Kindling a Comic Apocalypse
I only put such an absurd headline to paper to highlight by ridiculous overstatement the sheer madness of viewing a Kindle 2.0, 3.0, or a future Apple e-reader as a potential killer of the print comic as suggested in the article by the equally absurd headline “Could Kindle Kill Comics?” which was recently featured on Yahoo News.
The principle argument suggesting a print comic apocalypse surrounded a quote by a DC comics executive who declared at New York Comic Con that, “[Comic books are] a business that is very low margin and very low print run, so if 10 percent of the readers migrate to an e-device, that is going to throw off the economics for 60 percent of the books that are published in this country.”
First off, color e-ink is not right around the corner and is still somewhat in its infancy. Given that the low power e-ink is a principle selling point for the Kindle, the notion of offering color comics in the near term is just not on the table at least yet. Four shades of grey are just not going to cut it.
At the same time, the Kindle might offer an interesting outlet for existing Indie Comics and webcomics which happen to publish in black and white. Zero printing costs and a means of distribution sounds like an awfully sexy niche even while it won’t turn the comic world on its head.
It is equally ironic that the likes of DC and Marvel are suggesting that future e-readers would distinctly effect the economics of low margin smaller run print comics. It could just as easily be argued that a true color e-reader would offer a more economically sound means of distribution with lower costs for these marginally profitable books. There is nothing to fear inherently from changing economics if you are willing to adapt. Learn from the stupidity of the music industry will you?
Big time comic books have increasingly become about creating a base of support for a blockbuster picture that later grosses hundreds of millions. Marvel and DC are exploring new avenues in webcomics, motion comics, and subscription models any of which may forever change the economic landscape for print comics. I actually view it as a very positive sign that they are doing so.
However, in the end nothing will replace my print comic: its feel, the reading experience it provides, or its collectibility. It is a false choice to present this kind of either or scenario. I enjoy the prospect having my comic experience enriched and supplemented by motion comics, films, eBooks, or whatever the latest and greatest that comes along. I may keep a wary eye on the future of comics lest my weekly pilgrimage to the comic book store be rendered a quaint tradition of a bygone era, but us comic fans are early adopters after all and on the balance I choose to embrace the future rather than be threatened by it.