Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rising Gas Prices And The Future Of Comic Books

It seems everybody is talking about the rising cost of gasoline these days, and with good reason. Almost everything we do is somehow based around oil in some way or another. Whether it's used in the production of products we purchase every day or the shipping, receiving or most modes of transportation we use to go and purchase these products, oil is somehow involved.

Gasoline now costs between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon in the United States and between $1.25 and $1.50 per litre (between $4.75 and $5.70 per gallon) in Canada. At these prices, and the still higher prices predicted to come in the near future, many consumers have already begun changing their driving and purchasing habits. As we well know, the price of gas does not just affect where we are willing to drive to purchase the products we desire, but the cost to the manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ship those items to those retail locations as well. As the cost of gas rises, so to does the cost to ship the item and, usually, the cost of the item itself.

With all of these factors in play, it is quite likely that many consumers, even a number of avid comic book collectors and enthusiasts, will begin reconsidering that trip to their favourite comic shop. If these places are well out of walking or the average person's biking distance, that trip may no longer feel cost effective, especially with that gallon of gas costing almost as much as that latest issue of your favourite comic book.

However, the solution for publishers is simple when compared to possible solutions for other industries, because their products, like those of other print publishers, don't have to come in a physical form. And that's where digital distribution comes in. A number of comic book publishers have already begun publishing their properties online, as part of subscription services. Marvel has its Marvel Digital Unlimited subscription service, giving users access to a number of Marvel titles online, and DC runs Zudacomics , which uses crowdsourcing to give unknown comic creators the chance to be seen and, possibly, published, while giving readers an easy way to view and vote for new comics.

Following a similar model to what Web comic creators have been doing for years, major publishers are just now beginning to give their readers access to their favourite comic books in a digital format, though they are actually making readers pay to read. Most Web comics, on the other hand, are available to readers anywhere at absolutely no cost, and they are extremely easily accessible, which is why they are the future of comics.

With Web comics, there is no need for readers to travel anywhere to go and find the comic they are looking for, often wasting time and gas in the process. Instead, all they need to do is head to the website of that Web comic and pick the strip they want to read. Not only that, but most Web comic websites give all readers complete access to that comic's entire strip archive, unlike subscriptions, which only allow users access to comic book issues they have purchased.

Digitally distributed comics also have the benefit of being able to be accessed from anywhere. While on a trip to New York City recently, I wanted to keep up with the latest comics from Penny Arcade , Ctrl+Alt+Del and No Reason Comics and, of course, that was no issue because they are all available online. You can be anywhere on the planet and, as long as you've got an Internet connection, you can stay up to date with your favourite Web comics. The same can apply for digitally distributed comic books from major publisher, as long as they use browser based viewing, even with subscription services. Even if you're traveling far away from home, if you've got Internet access you can log in and check the latest issues.

As gas prices continue to rise, comic book publishers will continue to find it more difficult to sell their wares, especially with less consumers willing to make the trip to go purchase them. Digital distribution will make it considerably easier and more appealing for consumers to begin reading those comic books. The Web also opens up a whole new world of fresh readers for these publishers to which they can market their characters. This is not to say that comic shops will become a thing of the past though. Physical comic books will still be quite collectible. But in a reality where it's starting to feel to expensive to make a trip around the block, comic book publishers would be foolish to look away from the Internet as the future of distribution. via comicbookbin

Jason Kiwaluk

Mower & Shoveller,

Ecommerce | Adtech | Innovation | Strategy

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