Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Graphic Novel collections as the DVDs of the comics world

BusinessWeek (via newsarama, again), uncovers an interesting angle on the whole putting-comic-books-online thing, which otherwise totally fails to pique my interest.

My comics consumption and online consumption are two entirely separate tasks, at cross-purposes. The former is fun, casual, and relaxing. The latter is generally task- and purpose-driven, and the goal is generally to get it done (whether "it" is reading a news article, finding a recipe, researching an IE 6 CSS bug, etc. etc.) as fast as possible. So I doubt I'll ever particularly want to read a comic book online. (A daily web comic is something else--that's a little morsel you gulp down at the office at 9:15 am when you're delaying the start of your actual work day; a comic book, to my mind, usually requires more attention.)

But back to the article:

But James Sime, owner of the Isotope comic book store in San Francisco, isn't too worried about the impact of digital comics on his business. He says he believes there's a great opportunity for comics retailers and publishers to learn from the mistakes of the ailing music industry.

According to ICV2, a trade publisher that monitors the business of comics and pop culture, trade paperbacks (collections of single issues in one book) generated $375 million in 2007 and single issues did $330 million that same year. Although Sime doesn't think single-issue sales will go away, he envisions a scenario in which they are moved from print to online as promotion for the trade paperback. "I'm all about it," said Sime. "People are excited about comics. The more people get them into their hands, the more they read them—the Internet is a great facilitator for that."
Now, I also have to admit that I never read single-issue comic books anymore; I just wait for them to be collected in trade paperbacks (i.e., "graphic novels"—big fat comics with a spine). But I do think this is an interesting angle: Treat single-issue comics more like ad-supported broadcast TV, and trade paperbacks more like the DVD collections of the season. Not bad.

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