I've read a lot of interesting articles and comments lately about this whole Diamond Digital distribution announcement, and I have to say, it’s complete shit. Now bear in mind I’m speaking from the position of an independent comic creator, one who makes little to no money off of my books, and who has never had anything published by a major company. First off it’s clear that digital comics are here to stay, and on one hand I admire Diamond for trying to get into that market. On the other hand I see a company that already has a tight, monopolistic grip on the comics industry trying to insert itself into the digital distribution chain for nothing more than a further cut of the profits. (For a detailed rundown on how the system will work check out this interview with Diamonds's Dave Bowen.)
Anyone with even an inkling into how their LCS orders books knows the issues with Diamond. Late shipments, crap service, high fees (higher for indie books even, so the big 2 always get more shelf space), etc. And as a creator don’t even get me started on their minimum order policy and their habit of dropping indie books mid arc for not selling enough copies.
They’re a monopoly, even if no one wants to publicly say so, and they have a stranglehold on the direct market. For now.
Enter digital comics. Finally, you can now purchase, read and collect comics from the comfort of anywhere. Creators are connected directly to their customers, large companies have standalone apps, and Diamond was getting getting handed its hat. Their answer? Insert themselves back into the digital food chain, take another cut and say we’re helping out local comic shops. And I call bullshit on that.
This will in no way attract new readers to comic shops, and here’s why. Wednesday warriors like myself will always be loyal to a shop. Most of us even have subscription services. I’ll read and preview books digitally but if I really want to support it I’ll buy a hard copy. I vote with my wallet.
Now Joe Six Pack who wants to get an Iron Man or Superman book for his kid, he’s going to use the Marvel or DC apps, or go to Barnes and Noble and pick up a trade. Adding another step in the process, where he has to go to a physical store, order a digital copy, have a coupon printed, and then redeem that through the iVerse app? Sorry, not gonna’ happen.
To quote my studio mate Jake Ekiss "Diamond comics, bringing you yesterday's comics tomorrow."
And what does the profit breakdown look like for the creators, publishers, distributors, etc.? Well honestly I have no idea, but here's a guesstimate based on what I know.
Apple usually takes 30% and Diamond's traditional cut is 60%. That's already 90%, or $1.80 from a $2.00 comic. Then take out whatever iVerse gets, plus the retailers cut, and then the publishers fee. The rest, if any, might make its way back to the creative team that actually made the book. How that is any help for the comics industry, pros, retailers or fans is beyond me.
In trying to get their cut of the pie they are only going to alienate their existing audience, while the masses will have no real idea what’s even going on. General consumers want to order from the bathroom, and hardcore fans will always support their local shop.
David Hopkins has a much more positive take on the subject on his blog, but I fail to see how this is good for anyone but Diamond. Putting another gear in a system that is already failing is not the answer.
So what’s in for Diamond in the end? Well, they get to stay in business and seem relevant in an age where they are increasingly marginalized and seen for what they are, a burden instead of a blessing.