Digital disruption has upended virtually every corner of publishing, but in the world of comic books, something curious is happening: Print sales are thriving alongside the rise of their digital counterparts.
Print comic book revenues have been on the rise in recent years, even as digital comics' sales boom. Print receipts have held up at a time when publishers have introduced all-you-can-download subscriptions that offer thousands of comics for a flat monthly or annual fee.
In 2014, digital comics revenues excluding unlimited subscriptions reached $100 million, according to ICv2, an online trade magazine that tracks comic sales and other trends. That was up from just $1 million seven years ago, when ICv2 started collecting data.
Meanwhile, the North American market for print comics grew from an estimated range of $650 to $700 million in 2009 to $835 million in 2014, according to ICv2 and the Comics Chronicle. That includes sales of single issues at comic shops and newsstands, as well as book channel sales of trade paperbacks, or collected volumes of comics.
There are signs digital comics are butting up against the law of large numbers. Sales growth slowed in 2014 to 11 percent, down from 29 percent in 2013 and 180 percent in 2012. In the coming years, it could be more difficult to keep growing the readership.
Taken together, however, it suggests the internet age hasn't wreaked the same type of havoc on comics that it has on sectors like music and print media.