diamond-digital.jpgIt’s hard to remember those timid days when digital comics were a threat to civilization as we know it and not a solid revenue stream, but one of the artifacts of that era, Diamond Digital, has been laid to rest. This was a program whereby retailers, instead of licking ’em could join ’em by setting up their own digital storefronts via Diamond. It never really worked out, for various reasons including a long, protracted roll-out, and at one point Brian Hibbs reported he had made a grand total, net, of $22.89 in a year from the program.

Brigid Alverson has a thorough post mortem that can’t really be improved upon, so I’ll just send you there:

There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.

So yeah, the protectionist era has been laid to rest. I think the idea itself was well intentioned, but in practice it never took hold.

It’s also a moment to reflect on the digital storefronts that have come and gone—graphic.ly and Panelfly—or never even come—remember Longbox? Iverse and Dark Horse are still in there kicking, and Sequential is a more recent and selective app. (Of course there are also iBooks and Kindle.) While you must give Comixology major props for staying the course that they believed in all along, now that this channel is so well established, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other specialized vendors set up. But to be successful you need to believe in what you’re selling, not fear it.


  1. Doesn’t ComiXology offer a digital service for comics shops?
    Yup… “Digital Storefront”. Not for in-store purchasing, but online.

    Now… here’s something I’m trying to figure out…
    Most stores don’t engage in e-commerce.
    Most comics shops do not have an online retail store.
    Diamond is the perfect distributor for this. A store puts up a storefront online similar to Amazon or WalMart, and Diamond handles all of the transaction and shipping behind the scenes.
    Diamond offers this service, yet I don’t think most stores know about it.

    That’s where stores need to be protectionist. Because if a customer seeks a title and the store doesn’t have it, they’ll go online. And eventually, they’ll stop coming to the store.

  2. Torsten – agreed! In fact, I think all shops should have more of an online presence because not everyone in their region cannot make it to a store. Where I do see a lot of online activity for retailers is eBay.

    Plenty of stores use ebay and Amazon as routes to unload back stock titles.

  3. What I don’t understand is if there are all these new readers coming into comics through digital, why have sales numbers never really improved in the past 5 or 6 years? There was the blip with the New 52 gimmick, but sales have returned to where they were before that. Hibbs’s BookScan numbers show the same number of units have been selling since like 2007. Stuff costs more now, so dollar amounts are going up, but the numbers have totally flatlined.

    I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going on in the comics world anymore. I think I’ve been into a comic store maybe 3 times in the past year and have read a handful of books. So, I’m just looking at the numbers and not really seeing anything impressive.

  4. ARE there “all of these new readers”? Or are they primarily lapsed, or geographically inconvenient existing readers? (ie: used to go into a store twice a year, now buy weekly digitally)

    I mean, obviously, there are SOME new readers being created this way, but is it truly a meaningful number of significance?

    (I don’t know!)

    I do know that the only thing that we ever sold on Diamond DIgital was PDFs of PREVIEWS. That actually evolved into a not-completely-meaningless business there at the end.


  5. So the one thing that sold was one thing they should have been giving away for free. Gotta love that comics industry!

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