Over the past decade, superheroes have found larger audiences on movie screens than in the print comic books that birthed them — but, on Thursday, DC Comics, whose titles feature crusaders like Batman and Superman, announced a plan to turn movie fans into comic book fans by making their most popular characters even more accessible on a much smaller screen. Soon, readers will be able to download a $3.99 digital version of every new issue from major e-book stores — including Apple's iBooks, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Amazon's Kindle Store — on the same day the traditional print version hits stores. The comics industry has long suffered declining readership — can e-comics turn things around?
This is a slam dunk for DC — and for readers: It's no surprise that DC Comics wants to mine every last cent out of digital distribution, says Seth Rosenblatt at CNET. The company's existing forays into digital comic books, which were limited to a pair of apps, have already produced enormous returns. This year, digital comic sales increased 197 percent from a comparable period in 2011, while print comic book sales also rose by 12 percent — "a highly unusual metric given that digital sales have the reputation for undercutting physical sales in other media." The switch to day-one digital distribution is a no-brainer that should yield even bigger sales.
"DC's e-comics expand to a multiverse of devices"
And it gives DC a leg up on the competition: "Take that, Spider-Man!" says Chris Smith at TechRadar. DC Comics' rival Marvel, whose stars include Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the X-Men, has not yet made its weekly comics available for e-readers, giving DC a huge advantage in the race to hook tech-savvy fans. In the modern comic book era, it's crucial to offer would-be readers "convenience and choice," not leave them no option but to trek out to their local comic book stores.
"DC Comics brings entire weekly line-up to iBooks, Nook, Kindle Store"
But DC also runs the risk of alienating its most loyal fan base: It may seem like there's no downside here, says Russ Burlingame at ComicBook.com, but let's not forget the comic book "collectors" who have made up a vital part of the market for decades by buying print copies either "as an end unto itself or in the hopes they'll appreciate in value like older material has." And plenty of longtime print comic readers "fear the implications of an increasingly-digital future in the same way that Barnes & Nobles employees fear e-books." It may be an essential move for the flagging comic-book industry, but "those of us who have been reading comics for twenty years or more" may feel left out in the cold.
"In comics, we need digital as much as we resist it"