This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends.
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Comics and graphic novels have been having a good run lately. Comichron and ICv2 – respectively, a database and journal covering the industry – estimate that, in 2015, total domestic sales reached a record of $1.03 billion. In their joint report, they note that in 2015, print sales accounted for a staggering $940 million, with about $535 million coming from graphic novels and $405 million from comic books; compare to 2000, when sales grossed a relatively modest $265 million. Ted Adams, CEO of IDW Media, noted that this market is quite stable: “At IDW, the huge growth we saw in digital sales in the early days of eBooks flattened from 2015 to 2016. It’s still a significant revenue stream — measured at around 11.5% of physical sales — and I expect we’ll see growth in the near future as more players enter the storefront marketplace and new technologies develop.”
However, digital sales of both comics and graphic novels accounted for only $90 million of the total, and that $90 million sum represents 9% of total sales, a 10% decline from the same category in 2014. A 9% share of sales seems low nearly a decade out from the launch of the Kindle, especially by comparison to other ebook categories. Genre does matter a great deal when it comes to electronic sales. Forbes pegged text-based ebooks at 30% of sales in 2014, and for some categories like romance, it’s over 50%. And digital comics and graphic novels actually do better than their neighbors in other visual genres: ebooks anecdotally account for only about 3% of the illustrated book market. Why is this?