BOOM! Studios is committing to digital distribution in a big way this week.
Monday, the publisher announced the release of its entire back catalog for multiple platforms through ComiXology, iVerse, Panelfly and Graphic.ly. BOOM! announced yesterday the release of its own app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
By the end of the day on Monday, BOOM!'s application was on the iTunes Top 10 list for free book readers, right behind Marvel Comics.
"The company has always been aggressive in the digital space," said Chip Mosher, BOOM!'s marketing director. "It's something we've researched, and we felt that this was the right time to go whole hog and jump with both feet into the marketplace."
Titles included in this immediate release for the various platforms are 28 Days Later, Die Hard, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Irredeemable, Incorruptible, The Unknown. By the end of the summer, BOOM! will also have older titles available, such as Zombie Tales, Hexed and others.
Making this kind of commitment isn't without cost, Mosher pointed out. "The last edit pass that we do is on the trades, so we can't use the digital files for the singles. We had to go back to our trade paperbacks and recreate our single issues for digital," he said. "The design team, the last month or so, when they weren't working on trying to get our almost 500 pages a month out the door, were furiously working at exporting our back catalog into a format for these four vendors. And my marketing assistant, Ivan Salazar, was doing a ton of this work, recreating the single issues from the trades."
Mosher said that, with digital comics, the publisher is targeting an audience that can't or don't go to comic book stores to get BOOM! products.
"We've found that 40 percent of the sales that we're doing digitally, pretty much across the board, are overseas," Mosher said. "It's difficult to get our printed comic books overseas. We do a lot of grounded genre books, and I think that is more friendly to the European sensibility. We've seen a lot of sales in Germany and Japan, and we have a lot of interest in France."
In North America, the target of BOOM!'s app is mostly the same audience the company targets through bookstores.
"If you go into Barnes & Noble, we're on the end of the rows with Hexed and Farscape and a lot of our comics," he said. "So we think there's a certain segment of the population that knows who we are. This segment is not made up of people who would be going to comic book stores. And I think having a BOOM! Studios app makes it easier for them to find other comics we're doing."
The move isn't a new one for BOOM!. The publisher was the first comics company to come out with a day-and-date release with Northwind in January 2008. Then BOOM! was among the first publishers to have a comic book on the iPhone and was first with a comic book on the Android. "So we've been in the digital marketplace for over two years," Mosher said.
Marvel's app for iPad and iPhone got a lot of attention recently because the publisher announced it was releasing a comic digitally on the same day it was being released in print. But Mosher said BOOM! has no plans to do same-day releases with its print comics.
"It's definitely going to be, at the very least, a 30-day window between print release and digital release," Mosher said.
The publisher has done research in conjunction with vendors that show there are two main types of customers for digital comics, Mosher said. "They're people who used to buy comic books back in the day, maybe a decade of five years ago, and they're coming back through digital because they don't have a comics shop near them or no longer take the time every week to go to a comic shop," he explained.
"And there are also people who have heard about comic books or have bought collected comics in big box stores, but they haven't been exposed to the rhythm of the single issues, and they are buying digital now as their first time experience," Mosher said.
Research shows that customers dropping print comics to just buy through digital outlets is rare, Mosher said. "Digital seems to be an almost separate marketplace at the moment," he said.
The digital marketplace holds a lot of potential for smaller publishers, Mosher said. "There are still a lot of barriers in the marketplace," he said. "With the direct market, there's an existing customer base, and the challenge is to get those customers to buy more comics and to bring new customers into that market. Now, in the digital comics arena, it's about getting people who won't go into comics shops to read comics, or to get people who have never read comics to now give them a try.
"With digital, our barriers are reaching that audience that doesn't know about comics or doesn't keep up with comic book news," Mosher explained. "That's a big problem for small publishers who are wanting to get into the digital marketplace. That's one of the reasons I'm really excited about ComiXology's web store, where you can have a direct link to the actual comic book."
BOOM! is also talking with ComiXology about setting up an affiliate program for retailers, allowing them to reach digital comics through their website, which is something that hasn't really been targeted before.
"I think there's a whole ecology there that hasn't been formed," Mosher said. "People could read digital comics that would then lead them to buy print comics. That's a market that hasn't been tapped in a big way, and it could be an important one. People could even buy digital comics off retailer sites, and then could also get comics in print.
"I think there's a lot of expansion to be done," he said. "The direct market is really strong and is a big part of our business. We don't want to aggregate that in any way, because that would be bad for everyone. But I think the upside, using digital to feed print, is not something we can turn away from."