Since I started thinking about pitching a story idea to Jim Shelly of Flashback Universe, I started thinking a bit more about digital distribution of comic books. It makes sense, since that's one of the pillars at the project's foundation.
So when I stumbled onto a link to this article from Publisher's Weekly, I had to take a gander.
CrossGen began publishing comics at about the same time I started buying them. It was a less than ideal timing for me as a consumer, because I wasn't yet an educated consumer. I didn't know what was good, and I didn't even really know what I liked. So I wound up buying a lot of everything, and then became disheartened when a lot of it failed to really grab me. (I blame a lot of that on all the X-Men comics I bought in those dark times.)
But I did always remember the CrossGen books, even when I stopped buying them. They were on my mind very recently, though, as I read Negation, which was described to me as some of Tony Bedard's best work.
However, I'd abandoned the label before they started making their comics available digitally at no charge. To summarize the article, series that were made available digitally saw a sizeable upturn in sales for multiple weeks. It's a conclusion that makes sense... while there are a lot of comic book fans who are most interested in the story and the art, it's ingrained into a lot of us, I think, that we want to possess the physical book. As I take a look at 22 boxes full of comics, I find it hard to argue with that conclusion.
Sadly the article doesn't provide the details of CrossGen's digital comic initiative, so I don't know if the books were downloaded as files, what format was used, or what kind of restrictions were placed on the books, but the fact that five years ago someone had studied digital comics and found a positive correlation between digital comics and physical sales says a lot for the digital model.
Eventually the big two will have to address this new format. But something definitely seems off watching them both demonize what's basically working for them as free advertising.