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The Digital Divide:
Derailing the Direct Market's Demise

For those afraid of what digital comics are doing to comic book stores, here's how I would save the industry.

Monthly Comic Books should come with a digital copy of the comic (similar to what Warner Brothers already does with the digital copies of their movies on Blue-Ray). The code could be attached to a page that requires the reader to scratch it like a lottery ticket. The digital comic could be released at the same time for a lower price on-line for the casual reader on itunes etc. that just wants to read the book and isn't concerned about saving/possessing it.

Collectors would still buy the hard copy of the book and have the freedom to read the story in other mediums. For the serious collector the comic companies would likely sell multiple copies because once the code is revealed, the book is no longer in mint condition.

I would not provide a digital copy with the trade paperbacks (for now) as an encouragement for the collectors to continue to buy the monthly books.

As for back issues the whole archives should be available on-line. The monthly books should go-back to the use of the "*" and tell the reader what prior issue is being referenced. That way when someone is reading a book and the blurb says "as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #121* " or whatever, the reader could instantly go on-line and for .99 read the original story.
This could drive the casual reader to the old books.

On a related note, I can't believe how many people I've talked to who don't realize that comic-books come out every month. They honestly think that there are only a couple of Superman stories. Sort of like Star Wars, as to the average person the Star Wars Universe -- oh, let's face it, they don't even call it the Star Wars Universe -- consists of 6 movies and a bunch of people who have dedicated their lives to watching the same 6 movies over and over again.

One day I was talking to my paralegal and she was amazed to find out that Superman, Batman, Iron-Man, Spider-Man and the X-Men all have new monthly adventures. She, by the way, loves Walt Disney's Tinkerbell and has all sorts of Tinkerbell themed items in her office. For her the one Peter Pan movie was enough to inspire a love of all things Tinkerbell.**

This phenomenom can be seen in other places in the culture, most notably in the Disney Princess items but also...Harry Potter and Twilight. In comparison to comic books the number of stories involving these characters is miniscule.

She honestly thought I had seen the Christopher Reeve movie when I was a kid, then read the one or two Superman stories that were written when Superman was first created and that was enough to get me hooked for life. The mass public does not know that these adventures come out all the time.

Once I explained that the stories come out once a month she then asked me how I pick which ones to read. I responded by asking her, "how do you know which TV shows to watch each week?" That was an answer that she understood. Honestly, most people don't even know that there are almost forty years of Iron Man stories.

When we were kids, when we saw that "as seen in Spider-Man #121" caption there was nowhere to immediately go. Even if we had access to a comic book store there was no guarantee that the store would have the particular issue or if they did there was no guarantee that we could afford to buy the book.

If I could have read the issues immediately it could have added to my appreciation of the book that I was currently reading and could have encouraged me to read even more old books.

Now the companies have the ability to drive new readers to old issues and unlike the current secondary market, they could be making a new .99 cents on every issue of GL/GA #76 that they sell. It's much like the American Idol business model...the sales of old 70's bands skyrocket on iTunes minutes after they perform on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

And thus, people, the industry is saved.

Troy Benson serves justice as a crusading deputy district attorney in a large metropolis somewhere south of Star City.

*Amazing Spider-Man #121 being the famous Death of Gwen Stacy...

**I did not have the heart to tell Troy there are now a series of Tinkerbell direct-to-DVD movies, none of which are as good as Star Wars.

Troy Benson

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