In an era where many believe books, newspapers and more-or-less any media printed onto paper to be dying, it's reassuring to be able to look to the thriving world of comic-book-dom, and see an industry that not only still focuses on beautifully designed printed creations, but is thriving creatively. For all that digital comics are a wonderful thing - and anyone who's spent days at a time burning through Marvel Unlimited can surely attest to that - there's still a very particular pleasure that only a crisp single issue comic, or a fresh-from-the-factory trade paperback, can offer.
That, though, could soon be set to change.
Amazon and Marvel Just Made a Deal That Could (Eventually) Change the Way We All Read Comics
Specifically, Amazon will now offer over 12,000 single-issue Marvel comics on its Kindle store.
Which, on the face of it, isn't that big a deal, right? After all, since Amazon bought ComiXology - the leading outlet for digital comic-book downloads - last year, the company has already indirectly been offering that exact service. Offering the same comics via the Kindle store can't make that much of a difference, can it?
Well, perhaps - and perhaps not.
This Opens Up a Whole New Audience for Amazon (and Marvel)
Specifically, an audience that may well not feel comfortable navigating the often arcane ordering and purchasing rituals of the comic-book store, and may not have any interest in downloading the ComiXology app.
It's entirely possible, in other words, that there are millions of potential fans out there - it's not as though the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't already reached beyond the traditional Marvel fan-base, after all - who could now see Kindle-available Marvel comics as their first real chance to get into buying comics on a weekly or monthly basis, much as they might a magazine.
Which, on the Face of it, is a Very Good Thing
After all, the more people by comics, the more there'll likely be to read - and digital downloads come with the distinct advantage of eliminating the need for stores to order them in, enabling fans to choose exactly what they want to read from the widest possible selection, rather than being limited to what was seen by a local buyer to be the most marketable.
In other words, the more available comics become, the greater the chance of us seeing less obvious hits like Ms. Marvel compete with traditional big names like Iron Man, Spidey and the X-Men - to say nothing of the benefits greater choice offers to smaller independent comic-book companies in search of an audience.
Could There, Though, Be a Downside?
Well, that largely depends on how strongly you feel about printed media.
The danger in any movement towards digital comics - much as with e-books, and digital movie downloads - is that as the marketplace shifts further and further in the direction of online-only, there'll be less and less of an incentive for companies - like Marvel, for instance - to produce physical copies of their products.
After all, if you can charge the same price for a digital copy of All-New, All-Different Avengers as you can for a physical copy, but don't have to go to the substantial expense of physically printing, distributing and selling it, then profit margins will logically rise substantially. Which, in turn, would most likely (eventually) mean the end of printed comic-books, as a new generation of readers discover their soon-to-be heroes via a screen rather than the printed page.
So, if you want comics to always be printed, moves like this could well be seen as the beginning of an end. If, however, you're more interested in seeing a wider range of innovative and challenging comics from as wide a range of sources as possible, irrespective of how they're delivered, then it could well be seen as the next step in something wonderful.
Or, y'know, it may well be both.
What do you reckon, though?