Is digital distribution of comics going to get its breakthrough this year? Marvel confirming digital distribution and Top Cow‘s first Bambiesque steps on the digital ice, as well as whatever it is that DC has planned has been making headlines so far.
The people at SLG Publishing, who publish Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Lenore among others, have taken a more hands on approach and opened their own online store. About 40 issues are available so far. The price varies a bit, but starts at 69 cents, and the issues are available as both cbz or pdf-files. The Forbidden Planet blog makes an attempt at crunching the numbers involved:
If you go to the digital distribution model using a price point of 99cents (not that I think people will actually pay this) then at 11,500 downloads there would already be a profit generated. Maybe as low as 7,000 downloads would pay the cost of producing material you can then feed into the book channels as collections
Jennifer de Guzman, SLG editor in chief, responds that it’s not all profit though. Credit card companies takes a hefty cut of a 69 cent transaction and labour and bandwidth cuts into the profit as well. She ends her post with:
I just wanted to note digital comics is not exactly a pie-in-the-sky enterprise. […]We are approaching it cautiously as we, like the rest of the industry, move away from pamphlets and toward graphic novels. For us digital comics are not yet a way to support the cost of printing a graphic novel, or even close to a profitable venture at present. However, as we add to Eyemelt.com’s catalogue, we hope that the sales will increase as well.
Newsarama interviews what must be said to be the people who potentially stand to lose the most if digital distribution takes off, the retailers who don’t seem that worried.
“I think digital comics are inevitable, but I don’t think, at this stage, they should be feared by the quality direct market retailer, because the disadvantages of the experience, portability, and presentation don’t prove much of a ‘threat’ to the physically printed object,” Hibbs said. “‘Cause, you see, right now this very second, you can get this week’s comics, for 100 percent free, from the net, yet comic sales are on their sixth straight year of rise.”