Digital comic sales totaled between $500,000 and $1 million at retail in North America in 2009, according to the ICv2 White Paper presentation at C2E2 last weekend.  The total includes sales in mobile formats such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Kindle, and PSP formats. 


One method used to inform the estimate was to consult with the largest players in the digital comics space on their estimates of the market, each from a very different vantage point.  The range of the estimates reflected those different vantage points and the nascent state of the market; there was almost an order of magnitude separating the lowest and highest estimates.   We received estimates both below and above our $500,000 to $1 million range. 


Although digital comic sales in 2009 were a relatively modest number, they represent a huge jump from 2008, when only iVerse and uClick had digital comics available.  In 2009, Panelfly and Comixology launched for the iPhone, IDW began offering a wide range of titles initially through iVerse and then through its own apps, and PSP launched with 500 comic titles in December.


Among the big sellers in 2009 were IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown and Transformer:  Alliance iPhone apps, which IDW CEO Ted Adams believes were the top digital comic sellers for the year.  The Star Trek:  Countdown example is instructive, because not only did IDW sell more digital copies than print copies, the print sales were robust and did not appear to have been impacted by cannibalization.  In fact, sales of the print version went up between #2 and #4, perhaps indicating that readers were becoming aware of the series through digital sales and migrating to the print versions for later issues. 


In 2010, sales are going to expand dramatically, with a full year of sales for the companies that launched in 2009, more launches in 2010, the impact of the iPad, the launch of the Marvel store, other launches TBD, and continuing growth in the number of titles available. 


We asked principals of three of the digital comics companies for their looks ahead.  Here are their takes:


Brett Dovman, CFO of Panelfly:

“I think it’s an extremely new market and clearly believe that there is the potential for massive growth.  A quick example would be that of Japan’s.  Digital comics in Japan started to become available in 2003, and generated roughly $1 million that year.  In 2009, digital comics generated $500 million.  While I realize that Japan has a much larger print market and that the US market will not grow to become a $500 million market in just six years, I do think it’s possible for it to become a $100 million market in that time frame.”


Michael Murphey, CEO of iVerse:

“We’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg on the growth of the market.  iPad and other table devices provide a much more satisfying comic book reading experience, and I think we’ll see more readers enter the digital space because of that.  As more publishers move to bringing their current content into the digital arena, we’ll see growth from that as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the digital comics market double annually over the next few years.”


David Steinberger, CEO of Comixology:

“2010 is the year that will be looked back on as the time when digital comics became regarded as a legitimate and profitable part of the comic book market as a whole.  I believe that digital distribution will increase the visibility and discoverability of comics, leading to an expanding market, including print.  It’s an exciting time to be in comics both creatively and as a business.”