I remember in the late 1990′s that Trade Paperback would be dead and gone by 2005. Well it’s 2012 and trades are still here. In fact, they aren’t even waning. 2011 bought us a ton of deluxe editions and graphics novels, both hardcover and softcover. Even oversized Absolutes and Omnibuses made a comeback from a lackluster 2010. But one thing that didn’t go away was the regular old 128 page, $17.99 trade paperback that collects the latest five or six issues of a title. But this may not be the case for long.
The questions beckon – Why were we wrong? Why aren’t these cheap paperbacks a thing of the past? The answer may lie between now and the future. The major majority of comic book collectors are just not ready to move full on to digital. Yes, iPad and tablets are increasing in sales and so many more comics are going to a day-and-date release schedule, but I’m not talking about the monthly periodical comic. I’m talking about the softcover trade of recent material.
If anything I predict that the monthly book will live in cyberspace and the subsequent storyline will get packaged as a digital collected edition. Think of it in terms of a song on iTunes. Sure you can buy a song at a time, but it’s more affordable if you buy the album.
With that said, there’s no need for a publishing house to print the trade. Now the hardcover and special editions are something different. This is more like a Netflix model. You can easily download the movie (trade paperback) but if you want the extras, you’ll have to buy the 2-disc Blu-ray (Absolute).
I also must reiterate that I think DC, Marvel and others will still publish older material in the trade format IE Showcase Presents, Marvel Classic trades and softcover 6×9 Omnibuses – at least for now. Truly, though, what the market will bring is anyone’s guess. We still have newspapers and CDs and I really don’t want to live in a world where everything is digital. But thinking of it in terms of a comic book publisher it makes more sense to weed out the old format and make way for the new.
When will this take place?
I don’t know.
Be sure to check back in 5 years.