James left me a comment that made me think further on digital subscriptions, Digital Rights Management, and libraries. Online subscriptions to current comics would be an amazing thing. More amazing though would be database subscriptions for library districts. This would lead to added revenue for publishers and savings for libraries (as they don’t have to re-order titles, process new shipments, shelf items, etc.). The subscription doesn’t necessarily have to be up-to-date. A comic online that is 3 months behind may even increase physical sales; if you REALLY want to know what happens next then you’ll have to get the physical copy. There is too much potential that isn’t being explored.
Digital Rights Management doesn’t work. Itunes’ music, copy-protected DVD and blu-ray, software programs and much more are not thwarting piracy or limiting use of their works. Online comics are best off ignoring DRM and publishing their digitized work without worry. The amount of money spent on DRM and combating piracy in no way leads to additional sales that makeup for the amount spent, because DRM doesn’t and hasn’t work. A three month lag (more or less) in current issue availability may prove enough.
What I would like to see though is an online comics database for libraries. Libraries buy databases all the time to keep up with the needs of their patrons. Comics are a medium that appeals to all genders, age-groups, backgrounds, cultures, etc. A definite need exists for a database of this sort. It doesn’t necessarily have to be DC or Marvel Comics. A database with several independent comic publisher would see heavy usage and demand.