Saturday, March 18, 2006


Are Comics Dying Out?

I've been reading letters and various columns within the pages of Comics Buyers Guide over the last couple of years predicting the imminent demise of the pamphlet form of the comics. While I agree that a sustainable business model for pamphlet comics has seriously eroded over the last several years, I suspect that the form still has a good 5-10 years left, and probably it will always be around in some form or another. My guess is that the trade edition format will slowly displace most of the sales over the next decade.

Others have predicted that e-comics will be the deciding factor in ending the pamphlet form. But these folks seem to miss the point that the same thing was said about dead tree edition books a few years ago when the appearance of e-books was all the rage. Currently there are numerous publishers and outlets for e-books, but until the pricing is a substantial discount (current discounts hover around 10-20%) as compared to the printed edition, e-books will only find limited success. Also only a handful of portable e-book reader devices are currently available. Most of them seem to suffer from similar issues such as short battery life, poor contrast when outdoors, incompatible proprietary e-book formats, etc. A new device from Sony called the Sony Reader seems promising however since it is the first of these devices to use the E-Ink "paper" look display technology. This device promises ultra long battery life and excellent contrast and visibility in all lighting conditions. But for now, the display is only in B&W.

My personal opinion is that what is really hurting the comics industry overall is the lack of new readers coming into the hobby. The average comics reader is in their late twenties, and many long time fans have gotten quite grey around the edges. I have managed to get one of my kids into reading comics, so at least there is one new comic fan around. The comics industry has been trying the fight back with events such as the upcoming Free Comic Book Day but I've found that the publishers don't always to seem to make kid friendly issues available, though every year they do seem to get closer to the mark.

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