Digital DistributionA column article by: Ace Masters
The fastest growing form of distribution is this thing called "digital." Which isn't quite as new as many people like to believe.
What is digital distribution, though? The basic definition is any product (comic book, novel, movie, TV shows, etc.) that is in a digital format (PDF, AVI, MP3 or MP4, eBook) that is not a hard copy or physical media.
This can be a little confusion because CDs are a digital format. And DVD stands for "digital versatile disc. Video game discs are digital as well. These formats are digital, but NOT considered digital distribution because they are a physical medium.
Digital distribution encompasses any non-physical digital file that can be access through a computer, PA, any number of tablets or mobile devices. Keep in mind another name for digital distribution is online distribution as it requires internet connectivity.
Despite the hype, digital distribution is still in its infancy -- even if it is growing at a huge rate. Comic books are one of the easiest products to do in a digital format, and many publishers are already doing it.
Creating a digital comic book is easy. Simply create your title as you normally would and then scan it into the computer -- now you have digital files. The same digital files you would send to a printer to have hard copies made for sale in stores.
There are a couple of different routes you can go with digital distribution, it really depends on what you want to do.
PDF are the oldest form of digital distribution there is. There were creators and publishers -- usually small press -- selling PDF copes of their titles in the '90s, before modern digital distribution became a true reality.
This is the easiest form of digital comic book distribution and is still being done by some creators. It is simple and a good choice for smaller publishers or creators who don't want the hassle with full blown digital distribution.
Simply take the scanned file of the comic and use Adobe to create a PDF file of your comic. The PDF can then be sold directly from your website, and either downloaded from the site or delivered via site such as YouSendIt.
Simple, easy and you can even use paypal for purchases if you don't want to set up a credit card payment service.
Other formats that can be used besides PDFs are CBR, CBZ, and ePub.
This method of digital distribution can also be considered self-distribution.
Another way of doing digital distribution involves using a platform such as comiXology, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other publishers use comiXology for their digital comics -- making the site a digital distributor.
Contact the site, get info from them, and see of their will carry your title to the internet masses. There are other sites that also do this as well such as Graphicly. You can even try iTunes.
There are a couple of drawbacks to digital distribution. The biggest is piracy. While it hasn't hit the comic industry in a huge way (yet!) you can find brand new releases of comic books on torrent sites within a day or two of Wednesdays -- and often these are titles not digitally released. digital comics are easy to post for those people who do this activity.
Another drawback is that digital files can be easily erased -- accidentally or not. If someone's computer crashes or gets a virus they could lose the digital comics; same thing with mobile devices, if a phone gets damaged or crashes the file(s) can be lost.
Of course this is a risk the consumer takes. Cloud technology may make this a moot point though.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle against digital comics has to do with personal taste -- and that is the fact that many people still enjoy the physical hard copy comic they can hold in their hands.
Downloading a comic online does not hold the same feeling as going into the local comic shop and snatching the last copy of the title off the shelf before someone else gets it. There is no way for a digital comic to replace or replicate the feel of a comic in a reader's hand.
Of course digital distribution has three major advantages over the physical media.
The huge advantage this has to a publisher is cutting down cost. If a title is distributed digitally, then there are no printing costs. And printing cost are possibly the biggest hurdle and budgetary concern any publisher has.
Access is another advantage. All you need to download a digital version of a comic book is internet access, a computer or mobile device. You can download a digital comic anytime, anywhere, even on the toilet if you have a smart phone.
The other major advantage is the space readers can save by not having the physical copies of titles in their house, even if the fact that digital files can be easily erased is a disadvantage. digital copies can be stored on a hard drive and take up less room -- you just have to hope the hard drive never fails or gets corrupted.
Of course, these advantages lead to another hurdle digital comics face: the collector. Comics book are a major collectable hobby the world over, which is evident by a huge secondary market, conventions and high value of older back issues.
This collectability is lost with digital comics -- so is the secondary market.
Digital distribution is a growing and potential viable market for your comics. As always do the research and see what path you want to take, or even if you want to take it.