August 31, 2011

Saving the Comic Book Aftermarket

Reading time: 3 min

I was inspired to write this post after reading Rob Salkowitz’s article on Fast Company.

When I was a kid I used to read a lot of comic books and I became a collector. I still have most of them (about 3,000) wrapped and stored in boxes at home gathering dust.

My reason’s for stopping were simple, I moved out of my family home and as time went by it became an expensive hobby. Sometimes I miss it, I still love the medium and I’m saddened that its popularity has diminished even thought its gained respect and the writers & writing keeps getting better.

I’m conflicted about DC upcoming relaunch, mainly the digital and modern part of me loves that they are finally embracing digital downloads with 100% of their library.

The old school part of me isn’t happy that 60+ years of history that is being erased by re-launching every DC title #1. Re-launches are not new in the comic industry but the staples of the industry like Detective Comics and Action Comics always felt like they’d be going forever. Why not just keep them going digitally?

One crucial question that comes to my mind is the used/collector market.  When I bought my comics, I saw them as an investment.  I dreamed of one day making a fortune reselling my collection. That has yet to happen and with the declining popularity of comic books, the aftermarket demand has followed suit. I hold on to that dream and have hopes that I’ll be able to make a profit or at least come out even when I re-sell my comics.

Going digital effectively destroys the possibility reselling your collection or of a comic becoming “rare”. I’m pretty sure that the publishers are actually happy about this since they don’t make a dime off used comic sales. Which begs the question, have they thought about embracing it?

One solution that I think comic book publishers should really consider is what Blizzard is doing with the upcoming Diablo 3 and its controversial auction house. The service allows users to re-sell their virtual items via a Blizzard account. In Blizzard’s POV, this will allow them to control and bring order to the ever-present aftermarket scene in digital virtual goods (Gold Farming). Blizzard is not doing this for free, they will “take a small fee” from each transaction.  This solution is not yet proven but it does sound like a good initiative by Blizzard.

Taking this idea to comic books is possible and would benefit the industry and would help it grow. Think of all those digital back issues you’ll have in 2 years and what to do with them? Keep them on your PC hard drive or cloud to re-read? Yes for some of them but not for all. Why not give your hard-core fans & evangelists a platform that allows them to share their passion and help grow the community by allowing them?

Comic Books going digital has been obvious for years but is it too late? Time will tell but I think publishers need to think beyond just the digital sales if they want the industry to grow again.

In an ideal world, all comic book publishers would come together and create “comic book auction house” but that’s pushing it. I know one thing… if they (the publishers) don’t take control of this, someone else will.

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