It’s well worth reading David Brothers’ response to Joshua Hale Fialkov’s recent blogpost about comics piracy and the downfall of the comic industry, if you haven’t already done so; if nothing else, it’s a great analysis of what’s really hurting the direct market today (and it’s not just piracy):
To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is “singly responsible” for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is “yes.”
But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is “everything else.” We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.
I don’t even have to leave my house to be flooded with things to do. I can have food delivered, songs and movies I buy (or download, whatever) appear on my hard drive or PlayStation like magic, video games can be bought and played without ever touching a physical disc… we’re living in the future, and that’s without even going outside. Outside, I can go to the movies, check out stand-up open mics, hang out with friends, drink Starbucks, eat donuts, play board games, go to bars…
There is so much to do, and when you tell me my choice is between (in this instance) a comic that averages out to being just okay and costs three to four dollars to read for five to ten minutes and doing anything else, I’m going to choose anything else, nine times out of ten, with exceptions made for creators I enjoy or books that might have a good hook that I’m curious about.
Hey, publishers: THIS. If someone who likes comic books so much that he devotes part of his life to writing about them online believes this – and people like me agree – then imagine how non-comic readers feel about the prospect of picking up the habit. Seriously, go read Brothers’ post (and Fialkov’s, too, for that matter – I don’t necessarily agree with the emphasis he puts on comics piracy as the singular downfall of the industry, as well as his estimate of the size of the modern comic market – How many copies has Justice League #1 sold by this point? I don’t think that’s all speculation – but there’s something to his notion of moral responsibility in regards to piracy, nonetheless); it’s great stuff.