John Jakala is pondering the possibilities of downloadable super-hero comics, making persuasive arguments for the delivery system. As I said over at John’s, I do think removing the necessity of a trip to a specialty shop might increase interest from casual consumers who are downloading music and games and movies anyways. It’s not much of a stretch to picture someone who’s curious about Spider-Man or Wonder Woman but wouldn’t set foot in a comic shop paying a little for a download just to see what’s up.
But I can understand there being reluctance to adopt that technology on a number of fronts. Comic shops have helped keep Marvel and DC alive, at least in terms of moving monthly product, so anything that shifts brick-and-mortar retailers out of the equation would have to be approached with extreme caution. (I still think the bulk of regular visitors to a comic shop who are looking for super-hero comics would keep coming. I’ve never seen much indication that those kinds of collectors or hobbyists are looking for a new way to get their fix. I could be very, very wrong, obviously.)
I also wonder if there isn’t some way for publishers to cut supportive retailers in on the action, if they do add downloads to their delivery systems. Let’s say it works like an on-line game provider, where you can deposit a certain amount into an account to be used at your leisure. Would it be possible to allow comics retailers to vend those credits? When you go to pick up whatever Wednesday offers, you can buy $10 in “Marvel Money” or $20 in “DC Dollars” to add to your online coffers? Gift certificates or cards or whatever, with a code that people can type in whenever they log on to whatever platform the publishers use?
I can’t see Marvel and DC teaming up for something like this, so platforms would probably be inconsistent and users would probably need separate accounts. I’m still wondering if the DC-Flex deal isn’t leading to some kind of electronic delivery system for the rest of DC’s product. (The first CMX/Flex co-publishing title just showed up in the latest Previews, by the way.)
It does seem to me that there are ways to implement this without cutting traditional retail outlets entirely out of the equation, which would strike me as extremely disloyal. And I know that loyalty can’t always be a factor in business decisions, but it seems like it should be in a relationship as weirdly symbiotic as the one between super-hero publishers and local comic shops.