Diamond Digital Calls It Quits
This isn’t a surprise. It took them longer than expected to get off the ground, and with ComiXology’s early lead in digital distribution, including its own retailer offering, there was a lot of competition. One of the big issues was that DC and Marvel had contracts with ComiXology and weren’t available for Diamond to offer. Those publishers are the two biggest reasons customers think of or shop in the direct comic shop market, so that was a noticeable gap.
The program was only available to physical comic stores. Diamond partnered with iVerse to offer the service, but the question was always “why would I go through a comic store to buy digitally?” The point of digital is that it’s available anywhere, any time, and the Diamond Digital program seemed to exist not because the established monopoly distributor thought it was a valuable service, but to maintain their market dominance. The official reason given for the shutdown was “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.” Comics purchased will remain available to readers through the Comics Plus app.
Update: Brigid Alverson has great analysis as to why the project never worked.
…the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.
Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher.
…protectionism trumps logic. At some point after February 2011 (and this is where the delay really becomes a factor) everyone decided that to protect retailers, digital comics would be sold at the print cover price for the first couple of months (and in a lot of cases, that price never goes down). That’s the paradigm, and it’s working great for comiXology, but two years ago, you might have lured readers away with that discount, if you could negotiate it and if you could get Marvel and DC on board. Those are two big ifs, but the fact of the matter is, there was no discernible benefit to retailers to offering that discount — it would just undercut print sales.