While the launch on Tuesday of Image Comics' DRM-free digital comics storefront rightfully attracted a lot of attention, the bigger eye-opener may end up being some of the numbers behind that decision.
The publisher shared with Wired.com statistics -- and charts! -- that should go far to ease lingering concerns about piracy and digital's "cannibalization" of print sales: As you can see above, digital sales accounted for 12 percent of Image's overall revenue in 2012, a figure that's expected to increase to 15 percent by the end of this year. Twenty-two percent of the sales of the bestselling Walking Dead comes from digital (presumably that's monthly sales, although the article doesn't specify). What's more, "when measured solely against print comics sold in the direct market at comic book stores, digital makes up 27 percent of revenue."
"Our theory on digital has been that it's not going to hurt print sales," Ron Richards, Image's director of business development, told Comic Book Resources. "Digital will just emerge as another channel that has the potential to reach a different audience. Image has been doing digital since '09, so there's a few years of data now, and we're seeing growth in the direct market, growth in the book market and growth in the digital market. Now, if there was growth in our digital market but decline in the direct market, then you could maybe posit that there was cannibalization happening. But there's growth in both."
On a similar note, Image Publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired, "There’s a lot more potential for outreach with digital comics. I mean, how many comic stores are there? Maybe 2,000 or 2,500 in the United States? There are more radio stations than that. If you’re trying to convince casual [and new] customers to find comics, we’d be better off selling to radio stations than comic book stores.”