Diamond Digital

Long time readers are well aware of my support for digital comic books and the trend towards a digital shift in the medium. Customers are able to purchase digital copies of their favourite books from Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse comics. Of course this direct distribution connects the publishing house with the customer and a middle party does not make any money (unlike print copies).

Diamond Comics Distributors is the sole distributor for comic books in North America. And they have decided to get into the digital business. Beginning in September, Diamond will offer digital copies of comic books from Ape Entertainment, Archie Comics, Arcana, Aspen, Bluewater Productions, Broadsword Comics, Gemstone Publishing, Hermes Press, IDW, Image, Moonstone, Papercutz, Red5, Sea Lion, Studio Foglio, Titan Books, Top Cow, Top Shelf, and Within Temptation.

But Diamond isn’t selling directly to customers. As stated above they are a distributor, so they are enabling the brick and mortar store to sell digital comics. Here is how it works: a customer goes into a real store and purchases a code for a digital copy for a comic book that is on the shelf in real format. They then go home and redeem the code online (or on their iPhone, etc.) and can read the comics. This is an interesting business model. Stores do not need to worry about inventory risks or damages and Diamond is trying to create a bridge between the digital world and the local comic book store. And that last sentence is where my generosity ends.

There is something wholly bizarre about going into a comic book store and purchasing a code for a book that is right on the shelf next to me. I need to walk/take transit/drive to my local comic shop in order to not purchase what they have on the shelf. Then I get to head back home and redeem a code to enjoy my comic book. There are some extra steps in here.

Diamond is clearly protecting their interests but they are not needed in the digital revolution. The fact that the 3 biggest companies don’t use the program is evidence of this. I am surprised that IDW and Image are involved, they could do much better on their own. Diamond has successfully involved brick and mortar shops in selling digital but in a weird, nonsensical way. Shops may be able to leverage more sales but they make more money from selling the actual comic book. So it is in the best interest of the shop to convince you to buy the real thing.

The business model should really be akin to the Microsoft Points or PlayStation Store system used by the video game companies. They sell digital games and customer can purchase them with their credit card or they can buy points/dollars from a brick and mortar shop in the form of a card. iTunes works the same way.

Comic book companies should set up their own digital portals (smaller companies can work together) and should send their cards to the brick and mortar shops. So I am not buying a specific digital comic from a store, but rather money that I can use to buy whatever I want from the digital portal (and I am using my credit card number online). This model works for Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Diamond could even ship the cards to shops (I am being generous here, they aren’t really needed but could potentially help with greater distribution).

Companies need to start thinking for more strategically about the digital world. A program that requires you to go into an actual shop to buy a specific virtual comic book is asinine.  The situation is only exacerbated by the fact that the majority of comic books people want aren’t’ even part of Diamond’s program.

I am looking forward to Fan Expo in a few weeks because I am sure that Diamond is going to be pushing this like crazy. I will try to chat with some Diamond reps to see if can get more info on what they are thinking. This current model is doomed to failure.

Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone

Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.

Articles: 216


  1. To be fair, it can be in the store’s interest to be able to sell digital codes on comics that are sold out in physical format. 
    So if I as a store have Dweezelman #s 1,2,4,5 in stock but not #3, maybe I can sell Joe Customer the digital #3 in order to be able to move the others. 
    I mean it’s still a next to useless endeavour but the above example is one of the main selling points from a retail standpoint.

  2. But how many customers will want to buy some issues in hard copy and some in digital? I agree that it provides more options for the retailer but if the chance of the above example occurring is low how beneficial will it be?

  3. They’re expanding their services and trying to offer digital in a non threatening way to comic retailers.  It feels aimed more at the retailer and not the consumer.

    Marvel, DC, Dark Horse have all hitched their wagons to Comixology, who is becoming the “Diamond” middleman of digital comics.

  4. I just read that you can buy prepaid cards for Marvel Unlimited in the US at Toys R Us, Target, and Gamestop. These should also be sold through the local comic shop. 

  5. Digital comics in my opinion are a rip off. They cost the same as the paper comics but the comic book companies don’t have any of the printing or distribution costs. Also there is no secondary market so they don’t increase in value. However  I can appreciate being able carrying your entire collection in your laptop or tablet pc.

  6. Comic book companies are paying to have the books formatted for the digital reading experience and paying a distributor, Comixology, to sell their work. The cost of print now goes to digital distribution; the other costs for talent, editing, remain the same.
    Digital isn’t meant for collectors; it’s for comic readers, that vast market the publishers long to tap into.

  7. Sorry but I worked in Catalog Production and I can tell you, from experience, that the cost to distribute an electronic file doesn’t even come close to printed media

  8. From a customer’s perspective buying digital comics at a store instead of off my computer at home seems like extra effort. From the perspective of someone who wants to open a comic store this is awesome news! To hear that comic shops won’t be cut out of this new way to enjoy comics is wonderful! And I’m happy they can delivery comics in all different mediums

  9. as a collector of older comics and being able to see how comics have changed over the years i prefer going into a shop that has paper comics this way i am able to look at and feel the comic as it was ment to be don’t get me wrong i enjoy a good movie also so dc and marvel and all you other comic publishers keep them coming and we as customer’s will continue coming back as long as you keep us intrested that’s what counts .

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