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Web comics and print collections

Publishers Weekly looks at how print collections fit in with web comics.

Web comics are counterintuitive: they’re online for free at the same time the creator or publisher is offering the same stories for sale. â??You would assume that people wouldn’t want to buy something if they’ve read it already,â? says David Land, an editor at Dark Horse, â??but I’ve learned people love ‘stuff.’ â? In other words, after reading the pixilated electrons, fans want something to hold in their hands and very often that something is a book.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
September/1/2009
@ 6:00 am

This isn’t new. People have long paid for collections of comic strips and editorial cartoons that had already appeared in print newspapers (i.e., they had already read them).

Format is important: Having comics in an easy-to-handle, high quality (low acid paper, for example) format, arranged sequentially for strips with story lines, is a different experience than scrolling through an online archive.

#2 Jim Thomas
September/1/2009
@ 6:50 am

I don’t really think that is the main thing to take away from the article. What is important is not that people buy collections, but that publishers are looking to independent creators for publishing possibilities.

It is now possible and becoming in vogue to take on established web content and partner to distribute it via print. This is a new step in the web model, and a very interesting one at that. For all of those out there that “just wanna make comics,” this is getting closer to that.

#3 Bill Holbrook
September/1/2009
@ 7:28 am

Just for the record, the first print collection of my “Kevin & Kell” webcomic came out 1997: the paperback “Quest for Content..”

#4 Garey Mckee
September/1/2009
@ 3:55 pm

Pleeeeeaaaase don’t let this news item bait you into another round of a Print vs. Web one night only pay per view event!

#5 Patrick Scullin
September/1/2009
@ 8:47 pm

I agree with Mr. Land, it seems counterintuitive but it makes sense that familiarity and customer loyalty will motivate buyers. I also think it comes down to convenience, while on a daily basis it may be simple enough to read a blog or view a web comic, if you ever want to go back and enjoy the material, a blog can be very cumbersome. It really is more advantageous to buy a book and read it in another setting. I don’t think you can overlook that part of the collector mentality. I also think it comes down to value. The printed collections should include something new or bonus material that give the books something more or special to offer to the customer. I think it’s a great opportunity for unique graphic design and binding materials.

#6 Jim Thomas
September/1/2009
@ 11:53 pm

@ Garey

I don’t think it is a print v. web issue. It is an independent creator issue. While those lines seemed to be drawn in a same place as print v. web right now, I think what this article is talking about is how that line is getting blurred. A cartoonist can own his/her strip and do with it what they want, and when the time comes they can try to pair with a publisher to get a collection out.

I think who you will see benefit the most from this type situation is cartoonists that want to tell longer stories and get back into types of strips that don’t survive in traditional (newspaper) format anymore. They are sort of forced to self-publish anyways, and now they will most likely benefit by being able to provide their stories to be read in one sitting. It is very good for them.

#7 Shawn Labadie
September/2/2009
@ 7:55 am

It’s the future. It’s also a human need to “collect stuff” that’s why I have a shelf full of DVD’s that I never watch. =)

#8 Alan Jones
September/2/2009
@ 11:16 am

Exactly. I’ve been thinking about this myself a bit, I believe it could be an important clue in the web comic biz model puzzle.

People (well, at least me) like the idea of buying a nice little (or big) book that they can hold in their hands and display in a shelf or coffee table.

It doesn’t matter the fact I’ve read the book many times previously, or that I’ve read the comics or looked at the pictures in whatever other venue. Often, I am more predisposed to buy a print collection of comics I am familiar with or have read to add to my “collection” than something I “hope” is good bet.

What’s nice about the original source being web comics, is that as long as the aspect ratio is conducive to standard printing sizes, it no longer needs to be restricted to the basic horizontal multi-panel strip or single panel format.

#9 Scott Kurtz
September/2/2009
@ 12:23 pm

@Ted,

I don’t think the story here is that cartoonists are making book collections. Duh. That’s hardly news. The story is about using the web instead of the newspaper to spread word about the work and develop/interact with an audience.

And also, I think the story is about how young cartoonists these days are flocking to the web, not the syndicates, and how they don’t need a 3rd party to negotiate lucrative book deals for them.

It’s an exciting time :)

#10 Michelle Bourg
September/7/2009
@ 7:39 pm

Day to day, I read most of my comics through the three major subscription services. Comics.com has been down for three days and is only up intermittently right now, so it’s taken me an hour to catch up on three strips. Snafus like this aren’t uncommon, so for some of us, buying the books is almost as much of an act of self-defense as of collecting.

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