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The Middle Ground #6: See, Tonight It’s Going Digital

by  in Comic News Comment
The Middle Ground #6: See, Tonight It’s Going Digital

So, IDW is looking set to take a temporary lead in the digital comics arms race, then.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the San Diego-based company will apparently be offering almost its entire line through digital distribution a month after print debut, if recent reports are anything to go by. This is in comparison to, say, Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited, which has a release schedule that follows themes and movie releases more than anything else, it seems, or DC’s digital initiative that… well, doesn’t seem to actually exist yet.

As much as I like to pretend otherwise, digital comics are more than likely the future of the medium – I know, I know; I can’t quite get the same experience reading things on a screen as in print either, but then, I haven’t played with an iPad to date (Something any enterprising publisher and/or manufacturer can change with just one email! Don’t forget, comics professionals: I can be bought as easily as anyone else – I’m just blunt enough to actually admit it in public) – and if IDW do, in fact, manage to get a reliable and timely release schedule up for digital release on a monthly basis, I can’t help but think they’ll have vaulted to the front of some kind of line somewhere.

Y’see, the potential digital audience doesn’t have the same biases and preferences as the direct market, and the concept of smaller publishers fighting against the might of The Big Two falls even further to pieces when you realize that one of those two hasn’t bothered to show up just yet. And, to IDW’s credit, they’ve got a lot of big toys that a lot of people will recognize with their Transformers, GI Joe, Angel and True Blood licenses amongst others, as well. So, is this a case where being first and relatively recognizable is going to pay off?

I have the feeling that the answer is yes – although, admittedly, in large part because of faults and failures on others’ parts as much as it is on IDW’s successes. It’s not a won war, of course; just because the books will be out there doesn’t necessarily mean that people will want to read them – the, for want of a better way of putting it, fanboyishness of something like Transformers: Bumblebee may be a deterrent to newcomers who aren’t part of fan communities as much as it’s a lure for those who are, just like I worry that other people will share my surreal (and, to be honest, utterly unearned) distrust of Locke & Key (Once I actually read it, I loved it. But beforehand, I was convinced it would be terrible, and I can’t explain why). It’s also possible that IDW may end up teaching a new audience how to buy and read comics online – including introducing them to weekly releases, etc. – only for another company to come in with a larger catalog and try to crush them. But this feels like something where the trailblazing will actually pay off, both in terms of PR and customer loyalty.

So, if IDW is the first to set this hardcover/paperback-style print/digital two-pronged release up, who’ll be next? And when?

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