Industry participants cited a number of factors in explaining the decline, with perhaps the most important being the slowdown in new device purchases. Now that smartphones and tablets have reached near saturation levels, there are not large numbers of new consumers coming into the market for digital content, at least in North America. And without those surges in new digital consumers, catalogue purchases of digital comics are less robust, as longer-term digital consumers have already acquired much of the backlist that they want in their libraries.
Bundle sales, primarily through Humble Bundle, may also have affected catalogue sales by moving large quantities of digital comic material into consumers’ hands at low prices.
The rapid decline both of Nook device sales and of content for Nook devices also impacted the market, although it’s never been a large part of the digital comic business.
Sales through the Google Play store, and sales of non-DRM formats from publisher websites grew in 2015, albeit from very small bases.
The American Association of Publishers reported that for its members, ebook sales declined 11% in 2015. While that’s not necessarily representative of the entire market for ebooks (as it doesn’t include the increasing number of self-published titles), it’s an indication that sales of digital comics are part of broader trends in the market for digital content.
There’s still much that’s positive in the digital comic space, including broadening demographics; comiXology announced via the ICv2 Conference late last year that 30% of its new customers were female, compared to 20% two years ago (see “ICv2 Presents White Paper at New York Comic Con Event”). Increased breadth of material in 2015, especially manga, bandes dessinees, and author titles, also increased the potential market for digital comics.
This analysis does not include subscription-based “all-you-can-eat” offerings, such as Marvel Unlimited or Crunchyroll. It includes English-language sales from North American platforms, so inevitably includes some international sales.
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