In what could be a pivotal moment for the comic book industry, Amazon-owned ComiXology today announced plans to begin offering their ComiXology Originals titles through Amazon print-on-demand, both dipping their toes into the water of print comic book publishing and setting the stage for a potential transition away from a decades-long reliance on the Diamond direct market system for the industry as a whole. The program kicks off with some newly announced titles exclusive to Comixology and the promise of more by some A-list creators.
The currently announced books: Savage Game created by NFL player Ryan Kalil, written by Shawn Kittelsen, and art by Chris B. Murray; Superfreaks from writers Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet, with newcomer artist Margaux Saltel; Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty from writer Richard Starkings, and artists Axel Medellin and Boo Cook; Ask For Mercy from writer Starkings and newcomer artist Abigail Jill Harding. Of the four, all but Superfreaks are advertised as available in print exclusively through Amazon’s print-on-demand service. Creators announced for future projects: Tyler Crook, Kristian Donaldson, Alti Firmansyah, Sam Humphries, Megan Kearney, Kel McDonald, Hope Nicholson, Mike Norton, MK Reed, Mark Sable, Tim Seeley, C. Spike Trotman, Jen Vaughn, and Magdalene Visaggio. Those books will also be available in digital and in print exclusively to ComiXology and Amazon.
It’s a formidable lineup of creators to launch a publishing line with, one that would rock the entire comics ecosystem. But these comics won’t be coming to your local comic book shop. And it might not end with ComiXology Originals.
In an interview with Newsarama, ComiXology CEO David Steinberger reveals just how far ahead they’re thinking about print-on-demand and how it could be expanded to include other publishers.
Let’s say print-on-demand really works. The quality of it is great, otherwise we wouldn’t do it at all. But there are many, many, many books that direct-market retailers will not stock, because they will sell one once in a great moon or they just don’t have enough shelf space. That could be a really good opportunity if the quality is there and the price point is right, all those things, for publishers to keep things “in stock.” Because it prints on demand, you obviously don’t have to print a bunch of those, warehouse them, and incur all those expenses in order to keep something in stock.
For me, I think it was about a year-and-a-half ago, I was in a retail shop that’s actually now gone, unfortunately, in Seattle, where somebody said, “There’s just way too many good books out there. I can’t possibly stock them all.”
The steps that we’ve all taken as an entire industry, and the steps that have been taken toward being able to meet readers with who they are and creators that look like them and all that, the question is, is that where it’s going to suffer in terms of diversity? Is there a particular genre that just won’t get stocked in the direct market?
We have a real opportunity to experiment, try things out, and try to find audiences that the direct market may not be able to reach or want to reach.
To me, that just creates more fans, which will support the direct market in turn, and will increase the audience for comic books, graphic novels and manga.
So it’s all win-win for the entire system for us to be able to experiment.
We really hope and expect a lot of it will work. We’re doing it very intentionally, obviously. But we get to take those risks and see, and then work with the publishers who sell with us to give them the knowledge of what’s working and what’s not working.
Can you imagine a world where comic books never go out of print, where sales no longer need to be estimated, and readers can purchase (or pre-order) any comic in the world with the click of a button and have it shipped to their doorstep, and read the digital version while they wait for it to arrive? Can you imagine the direct market as we now know it thriving in that environment without a substantial evolution? One thing for certain, to coin an old comic book saying: if Amazon print-on-demand comics is a hit, the industry will never be the same!
Let us know what you make of all Comixology’s move into print via Amazon Print-on-Demand in the comments.