BOOK REVIEW: Economics of Digital Comics

Reflective and Critical Review


Economics of Digital Comics

by Todd W. Allen (2014)




The Title of the book

  • The title is called the ‘Economics of Digital Comics.’  I was expecting him to apply the relevant Economics theory to the Digital Comics Industry.  I would have appreciated some economic theory behind of the decisions made by the business’ within the industry. Not one economic theory was mentioned, not even the basic supply and demand theory?? I found this odd, why call it the Economics of Digital Comics if you are not going to discuss Economics?  


  • Although the title of the book is about Digital Comics he spent at least 30 % talking about print and the history of the industry. The title is seriously misleading. 


  • Still, on the title of the book –  Digital Comics includes a wide spectrum. The fact that his book concentrates mainly on Webcomics and print comics transferred onto the Internet is again misleading. Digital comics would also include motion comics, and interactive comics yet neither industry was discussed.  At least an explanation as to why these industries were not included in his research would at least be polite.


Business Models

  • The idea of a business model is to show how to make a profit from your creative work.  Profit is usually calculated as Income (Revenue) – Expenses = Profit.  I am going to put my own definition in here.  It is actually a systematic way to generate a profit indefinitely.
    A business is made up of a system and that system often involves;

    1. mission statement/values i.e what are we giving the customer?;
    2. a team; (whether it is a team of creators or a team of accountants etc to help run the business on a day to day business.)
    3. (Raising of Funds for capital projects or ensuring you have enough money for cash flow.)
    4. Communication:
    5. Systems this would include IT and technology websites etc.
    6. A legal team (Crucial for copyrighting your ideas)
    7. And finally, the products that we are offering (is it a page a day/ a month etc)


    With the exception of the big 4 DC, Marvel, Image and Dark Horse, who may have the above down to a fine art and from my research the rest of us creators have concentrated on only points 7, 4 and 3.  It’s no wonder many of the Webcomics or independent creators have failed to make any profit. Or could be the reason for this is that creators need to do things in reverse to the traditional business models?

    In Bruce Geiger’s A Guide to making a Webcomic, he does suggest to newbie comic creators to just to make the Webcomic.  The reason for this is to first prove to everyone that can put work out on a regular basis. I think that the real reason for this is to build that all-important  –  Trust with the customer.  This is actually fair you really cannot expect someone to support you if you are not going to consistently produce quality entertaining comic stories.

    My point is that there aren’t any business models for those generating a profit from their webcomic ventures.  I appreciate that it would be hard to get data for this as most of the creators are operating under the business structure of a sole trader. If they had business status then it would be easy for an analyst to look at their Profit and Loss, and Balance Sheet to determine 1) whether if money has been generated from this and 2) how did they do it?

    Instead, Todd W.Allen mainly deals with the different revenue stream of the business, and as I said at the outset a business is a system and the revenue model (This would normally be found under point 3, the finance section only makes up part of a business.

  • Another comment is that the business models suggested for Webcomics is just too generalised. Given the fact that I was reading the 2014 edition of the book. In his book P60, he states that ‘their (Webcomics) primary business model is to get as many viewers as they can and monetize by means of advertising and merchandising.’ It’s like saying the primary business model for Fords Motor company is to get as many customers as possible and monetize it by selling cars????  The business model shows how you are going to attract the customers and how you are going to monetize it and what makes you different from everybody else, a term often called the unique selling point.



The economics of building an audience:

  • All business begins and ends with the customer or reader in mind. The Economics of Digital Comics does not address this in sufficient detail. To earn the revenue you need an audience base, this is crucial to the success of crowdfunding platforms such as Paetron and Kickstarter.


  • He needed to address how economical it is to build an audience in the first place? For example, it is neither economical nor profitable to work on a digital webcomic full time gathering an audience only to get £90 per month on Paetron or to raise £3000 on Kickstarter.  To the creator, the venture is not a business but rather a very expensive hobby.  It goes back to the original definition of what is a business model, the business model shows how a creator can make a profit.


When is a business not a business?

  • A business is not a business when you are a sole trader, and most independent makers are sole traders. A business is a system that often requires employing more than just the creator itself – if you want to know if you have a business ask yourself the simple question if the key worker/creator dies would the business continue indefinitely? If the answer is no then it’s not a business!
  • Why is this important? It is important for tax, inheritance tax, purposes. It’s important for the future projects of the business. A business gets treated differently from that of a sole trader and the problems meet by each business is different.


To Conclude:

  • It would be great if he could give diagrammatically present the different business models of those who are selling print an digital comics.
  • It would be great if digital comics such as motion and interactive comics were included into the analysis.
  • More statistical data is needed instead of making sweeping generalisation – in one point he said that more women are buying comics –er where is the statistical data to prove this?



 I think I might give this a shot in trying to create a business that generates a healthy cash flow AND creates a profit.



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