John Jackson Miller, who does superb analysis of hard-copy comics sales in comics stores, makes a good run at figuring out the size of the digital comics market in a post at his blog, Comichron.
Of course, there are a lot of assumptions. While sales of print comics are well documented (by Diamond, the distributor to comics shops, and BookScan, which reports on bookstore sales), real numbers are much harder to come by in the digital realm, where everyone starts to get all vague and mumbly if you ask the question.
So when DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson let slip in an interview last month that “Now there are a million downloads a month of DC stories from our digital publishing,” that gave the numbers crunchers something to play with.
Miller got right down to it, with some help from Torsten Adair, who pointed out in a comments string at The Beat that if you add up all the DC comics in Diamond’s top 300 comics chart, you get just about twice that. In other words, it’s reasonable to assume that digital sales are about half of print sales (somewhat less, actually, because the top 300 doesn’t capture all sales, but we’re estimating here). Miller then makes a pretty big assumption, that DC has the same slice of the digital pie as it does of the print-comics market; if that holds true, he reckons that digital sales amount to 40 million downloads a year.
Of course, there are a lot of caveats to this, but it seems like a good ballpark figure for the current digital comics market. What’s much harder is translating it into dollars, as digital comics sales are all over the place, pricewise, and as often chronicled here, they are frequently deeply discounted.
The other problem with Miller’s calculations is that the digital comics market is still a moving target: Digital comics sales seem to be rising steadily, so this information will soon be obsolete.