Digital Comics and Libraries: Past, Present and Future


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Digital comics and graphic novels are more available to readers than ever before and in different formats for a variety of platforms. Increasing numbers of major comics publishers are going to a "day and date structure" of publishing, which gives readers a choice of print and digital versions of newly released comics. What implications does this hold for libraries and comics readers that depend on libraries to provide them with their favorite story lines and graphic novels? David Lisa and Michael Maziekien take a look at the history of digital comics, what's happening now and what the future might hold for cooperation between digital comics publishers and libraries.

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  • Welcome!
  • 2011 has been another banner year for comic book film properties. Comic book characters are now regularly and profitably transported from print to film and TV. One medium seems to fuel the other.
  • As we all know, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. It was noted, here in this recent article, that Steve had a large part to do with wider acceptance of digital comics as a popular resource. Being able to read and store your favorite comics on your own portable handheld device has become very attractive. And, as we all know, reading comics on an iPad is fun.
  • To be able to read digital comics on a handheld portable device, like this iPad, was an important technological leap forward during the last couple years. We are now seeing the rise of a whole new generation of digital readers, to whom reading comics and graphic novels in this fashion is very natural, if not preferred.
  • Hi Dave! What I’m trying to do with the past section is show evidence of the trajectories of comics and libraries entering the digital world. Kind of like… in 1995, digital comics on CD-ROM and circulating CD-ROM collections in libraries were both viewed as the leading technological edge, but neither had taken off to any great degree. I won’t be doing every year from then to now, but I think I can point out a few highlights, as we go through the serialized webcomic era, the growth of graphic novel collections in libraries, etc. I don’t want to go too far off track, but I think there’s a great history to be described here, in a very short amount of time. What do you think?
  • An article from Will Eisner, School Library Journal, 1974. Mr. Eisner sets out standards for collection development. Quotes to be added. In 1976, a public library in Rochester adds a comic book collection to their library. Coverage of comics in libraries is sporadic, and articles like this return throughout the early 80’s, as a few libraries pick up on the trend. There’s no shortage of articles called some variation of “Comics in the Library?????”
  • Shatter: drawn on a 1st-gen Mac, printed on an ImageWriter. First publicized record of comic art being entirely created on a computer. Color had to be added in traditional style! Reverse of later process of hand-drawn panels, digital ink.
  • Graphic Novel: The term was not yet in the American Heritage Dictionary in 1996, but it was already becoming a library buzzword. The author of this Library Journal article suggested Maus, Cerebus, Love and Rockets, Watchmen, American Splendor, and several other books which are still in the standby library core collection of sequential art. Also in 1990, many Superman and Batman comics were converted to microfiche.
  • Superman #1 on microfiche! Scanned by Microcolor International, a NJ based company, this was marketed to libraries in sets of five issues for $29.95. Full back catalogs were sold at a discount. This mirrors what we hope to see today… Libraries providing access to back catalogs of comic books.
  • Earliest located, widely-publicized foray into creation of digital comics. CD-ROM incorporating animation and FMV. Inverse Ink went on to produce several online comics under the DC Imprint.
  • In 1995, circulating CD-ROM collections in libraries were rare but in existence. This chart reflects CD-ROM circulation in Toronto, City of York Public Library.
  • Internet Access in Libraries. By 1998, this number has grown to 73%, due to a combination of local action, state and federal funding, and support from corporate sources such as Microsoft and Comcast.
  • Here we have Marvel CyberComics, digital comic content made available exclusively to AOL subscribers from 1996 to 1999. Motion and sound incorporated.
  • Serials Review published an article listing over 40 operating comics research libraries, mostly in the Western Hemisphere. More smaller public libraries started picking up comic book collections at this time although it still fails to take off on a massive scale. Here you see a portion of the collection at the Jefferson Public Library in NJ, about 11 to 12 years old. It includes monthly issues, archived for one year. Graphic novel collections continue to grow.
  • Title:Digital, Print Comics from ComicsOne.Authors:Reid, CalvinSource:Publishers Weekly; 6/25/2001, Vol. 248 Issue 26, p34, 1/3pComicsOne: “ComicsOne founder Robin Kuo, a wireless gaming entrepreneur and longtime manga lover, launched the firm in 1999 with a visionary plan--to sell only downloadable e-comics. But like many such plans, this one needed tweaking. Slow sales spurred the company to reconsider and while ComicsOne continues to sell e-comics, it now offers manga in trade paperback editions as well. "The company originally thought that selling e-books would help us overcome the limited distribution of manga," explained Nicole Curry, ComicsOne marketing manager. "But after the first year," Curry continued, "we just couldn't make any money.“ Adobe Reader required.
  • Overdrive starts offering library access to digital books. Sedona Public Library in Illinois creates a 900 ebook collection. In 2004, a comprehensive plan for audiobook downloads in libraries is rolled out. Libraries or library systems and cooperatives purchase access fees and an individual fee for each title or title set. Over the years, more library systems purchase access to ebook collections as ereaders become more popular.
  • Getting Graphic at the School Library: 2002 ALA Conference Program, topics covered are graphic novels, manga, etc. Also the topic for Teen Read Week.
  • THE FUTURE OF comics and graphic novels may be on the screen--a computer screen. While Hollywood is quickly turning comic books into feature films, Intec Interactive has signed licenses with comics publishers Marvel and CrossGen to produce digitally enhanced versions of their comics on DVD.The Florida-based interactive entertainment company has developed what it calls Digital Comic Books (DCBs). The company is using a version of Chameleon, a secure DRM, multiplatform software viewer originally developed by CrossGen, a three-year-old comics publishing house, that allows DVDs to be played on any kind of device, Intec's digital comics will play on DVD players, X-Box, PlayStation 2, Mac or PC computers.Title:Digital Comics from Intec.Authors:Reid, CalvinSource:Publishers Weekly; 12/22/2003, Vol. 250 Issue 51, p9-9, 1/4p
  • 100 full length comics on CD-ROM. Time Magazine: “…each book is displayed in your Web browser, and you must click on a thumbnail version of a page to see it up close.” 11/24/2003
  • Eventually, the DVD versions of the Marvel collections were crammed full of PDF comics. The Amazing Spider-Man collection contained over 500 issues and the Fantastic Four/Silver Surfer package had over 750. From GIT Corp circa 2006, 2007.
  • The comic book industry makes a long-delayed step into cyberspace today when Marvel Comics unveils the industry's first online archive of more than 2,500 back issues, including the first appearances of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will offer the archive in a high-resolution format on computer screens for $59.88 a year, or at a monthly rate of $9.99, at will be able to access the first hundred issues of key titles, turn pages with a click of the mouse or navigate a battle against Dr. Doom frame-by-frame with a "Smart Panel" viewing feature. The user can zoom in on details of art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko from the 1960s or catch up with today's The Ultimates and New Avengers.
  • GIT Corp eventually lost the rights to publish Marvel Comics properties digitally as Marvel was starting their own online digital comics initiative. Here a blog entry from late 2007 bemoans this decision.
  • …graphic novel sales aredown by more than 20%. These figureswere delivered as part of the first ICv2Digital and Comics Conference, organizedto examine the impact of digitaldelivery on the comics industry. Sales ofmanga (Japanesegraphicnovels) continueto decline, slipping by 9% for thetirst half ot the year, and are projected toslip by 20% by the end ofthe year, whichwould translate to a 50% drop in salesover the past three years.Despite the overall gloomy forecastlor print, ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp hadpositive numbers tor the kitureot comicsin digital torm. The market for digitalcomics has grown from less than $1million in 2009 to an estimated $6 miliion-$8 million in 2010, making it thefastest growing segment in comics andgraphic novels. Not surprisingly, Grieppnoted that this growth comes in tandemwith the "declining footprint" of bricksand-mortar stores—Borders closing 200branches. Blockbuster closing 1,000—aswell as inventory cuts in existing stores.The energy is in digital," said Griepp.Title:ICv2 Confab Reports Print Sales Down; Digital Up.Authors:Cha, Kai-MingSource:Publishers Weekly; 10/11/2010, Vol. 257 Issue 40, p4-5, 2pDocument Type:Proceeding
  • We spoke to David Gabriel, Senior Vice President of Sales, and Ira Rubenstein, Executive Vice President, GlobalDigital Media Group, about Marvel's plans for digital trades, the Vault, and how digital can change the landscape of comics fandom.“CA: The concept of the Marvel Comics App Vault seems to runs counter to some people's ideas about how digital media should be distributed. Could you explain a little about the digital strategy involved in creating the Vault?DG: Sure...sales is the number one reason. Those titles weren't selling. We decided to take those books from the app, and possibly bring them back at a time when there's more of a marketing platform to position them to sell. Since this is a new medium and format for the industry, we decided to take the stand and make the changes that we felt were necessary. In the end this will give us a cleaner look within the app and make it easier to start to merchandise and promote the books that people want to read.”Read More:
  • The Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study 2009-2010
  • The digital comics present. The present state of digital comics refines access based upon how people prefer to use content and offers clues to what could happen with supplying graphic novels and comics to library customers in the future.
  • Marvel Digital Comics. Started in 2007 and still going today, despite the popularity of another major Marvel digital comics entity, affiliated with Comixology.
  • Fantastic Four #1 on Marvel Digital Comics.
  • Fantastic Four #1 on Marvel Digital Comics
  • The iPad was introduced in 2010. It became obvious immediately that comics would translate well on this device.
  • Here, from All-Star Superman #1, we see an entire page reproduced on the tablet screen. Swiping from side to side changes pages. The reader can zoom in for a closer look at panels. The comic book can even be read panel by panel in a special automated mode.
  • So, in 2011, digital comics have really taken hold as a choice for consumers.
  • Comixology served many purposes.
  • You could use Comixology to read comics online or on your mobile device or tablet computer. You can examine more detail on a comic book page by magnifying the image.
  • In 2011, the big three comics publishers all have titles that appear as digital items the same day as in print. This has been an important trend in 2011, as consumers now have a choice with how to buy and read brand new comics.
  • Comixology’s main store page, shown here on the iPad, promotes comics from DC, Marvel and Image. There are lots of other companies represented in Comixology’s roster.
  • Marvel maintains their own iPad app, while retaining the Comixology user interface.
  • DC does pretty much the same thing. So, as you can see, the customer can purchase the same digital comics from these companies through the same provider (Comixology), but through different company portals.
  • Image follows pretty much the same presentation structure as Marvel and DC.
  • What about Dark Horse? They do their own digital distribution, as noted here in their iPad app, which is not affiliated with Comixology. When we begin to think about comics and graphic novels being made digitally available to library customers, can separate distribution channels get in the way?
  • Branded marketing approaches call attention to individual licenses separately. Here the Green Lantern comics app for the iPad enables customers to purchase GL comics outside of both the DC and Comixology apps.
  • Here is Image’s The Walking Dead comics app for the iPad, which emulates DC’s Green Lantern approach. There are lots of different variations on this process for other licenses by different companies.
  • The introduction of the Kindle Fire ignited new issues in exclusivity for digital comics. How will this affect the presence of digital comics in libraries as a service that customers can take advantage of with their choice of handheld devices?
  • ABDO ( offers a line of graphic novels in print and digital form.
  • For example, they offer this series of Captain America Marvel Age publications from Marvel Comics. Note the hosted eBook option in the purchase choices.
  • Other companies distribute digital comics. This one is Panelfly. Note the presence of a Dark Horse property, Hellboy (otherwise available through Dark Horse’s iPad app, but not through Comixlogy).
  • Comics + (iVerse Media) also offers digital comics to consumers.
  • So we’ve seen what has gone before and a lot of what’s happening now. But what does the future hold for the comic book? And how will future generations want to get comics and graphic novels and collections from libraries?
  • Since no one knows for sure what exactly will happen, perhaps it’s better to talk about some possible futures for the comic book, the graphic novel and how libraries will supply both to customers.
  • The death of the comic book as a print medium has been foretold for many years. And yet, comic books (and comic book stores) still exist today.
  • Probably the most important question to ask when considering the future of comics is this: Will digital comics replace comic books? How can digital collections of comic book storylines exist if comic books don’t exist? Is the digital graphic novel the future of comics? Digital comics accessible by mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) are becoming increasingly popular. Day and date has begun for DC and other companies. But will digital replace print? All of these questions have implications for comics fans who frequent libraries.
  • Perhaps the two will continue to co-exist. Will specialty comic book retailers be able to continue to exist given this choice? Comixology, for example, has offered comics retailers the opportunity to feature digital comics on their websites and therefore offer a profitable digital comics portal to their existing customers.
  • Digital comics as a portable online entertainment source are here to stay. Tablets are becoming increasingly popular and are forecast to be one of the main ways future generations will access digital content. Comics are already right at home on the iPad.
  • The connection between comics retailers and libraries is an important one. It will continue to be important in the future. One can affect the other. If comics fans are grown through the retail stores and referred to libraries that serve graphic novel fans or provide additional programs for comics fans, a synergistic relationship could continue. This also works in reverse, with fans being exposed to comics in libraries and directed toward retail for more.
  • Rather than tie ourselves to a single model at this time, we should be examining multiple models, based on current systems used by libraries and digital comic distributors. What are we doing that works? We’re currently using two major models for electronic resources. We have our ebook vendors like Overdrive, which is how we generally approach ebooks. based on the purchase of access to an item or collection, accessible to the general population, but only downloadable by a certain number of concurrent users, and DRM-protected. Discussion also points towards the purchase of an ebook that expires after a certain number of uses; this has met with a great deal of criticism. Our other model is based on database subscription: A monthly, quarterly or annual fee to provide access to a serialized resource. We tend to handle journals, newspapers, and other serials this way. Many users can access the database at once. So which of these would work best, both for library users and for the comics industry? It would depend strongly on the type of material. For back catalogs that are not in high demand, a subscription-based service, similar to Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited or a library’s Historical New York Times collection, may be the best way to go. For a new graphic novel in very high demand, purchase of access one or two concurrently downloadable copies by a library or library system may be more sensible.
  • The fact is that the future of digital comics in libraries is largely unwritten. The rise of digital comics as a consumer choice certainly does point us toward a future where customers are getting used to this as a given. The youngest generations of comics readers are natively digital and WILL (I repeat, WILL) prefer digital to print as they grow older. Libraries are already ramping up to deliver new programs and services to these digital natives and once these kids turn into tax paying adults, we will most certainly see libraries going for more and more remotely accessible digital services to meet their demand.
  • And this is what it boils down to. The comics industry, the library profession and the bookselling industry are all headed toward different versions of the same inevitable crisis. The bookselling industry is already seeing the fallout of growing ereading preferences. The library profession is trying to adapt, but some factions are not trying hard enough to make inroads to serving the digital natives. The comics industry is headed in the right direction with the variety of digital services that exist now, but an inevitable confrontation will take place eventually that will mean the life or death of the printed comic book. Will this be the final collapse of the print comics industry? Simply put: We’re predicting that print comics as we know them cannot profitably exist in a generation that does not prefer them. And this makes digital comics that much more important, because that medium will keep this native American literary form alive for future generations.
  • Questions? Comments?
  • Credits and copyright notices for all licensed mentions, pictures, and book, magazine, comic book and DVD covers used in the presentation.
  • Bibliography
  • Bibliography
  • Presenter contact information
  • Digital Comics and Libraries: Past, Present and Future

    1. 1. Digital Comics & Libraries:Past, Present & Future<br />October 13, 2011<br />David Lisa <br />New Jersey State Library<br />Michael Maziekien<br />Rockaway Township Free Public Library<br />
    2. 2.
    3. 3.
    4. 4.
    5. 5. Past.<br />
    6. 6. 1974<br />
    7. 7. 1985<br />
    8. 8. 1990<br />
    9. 9. 1990<br />
    10. 10. 1995<br />
    11. 11. 1995<br />
    12. 12. 1995<br />Percentage of Public Libraries Providing Internet Access<br />23%<br />
    13. 13. 1996<br />
    14. 14. 1998<br />
    15. 15. 1999<br />
    16. 16. 2001<br />
    17. 17. 2002<br />
    18. 18. 2003<br />
    19. 19. 2003<br />
    20. 20. 2006<br />
    21. 21. 2007<br />
    22. 22. 2007<br />
    23. 23. 2010<br />Graphic Novels<br />▼ 20%<br />Digital Comics<br />▲ 1000%<br />
    24. 24. 2010<br />
    25. 25. 2010<br />Percentage of Public Libraries Providing Access to eBooks<br />66%<br />
    26. 26. Present.<br />
    27. 27.
    28. 28.
    29. 29.
    30. 30.
    31. 31.
    32. 32.
    33. 33.
    34. 34.
    35. 35.
    36. 36.
    37. 37.
    38. 38.
    39. 39.
    40. 40.
    41. 41.
    42. 42.
    43. 43.
    44. 44.
    45. 45.
    46. 46.
    47. 47.
    48. 48. Future.<br />
    49. 49. Some Possible Futures.<br />
    50. 50. Is the Comic Book an Endangered Species?<br />
    51. 51. Will Digital Comics Replace Comic Books?<br />
    52. 52. Or Will Print and Digital Comics Co-exist?<br />
    53. 53. Digital Comics as a Portable Online Entertainment Resource.<br />
    54. 54. The Comics Retailer-Library Connection.<br />
    55. 55. A New Model?<br />
    56. 56. The Future is Largely Unwritten.<br />
    57. 57. Serving the Digital Generation.<br />
    58. 58. Questions?<br />Comments?<br />
    59. 59. Credits<br />Fantastic Four © Marvel Comics<br /> The Walking Dead © Robert Kirkman & Image Comics<br />All-Star Superman © DC Comics<br />Captain America © Marvel Comics<br />Hellboy © Dark Horse Comics<br />Thanks:<br />Will Eisner<br /><br />Comixology<br /><br />GIT Corp<br />Entertainment Weekly<br />Comics +<br />iVerse Media<br />Panelfly<br />All book, DVD and magazine covers are copyright of the respective owners<br />and are used for demonstration and promotional purposes only.<br />
    60. 60. Bibliography<br />Slide 6: Eisner, W. COMIC BOOKS IN THE LIBRARY. School Library Journal; Oct74, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p75, 5p, 2 Black and White Photographs, 2 Cartoon or Caricatures<br />Slide 7:<br />Slide 8: DeCandido, K. PICTURE THIS: Graphic Novels in Libraries. Library Journal, 3/15/90, Vol. 115 Issue 5, p50-55, 6p, 10 Illustrations, 5 Cartoon or Caricatures<br />Slide 9: DeCandido, G. A. & Rogers, M. Comic Collections Now on Micrrofiche. Library Journal, 10/1/90, Vol. 115 Issue 16, p22-23, 2p<br />Slide 10:<br />Slide 11: n.a. Survey on Internet and libraries finds unequal access. School Library Journal; Aug94, Vol. 40 Issue 8, p13, 2p<br />Slide 12: Nicholls, P. CD-ROM to go: Circulating CD-ROM collections in the public library. Computers in Libraries; Oct95, Vol. 15 Issue 9, p55, 4p, 1 Graph<br />Slide 13:<br />Slide 15:<br />Slide 15: Digital, Print Comics from ComicsOne.Authors:Reid, CalvinSource:Publishers Weekly; 6/25/2001, Vol. 248 Issue 26, p34, 1/3p<br />Slide 16: Kan, K. GETTING GRAPHIC AT THE SCHOOL LIBRARY. Library Media Connection, 15424715, Apr/May2003, Vol. 21, Issue 7<br />
    61. 61. Bibliography<br />Slide 19:<br />Slide 21:<br />Slide 22:<br />Slide 23:<br />Slide 24:<br />Slide 25:<br />
    62. 62. Thanks!<br /><ul><li>David Lisa(
    63. 63. Michael Maziekien (</li>