18 August 08 | Chad W. Post

After all the recent Kindle discussions (which are still ongoing in today’s Shelf Awareness), this Publishers Weekly article about comic book publishers embracing the possibilities of digital publishing jumped out at me. In terms of engaging and trying to please their fans, the comic industry seems miles ahead of book publishers.

The diversity of initiatives is dizzying: Marvel Comics, Boom! Studios and Viz Media have made select back issues available in digital form; DC Comics and Top Shelf Productions now curate Web sites of comics developed specifically for the internet; Korean manhwa house Netcomics offers comics online for a small fee; and Tokyopop, Devil’s Due Productions, Papercutz and Virgin Comics have joined with mobile digital publishing services like uclick and GoComics, to distribute their content on mobile phones—not to mention e-books, animated comics on iTunes, or the smart phone-based reader from ClickWheel, which also offers a format for reading comics on the iPhone.

And in terms of the age-old (well, decades-old maybe) question about the impact on sales of giving something away for free online:

And while no print publisher is yet prepared to give away all its content online, some are beginning to conduct experiments to gauge the potential impact of free Web distribution on print sales. This January, Boom! Comics broke ground by releasing a new periodical comic, North Wind #1, in comic shops and on the Web simultaneously. Despite the objections of some comics shop retailers who saw the day-and-date release as a potential threat to their in-store sales, the first issue sold out within a week and went to a second printing.

“Usually on the fourth issue, you’re seeing a 10%–20% sales decrease, but we saw a 20%–30% increase,” says Mosher. “By the end, there wasn’t as much opposition as there was in the beginning.”

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