At a panel titled “Comics & Digital” at the New York Comic-Con, pop-culture news and analysis site, ICv2, presented a report on the sales of graphic novels and comics thus far in 2010. The gist of the report was that print sales are down across the board while digital sales are starting to take off rapidly.
ICv2 began by pointing out a 20% drop in print sales for graphic novels (this includes manga) in 2010. This is said to be the result of sharp sales declines at bookstores. The decline of Watchmen sales in 2010 in particular accounts for 50% of total bookstore decline. Bookstore sales were down by about 30% in the first half of 2010.
The manga market dropped another 20% in sales, which is a repeat of 2009’s performance. This effectively means manga sales have dropped by 50% since 2007. Signs of the decline have been rather prominent, with multiple publishers like CMX and Aurora closing up shop.
ICv2 note, however, that certain popular series continue to do well, such as Hetalia Axis Powers (Tokyopop), Vampire Knight (Viz), Black Butler (Yen Press) and Naruto (Viz), which is still the #1 manga franchise in the U.S.
The subject of the panel then shifted to digital publishing, which was the hot topic for the remainder of the event.
ICv2’s estimates point to a $6 – $8 million English-speaking market for digital sales. These, they say, are driven primarily by Apple’s iTunes service. Over the next year, digital sales on the iPad are expected to have a large impact on the market, and further growth is expected as tablet devices other than the iPad are brought to the market.
Finally, while proponents of the retail and digital spaces might have conflicting interests to an extent, the Comics & Digital panel ended on a collaborative note, with the topic of integrating digital downloads into retail comic stores being one of the ideas that were put forth.