Milton Griepp has run his annual analysis of digital comics sales and the numbers are up again. He reports that digital was at $90 million in 2013, up $20 million from 2012. Although the percentage growth isn’t as big as in past years (Last year saw a $45 mil 180% jump from 2012) it’s still healthy. According to Griepp the number does not include “pay one price” services such as Marvel Unlimited and Crunchyroll, but does include English-language sales from North America-based platforms.

Digital comics sales growth is still outpacing ebook growth, which actually went negative in 2013 (see “Books, eBooks Decline in 2013”).  And print comics and graphic novels have been growing even as digital comics sales have been growing rapidly, evidence that comics may indeed be different from other media and have the potential for growth due to the increased access that digital comics bring (see “Why Digital Comics Are Different”).

All this robust growth comes before Amazon acquired Comixology, the leaden digital comics purveyor; a move which is still sending ripples out among publishers. In fact expect some big announcements along these lines at San Diego.


  1. OK, I admit I have downloaded a few free comics from several sources, but I don’t get the idea of paying for them . . . especially paying the same price one would for the REAL comic itself. Collecting comics is fun, and I’ve done it for decades. How is “collecting” downloads for the same cost a comparable hobby?

  2. Sturgeon’s Law…it is not the same at all as collecting. I don’t “collect” digital downloads any more than I “collect” Wired Magazine, which I have bough on the iPad for three years.

    It’s about access. I don’t have a ton of room in my house anymore. Right now I am in my den on the second floor. My comics are in my office in the basement. Without leaving my comfy chair, I can have the last year of Snyder’s Batman in my lap in under two minutes.

    To me the convenience of “anywhere, anytime” beats out the convenience of a physical asset.

    Before you say “but you don’t own it”, fifteen years ago I lived in an apartment building. Somehow a roach nest got into one of my long boxes and I lost over 300 comics. That’s when I started feeling that ownership was as much a burden as a gift.

  3. Let me add to an incomplete answer:

    That was $518m in JUST IN THE DIRECT MARKET, through sales reported via Diamond.

    We also can provably show about $176m in bookstore sales of book format comics via BookScan. So, combined, that’s $694m that we can “prove”

    But there’s all of the DM sales that Diamond doesn’t reflect (UK, et al.), and all of the Book Channel sales that BookScan doesn’t reflect, plus the newstand, the library market, the school market, the book fair market, and so on and so forth — I think it’s extremely unlikely that “comics” aren’t a billion-dollar-plus market.

    Not even counting digital (which would then be like 8-9% of the total market)


  4. So, lets average it out and say digital is about 12% of all comic sales.

    At what point (50%?) does it become the tipping point where printed comic books die out? (Or are priced out?)

  5. “So, lets average it out and say digital is about 12% of all comic sales. At what point (50%?) does it become the tipping point where printed comic books die out? (Or are priced out?)”

    That’s an interesting way of posing the question, and I’m not sure if it’s the right way to look at digital reading, but as an extra anecdotal datapoint, when folks report about digital vs. physical in the overall US *book* market sales nowadays, the numbers being thrown around are something like 20-30% of all book sales are ebooks rather than physical books. And at the same time, those reports have generally become less emphatic/dire about how digital books “threaten” to replace physical book purchasing. Notably, increasingly folks are talking about how many readers read both in digital and in physical formats, so viewing things as a binary either-it’s-digital-or-it’s-physical way might not be the most accurate picture of how folks are coming to the format.

    So anyway, if you’re looking for a digital % of comics sales that will herald the demise of print comics, the overall ebook market might indicate that that percentage is much higher than 30%, and that that percentage is likely to grow at a slowing rate.

    But if the trend is that more readers are going to be reading both digital comics and physical comics, I don’t know that looking just at % of sales for each format is the way to do it. I dunno…I’d just as soon look at actual trends like physical stores devoting less space/effort to selling physical comics (when record stores stopped putting vinyl on their shelves and started putting in CDs, *that* was an indicator of a dying format…) or seeing more players, lured by self-evident riches to be had, successfully get into the digital comics space. Those sorts of things may also be happening–I don’t know–but those are the sort of things that might better inform a “format death-watch” if one’s inclined to do one, that is…

  6. There are factors involved such as overhead cost of print is vastly more expensive than digital. When I say overhead I mean printing, shipping, and warehouse storage, and more shipping. Wherein Digital there’s no cost in print, shipping, and minimal cost of server storage. So while digital may have a very small piece of the pie right now, it’s vastly more cost effective means of selling comics.

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