While it might sound like a nightmare to some traditionalists, such progress never removes the ability to use traditional techniques, it merely increases the palette for the creative (recall debates about sampling or digital post production or synthesizers for music).
 
6.  As the predominate means of consumption, yes.  I tend to suspect it'll happen before we're "ready" for it (much the way music went digital before the tech or ethics were ready for it per se) or sooner than later.  In terms of tech, we're already most of the way there for many people (namely pirates) who only need to consume the content... for those for whom form is barrier, the tech isn't there just yet, but it's getting closer- a cheap, durable, color, daylight friendly, all-day powered, etc. e-reading type technology is necessary to make digital reading (of any traditionally print medium) truly ubiquitous.  While some may be skeptical that even if such a device should arise it would remain a niche for the technological elite, look at cell phones between 2000 and 2010... where cell phones subscriptions went from 8% to 76.2%!  We're talking about a technology that gives you near instantaneous global communication in your pocket and three-quarters of the population is carrying one!  When e-reading tech is as robust it will be as ubiquitous and those in Podunk, USA or deepest darkest Africa will be able to reach out and read whatever they want.  Some may argue the iPad, .CBR, Kindle, are it... but I'd say those are still niche fragmented technology. 
 
Even if the hardware is there, on the distribution end the content isn't ready (Marvel Comics app on the iPad generated a lot of interest but the limited selection quelled that somewhat quickly), in part because infrastructure isn't easy (Amazon didn't create their system overnight) and because of the ethics / law issues discussed next... but simply put they don't want to end up giving away their entire catalog of comics for free.
 
The ethics / law issue is a bit tougher and a reason for much of the hesitancy in moving to digital.  Physical media is still a trite but effective form of IP rights management that most IP-holders and familiar with and comfortable with.  Sure, you can share, own, sell, or destroy your physical copy of your comic, but they don't have to worry about you sharing it with the entire planet ready for immediate consumption by English readers (barring its conversion into digital).  Somewhat ironically, mutable digital content could conform to all these physical limitations as well, but the ethics and law of digital isn't there yet (in the minds of most Americans digital = free / copyable; or on the IP-owner side, digital = license thus end-users never "own" anything and can't share / gift / sell).  There's no one way or right or wrong, necessarily, in how digital ethics or law should break down, but there certainly is a gap between how people think about digital content versus print and how the law distinguishes (punishes and enforces) between the two... and the disconnect between our attitudes and what the law says is something that needs to resolve before digital print is as ubiquitous... alternatively, you just have a case like music, which is borderline lawless but it still somehow works.
    
7. Many retailers will die, some will be born, all will have to adapt.  At the end of the day what is being sold is IP- trademarks, brands, etc.- a shift towards merchandising and specialized collectibles that is competitive with online purchasing is the main way to stay relevant.  People still want tangible goods, just not necessarily periodical print comics (those may move to a subscription model based on a patronage system, like fetish retail outlets), but the retail store can be the source of trades, hardcovers, merchandising of every stripe: toys, statutes, shirts, caps, lunchboxes, games, etc.- actually broadening their appeal.
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#44  Edited By SevanGrim

yeah, prints gonna go. And it sucks. What has always made the comic store great is that when your there, your surrounded by like-minded people. You get to see all the comics you never would have heard about, and most shops have all kinds of other neat products too. 
 Online and digital comics will mean no more of that. The comics companies will pick and choose what they "recommend", showing you only their comics related to their comics. You will have to search and search for anything fresh, as it will be piled under layers of the same old, instead of on the shelf right next to it. 
 My biggest problem with Digital comics will always be their worth. With my physical copies, i can re-sell them, share them, and when i store them i know they will always be there. If there's a fire, i can point to my comics and get reimbursed. But how do you explain your 20 years worth of digital comics to your insurance? If my years as a gamer have taught me anything, its that downloadable content can become "no longer available" whenever it wants, leaving you with nothing but your backups. 

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#45  Edited By 5ive

if the companies were smart they would package a cd with the comic for a digital copy, or have the comic come with a code to download a copy so customers can have both

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#46  Edited By Silkcuts

The state of comics bothers me because most people I don't think truly love the medium.  If they did, then there would be more quest for to dive into the history of comics.  Everyone knows Stan Lee, most people love him and don't know why.  But where is the Kirby and Ditko love from the Marvel fans?  Kirby and Ditko never pimped themselves, so those who read only Marvel for the character, only know Stan Lee.  Similar with DC Comcis, a lot of people read comics to see what their favorite characters are up too, this is why Grant Morrison gets a backlash for having to much Metaphysics in his comics.
 
Comics are more then just pictures and words.  Guys like Will Eisner changed the pamphlet to great the Original Graphic Novel.  Guys like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison write unfilmable works on purpose because they write "comics" not storyboards.  Many comic writers write storyboards because they failed to get into film, I am not saying that this approach in comics are bad, a good story is a good story.  I am saying that there are a lot happening in comics that people don't realize, I feel comfortable saying that because a few of my favorite reviews I wrote here on the comicvine were to inspire.  Inspire because the greats I feel have thought me how to see comics as a limitless medium of expressing information.  A picture tells a thousand words and sentences can help make the pictures make more sense with the message they are providing, we just need to train ourselves to do it.
 
This is why I love the actual comic in my hand, I feel I can read it like a book.  Stop at certain pages to really digest what information is there.  In the digital format I can't do that, since the comics where not meant to be read in that fashion.  This is there the trend to technology is hurting industry.  There is so much tech and so much information, that it becomes an overload.  Most people just follow trends and never really know why they like it.  It happens with music, like why did any of us enjoy akon?  His voice is far from strong, his music content really is not ground-breaking, yet because he is "Cool" he is put on the latest Michael Jackson album.  Technology is good if it does not control the masses, but that is what is happening.  Most people let just follow the flow.  So with digital comics the status quo will be kept, but its the status quo that is static.  Like how often has Spider-Man felt like it was a waste of money.  The money wasted on things we know already are a waste, could be better spend on better comics, but we don't gamble enough.  This is why the industry is hurting.  I once wrote a blog about Alan Moore being Underrated and I still mean it to this day.  Everyone knows he is acclaimed and praise by his peers as the greatest, but we as readers don't do our own research to understand why.  We either accept or reject.  This bothered me because Neil Gaiman is a huge name, I like Neil a lot and harbor no hatred whatsoever to him, but all he really did for comics was write Sandman and he would not have had the chance to write comics at all if it was not for Alan Moore.  Gaiman's Sandman outsells, Moore's Swamp Thing way too much for anyone to ever dare say that the masses know their comic history.
 
The problem with comics is the lack of care of the history.  Most reader care about "continuity", but they don't care about the actual substance.  It is easy to say, I like or don't like something.  But to really get into why is the hard part, and I mean this because I feel not enough people can maturely about comics.  From techniques used to plot devices, most comic conversation is very Shallow: "What! One of the Fantastic Four is really going to die?"  I really hope I'll hear people say: "Man I hate Joe Q, his M.O. is to kill off wives, yes the kids lost their mom, but could they be more original"... I'll keep with just my prediction of Invisible Woman.  History repeats itself, I write about it all the time in my reviews.  So if history repeats itself, why do little care about history at all?  I was chatting with Liberty a few days ago when he read my Nat Turner review and I was amazed he liked history so much.  Being Canadian I didn't realize, till after reading Nat Turner, that we are very lucky people. Education is accessible to everyone now, in the past the blacks were not allow to read in the states, but were allowed in Canada.  Reading comics is still reading.  Because of that there are levels of maturity in reading comics, those who want shallow fights.  Those who want drama. Those who want a good story.  Those who really want a good story can careless who the characters are because, the characters are really avatars filling archetypes.  It doesn't matter if its Moby Dick or Namor, Sub-Mariner: The Depths is a good story. What I mean by this, is that a guy like Peter Milligan could of tossed any sea monster in the roll Namor played, but it is the visual cues and the pacing of the story that made it really good... if you are willing to READ the details and not just the words. 

I ranted on long enough.  But I rant to inspire, comics are more then just pictures and words.  Like Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, comics can be told in may styles and directions.  We can choose to stick to what we know, or we can dig deeper into the past.
 
Cheers!
- Silkcuts

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roadbuster

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#47  Edited By roadbuster
@Grim said:
"yeah, prints gonna go. And it sucks. What has always made the comic store great is that when your there, your surrounded by like-minded people.  You get to see all the comics you never would have heard about, and most shops have all kinds of other neat products too.  Online and digital comics will mean no more of that. The comics companies will pick and choose what they "recommend", showing you only their comics related to their comics. You will have to search and search for anything fresh, as it will be piled under layers of the same old, instead of on the shelf right next to it. 

Digital doesn't mean the death of Retail anymore than the current downturn does.  Good retailers adapt and offer things their online counterparts can't whether it's community, merchandising, game nights, or other services.  That said, it undoubtedly hurts- just like music retailers were hurt- but comics have always been more of a niche / fetish retail model surviving more on patronage than anything else (customers who willfully pay a premium to suppport their LCS).  As for comic discovery, music is already paving the way in that arena rather convincingly in my opinion.  The data from digital pull lists means you can be given spot-on recommendations, hyperlinked previews / creator interviews / etc. in ads, etc. and even if you prefer more analog-type recommendations there's always sites like Comic Vine, their forums, podcasts, etc. 
 
The chance of a happy accident is, perhaps, reduced in that specific shelf-based example... but the possibility of happy accidents other ways is greatly increased (consider your Amazon-type recommendations, reviews, etc).  Additionally, whereas shelf-space only allows for so many titles to be displayed, a digital back-catalog is potentially infinite.  So rather than never getting the chance to read Chase or Flash Blitz or other out-of-print runs / collections... you can read it with ease, recommend it to others, etc.
 
@Grim said:
"My biggest problem with Digital comics will always be their worth. With my physical copies, i can re-sell them, share them, and when i store them i know they will always be there. If there's a fire, i can point to my comics and get reimbursed. But how do you explain your 20 years worth of digital comics to your insurance?"

 Secondary market is a big digital rights issue (along with other digital rights management) but those relate more to implementation, business, law, and ethics than it does digital as a medium itself.  That said, with respect to insurance, unless you actually sought grading, certification, and insured your comics you're not really going to get much... also, a number of insurers now provide insurance for digital data (in fact they encourage it because the parameters for a claim are pretty clear compared to trying to appraise other kinds of damage), so if you really wanted to insure your digital collection you could. 
 
Certainly some comics are worth something on the speculator's collectors market, but the vast majority of comics are disposable entertainment not really aimed at become an appreciating investment... there was a pretty solid Comic Vine article on this a while back (I want to say it was written by Tom but I've forgotten).  You can definitely subsidize a comic collection with smart secondary market management but profiting or even holding value is going to be tough.  Depending on the licensing or digital model, the price of digital comics might even be lower to make the issue somewhat moot (that is, whatever return value you get from the secondary market is offset by the discount digital gives you).
 
@Grim said:
"If my years as a gamer have taught me anything, its that downloadable content can become "no longer available" whenever it wants, leaving you with nothing but your backups."

Again this is an implementation issue which doesn't mean all digital must conform to this.  If you consider DRM free media like music, where one is free to continually migrate or backup their purchases, this isn't an issue.  Additionally, the lifespan of videogames and the resources it takes to continually support and serve them is completely unlike passive media like music, movies, books, etc.  The downloads are significantly larger that music or books and the need for tech support much more likely with interactive media than a movie, add to this that such infrastructure is usually a tertiary function of the game company and they're not really all that invested in maintaining content servers and tech support.  By contrast, Amazon makes a killing off of digital music, movies, and books... streaming a film costs less than the stamp and the envelope of sending the disc (not to mention the ecological costs of shipping matter around physically) so they're invested in keeping their servers up, content available, etc.  Comics would be similar.  Yes, there can be DRM shenanigans with licensing (having books you purchased deleted) but that's something to be ironed out, not an immutable flaw of digital.
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#48  Edited By blaakmawf

I doubt it, but honestly I wouldn't mind going all digital.

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#49  Edited By dvorak

I enjoy the idea of having a ton of digital comics on a device that is far easier to carry around, but given the choice I'd rather sit down with hard copies any day.

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#50  Edited By spiderguylll

The Print era is over...