The big publishers pay a lot of lip service to their expanding digital offerings "driving new fans into the comic shops". You wonder if they actually believe that this works. Personally, I have a very hard time seeing a new comic fan who was first exposed to comics digitally saying, "I hear those comic shops are full of single men! I must seek one out and buy products made out of dead trees!"
Can't imagine that'll happen very much. There'll be a LOT more migration in the other direction as some fans who bought paper comics begin to desire digital for it's better organization, portability and lack of clutter. I'm certainly in that second camp.
But, I have found an area where digital-to-print works pretty well: GI Joe comics. Let me explain a bit because there are two things at play here. One is that the current GI Joe comics are pretty damn good. This Cobra Civil War story is great stuff!
However, the thing that is pushing me to print has more to do with the fact that GI Joe is a licensed property. In my lifetime, GI Joe comics have been marketed by a few different publishers: Marvel, Devil's Due/Image and now IDW. Can you buy those old Marvel issues on the Marvel iOS app? Nope! Does Marvel put out a GI Joe Omnibus? Nope! IDW has published collections of the old Marvel series because they now have the license.
Do you think that IDW will have the GI Joe license forever?
History would say that the GI Joe license will probably move to another publisher at some point in time. Most licensed comic properties DO move around over the years: Star Wars, Transformers, Vampirella, Red Sonja, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, John Carter, Green Hornet, etc.
So, if you buy all of your GI Joe comics on the IDW app now, it's very unlikely that you'd be able to access them if/when IDW loses the GI Joe license. I know this is technically a threat with any of these iOS apps, but I personally have a hard time seeing Marvel tell you that you can't have those old issues of Amazing Spider-Man that you bought on the Marvel app (although I could see that happening if you buy on the Comixology or Graphic.ly apps). The license probably stipulates that IDW would have to stop using the GI Joe trademarks and physically hand over all the published content to the owner of GI Joe.
Thus, if you want to actually have these GI Joe stories and keep them, you're probably going to have to have physical possession of them and that's going to mean paper comic books!
- Dean Stell