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Comics Fail to Break 100K for the Second Month, Down 5.6% For 2010

Depending on how you look at it, the comics industry is in the midst of the blessing or curse of living in interesting times. While digital comics sales are up an estimated 1000% less than a year after the initial rollout of digital stores by major comics publishers, print sales of comics and graphic novels have declined around 5.6% this year compared to last, according to ICv2, with a bigger drop for single issues than graphic novels. The bad news for singles continued in November, with a particularly steep drop of 10% over the previous year, while graphic novels jumped nearly 15% last month thanks to the release of a new Walking Dead graphic novel in the midst of the AMC television series.

ICv2 released more numbers and analysis of November sales of comics and graphic novels today, including the news that after previously failing to clear the bar in August and October, not a single comic broke the 100,000 mark for sales in November, despite the release of a slew of popular Batman titles by Grant Morrison including Batman Inc #1 and Batman: The Return #1, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6.

While there are a kaleidoscope of factors no doubt influencing the declining sales, it’s worth noting that the promised price decreases from Marvel and DC have yet to go into effect, and all top five books of November 2010 are priced at either $3.99 or $4.99. Looking more broadly, 30 of the top 50 comics of the month — 60% — were priced from $3.99 to $5.99, and while lower prices are coming from Marvel and DC in 2011, any sales impact from those higher price points is surely still in effect.We’ve also recently heard two pieces of news out of Diamond Comics Distributors that hint at shifts in the industry from both print and digital ends. According to Rich Johnston, Diamond is planning to launch a digital comics distribution service, although it oddly plans to focus these efforts through traditional comic shops. And now, Diamond is reportedly planning to close its Los Angeles center and consolidate its distribution of print comics even further at its larger warehouse in Mississippi.

Meanwhile, in the larger print world, there are rumblings of a possible merger between Barnes and Noble and Borders, as the two brick and mortar booksellers face declining sales thanks in part increasingly stiff competition from e-retailers like Amazon or digital books sales on tablets and readers like the iPad.

Interesting times, indeed, and while the economy can’t be discounted as a factor, it seems digital is at the center of much of it, for both better or worse, depending on your perspective. Given the potentially transformative role that digital comics seems poised to play in the comics industry, perhaps even in the next year, we’ll be digging even deeper into the topic for an entire Digital December week starting next Monday, so stay tuned.

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