The state of comiXology Part 1: Rapid sales growth shows prominence in comics market

This post is the first in a two-part series on comiXology’s impact on the comics industry in light of its 200 millionth digital comic download.

By now, it’s safe to say comiXology is a big deal in the comics industry.

The digital comics retailer had its 200 millionth comic download in late September—only a year after it hit the 100 million-download mark. The site has had its digital reader since 2009.

"The Walking Dead" comic book series released its 10th anniversary issue, #115, just in time for the season 4 premiere of the popular TV adaptation. Art by Charlie Adlard. Image from IGN.
“The Walking Dead” comic book series released its 10th anniversary issue, #115, just in time for the season 4 premiere of the popular TV adaptation. Art by Charlie Adlard. Image from IGN.

ComiXology benefits from a strong market for new readers, as the wild popularity of DC and (especially) Marvel movies and The Walking Dead TV series has played a role in putting the comics industry on pace for its best year since 2000, according to Comics Alliance.

The site is not just capitalizing on trends, though. It has helped expand the comics audience in its own right.

The rise of digital media has created a larger comics market than was available when print was the only medium for comics.

“It was already a fractured, poorly distributed market,” said comiXology CEO David Steinberger.

While comics may not have been poorly distributed, as single issues and collected editions were available in bookstores and online, digital downloads have made it easier for readers who do not live near comic stores to buy new issues as soon as they are released.

Buying comics, especially in issue format, online is not always cost effective (when factoring in shipping costs) or timely (I used to have subscriptions through Marvel and usually received my issues a week after they came out). Although many sites offer free or discounted shipping for certain amounts spent, those offers might not be inviting for new readers

Someone who is interested in giving comics a try might not want to spend $25 to get free shipping on Amazon, for example.

Spending $9 on a quick download of The Walking Dead Volume 1 could be more appealing for a fan of the show who wants to give the comics a shot.

Digital sales have benefits for longtime readers as well.

Because cloud storage space does not have the same limitations as print, books never go out of print, and books that have gone out of print are easier to publish again.

"Green Arrow" #11 is one of many out-of-print comics published via comiXology. Art by Matt Wagner. Image from iFanboy.
“Green Arrow” #11 is one of many out-of-print comics published via comiXology. Art by Matt Wagner. Image from iFanboy.

For example, DC published filmmaker Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow series, originally published in 2001-2002, on comiXology in 2010 after the collected editions of the series had been out of print for several years.

ComiXology is not the only company to promote digital comics, but it is the market leader. The company had $19 million in sales in 2011 out of the overall sales numbers for digital comics, which totaled $25 million.

Digital comics sales increased to $70 million in 2012.

Digital has some questionable aspects, but it has proved to be a viable market and has made an impact on the comics industry.

“Digital has replaced the spin rack in the convenience store,” said Thor Parker, social marketing director of Midtown Comics, one of America’s biggest comic book retailers.

Parker is right. For the first time ever, comics are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Physical location no longer matters, and the potential for further audience expansion is tremendous.

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