Over at 13th Dimension Mark Waid has posted an editorial called: How I Fumbled the Ball in which he walks back some of his previous comments on print vs digital:

Several years ago, at a conference for comic book publishers and industry stalwarts, when Comixology was still an ‘upstart’ and iPads were still a toy, I came out aggressively against the Old Ways. I wasn’t the first to do so, but I am loud. I rallied hard that we should all be turning our attention to the emerging digital market and that as an industry, we couldn’t continue to be held hostage by our only significant print distributor, America’s 1,800 — maybe — comics specialty stores. I argued that tablets and smartphones were the new newsstand, the new outreach tool. As the vast majority of publishers and retailers turned on me for preaching heresy and descended upon me like a fat kid on a chocolate cake, I maintained that the Old Ways were doomed to die more quickly than we could imagine and that the future of the comics medium hinged on digital distribution.

And you know what?

I was wrong.

While it’s always entertaining to watch someone have a helping of crow pie, Waid’s instincts weren’t totally bad: we all thought print was doomed, and comics print in particular, given the inability of the industry to take chances, expand its audience and take advantage of disruption.

To be fair, it’s a mix of outside influences, the rise of the book reading channel, the rise of digital, and a whole new generation of creators putting out superior materials—and the availability of the classics of the past—that combined to make the vibrant medium we see before us today. And Waid’s own Thrillbent platform is part of the growth and excitement. Waid continues:

But in all honesty, the Old Ways weren’t doomed. Had you told me three years ago that comics sales in America would be up by significant numbers when all other forms of print media were shedding readers at a brutal pace, I’d have been the one to call you a heretic. Yet here we are. Print comics aren’t the business juggernaut they were in their heyday and may never be again, but no one can deny that there’s a sustained boom going on and no hint of an oncoming bust. And here’s what’s really cool: The same thing is happening with digital comics. They’re not only matching print’s growth, they’re exceeding it.

So yeah, comics WERE cool after all.



  1. Its cool to reflect back and reassess and to do so publically. Now what would be REALLY incredible and impressive is if Mr Waid was to say that in part that boom was due to a bold move by a publishing company he’s very quick to bash. While DC may well deserve a whole heap of his criticism when he’s saying something like this he might consider using the same candour he uses to bash them.

    (Mind I’m sure opinion is very split on whether DC did have a significent part to play… I dunno I’m watching from the cheap seats (mind them cheap seats ain’t so cheap anymore!)

  2. i do think that the future growth of comics especially for creator owned properties is in digital. Some of the most exciting new ideas in comics are coming from the digital areas right now. I think with all the gatekeepers in comics, digital is one of the best ways for new and emerging creators to get their work into the world without massive amounts of debt.

    I do think its great that printed books are going strong. We need it all to succeed.

  3. Waid’s always struck me as too smart for the Highlander Fallacy nonsense that pervades most digi-vangelism, so good on him.

  4. I don’t want to take away from Waid’s willingness to acknowledge he was wrong, but it was nevertheless still politic: after all, the proof is there for everyone to see, so he was smart of him to stay ahead of the curve (and remain a relevant part of the conversation) by saying he’s changed his views. As he basically says, such a position is just no longer tenable given the evidence. He’s obviously an opinion that matters, so no doubt it’s good to have him back on the side of print.

  5. The reaction to digital always struck me a bit like reading about how when television came out some declared that movies in theaters were doomed. Digital is great and certainly more convenient but at the end of the day it’s an alternate format. Books on audio didn’t doom the written word in favor of spoken word, like audio this is just another way to receive stories or information. I’ve worked for in the bookstore business for 12 years and I can honestly say that many of our customers do both. There are some things they do on our brand of e-reader and others they buy physical copies. How those things are prioritized varies from person to person. For example some might keep their trashy romance novels on their e-reader but by hardcovers when they want classics.

    All that said I do think from a publishing perspective if you’re a start-up I don’t know why you would give yourself the headaches and walletaches of printing let alone paying out to Diamond. It might even be more economically sound to do the monthly “issues” in digital form and then have trades being the print arm. Because while print isn’t doomed, paper and printing have also not gotten any cheaper. I seriously doubt advertising in Diamond is going to spontaneously become more affordable anytime soon either.

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