DC Comics Announces Deals To Sell Digital Comics In Big Three E-Bookstores, Says Digital Sales Have Grown 197%

DC Comics is announcing the next big step in its digital plans today, saying it will sell monthly comics in the Kindle Store, iBookstore, and Nook Book Store.

The company wasn’t exactly missing from those stores before, because it was already selling graphic novels. However, if you wanted the newest content, delivered on a monthly basis, just as you would find in a comic book store, you had to turn to ComiXology — either the ComiXology app or the official DC app, which the Time Warner-owned publisher created in partnership with ComiXology.

Hank Kanalz, DC’s senior vice president of digital, told me that he wants comics to be available on any platform where readers want to find them. He added that by integrating with the big e-bookstores, DC is allowing fans to “watch their movies, read their prose and their comics all in one device, in one library.”

The comics publishers have also been pretty cagey about their digital sales numbers, but DC is releasing a few data points today. It says that for the year to date, digital comic sales are up 197 percent year-over-year. The growth on that front isn’t too surprising, since the company only fully embraced the “day-and-date” model (where comics are released on the same date in both physical and digital stores) in September 2011, tying in with its “New 52” initiative, which saw all of its titles reset to No. 1. At the same time, Kanalz said that growth hasn’t come at the cost of print, where sales grew 12 percent over the same period. (The data points from last year include the launch of the New 52, so the company says it’s even doing well compared to the initial boost from its revamped titles.)

The data seems to back up a claim that Kanalz was making a year ago, that digital sales should expand the audience rather than lure readers away from comic book stores. He also said he’s encountered readers who actually buy both forms — for example if they buy the single issues digitally but want to own a physical copy of the collection, or if they treat their physical copies as collector’s items while actually reading the digital issues.

Kanalz added that digital’s percentage of overall sales varies from title to title, though it’s usually somewhere between 10 and 40 percent. (You can see the latest print sale numbers here.) In general, digital sales tend to follow the same patterns as physical ones, so that the top sellers are the same on both sides, he said. There’s also a bump in sales a month later, when DC drops the price by a dollar.

Even though digital sales are growing, Kanalz (a former comics writer himself) said DC’s writers and artists are still focused on print: “I still think print rules the roost as far as storytelling goes.” However, he pointed out that DC is also releasing digital-only comics, which allow the company to be a little more experimental and responsive. Current titles include Arrow (which ties in to the new TV show of the same name) and Legends of the Dark Knight (a Batman comic with a landscape layout that seems perfectly designed for the iPad).