I’m not quite sure I like this. According to this article, they put some manga titles on hiatus to drive up interest and sales. I’ve no knowledge of how the publishing field works at this level- maybe this is standard practice. I’m getting cynical enough to think it might be.
So. If this manipulation happens with manga, I’m sure it happens in mainstream and comics publishing. And this is where I would normally get speculative about comic series ending before their six issues are up and so on. But I’m going to avoid speculation and just state that it’s deceptive to have a 40 volume series promised but only be produced up to the second volume. Or only two of six issues of a mini series getting created and disappointing fans.
This might be where digital publishing can solve a real problem. An entire collection can be available immediately or spread out as desired. Generally the cost to produce the whole story is probably not a truly significant amount compared to the half a story that was already paid for. (I suppose 60 volume stories break my theory but you get the point.)
And I’m sure publishers secretly salivate at the idea that buyers will lose their login information and saved files on crashing hard drives so the fans spend money again on the same digital comics they bought before. And that’s all without regard for future licensing – how long before (say) XBox wants to offer comics … wait. I don’t have an Xbox, so let me check on that. Apparently, there are Halo comics for the Xbox, along with some DC titles.
My point is that the devices and means of displaying comics are in infinite variety. What if comic shops bought digital comics and for a small fee per hour, you could read anything in the store’s digital library? Maybe Netflix could start streaming comics?
And when you want an actual print copy, you can put in an order. When there is enough demand for a title or series to satisfy a publisher, they print the number of hard copies they need. Maybe a series gains fans or a cult following over time and publishers get multiple print runs or maybe it doesn’t ever go to print. Either way, every project will have some fans and publishers stand to gain on their titles over the long haul. (And you can read some more reasons here.)
And while I’d like to think that publishers understand their markets, it seems to me that this is not always the case. Check out the story of how Bucky returned (2nd link) and then ponder how some comics get launched that shouldn’t and vice versa. It’s all subjective. (Go back to the link above and see the last link about the most relaunched comics. These things should just be launched as periodic, limited miniseries…) And you kids have me monologing again. Ahem.
In the end, a comic series is either worth doing or it isn’t. It’s just dishonest to play promise games with customers when it’s not clear publishers have any intention of actually providing a whole series or story arc.
Related Addendum: The Comics Reporter linked to one comic retailer’s ideas about how he welcomes digital comics and what each of us can do to promote them.