The Physical vs. Digital Media and Entertainment Divide, in Numbers

The advent of digital media hasn’t affected the physical realm in the way many expected, i.e. the death of plastic, paper, and wax is exaggerated.

The advent of digital media hasn’t affected the physical realm in the way many expected, i.e. the death of plastic, paper, and wax is exaggerated. Even boxed video games, the dusty memories of the 90s and 2000s, outsold their digital variants in 2022.

Ironically, that was despite a slump of 4.3%.

Disparate worlds, digital and physical can’t seem to agree even within the same industry. For instance, Pyramid Technology claims that video game arcades – real ones – will be a “profitable venture” in 2024, a claim at odds with a world focused on the digital realm.

Similarly, the popularity of brick-and-mortar casinos into the new decade comes despite the importance of online operators.

As seen on casino review sites, players are no longer satisfied with only a single way of playing, and new sites are experimenting with multiple products, such as bingo and sports betting, alongside traditional casino games.


In Defense of the Physical

On World Book Day, Statista revealed that 30% of Americans had purchased a printed book in 2023, compared to 20% who bought an e-book. The UK posted even stronger figures in defense of the physical – 50% to 15%.

Comic books fall into the same category but their release schedule (about once a month) and short-form presentation arguably make them better suited for tablets than a 350-page novel. Still, the latter isn’t a popular market.

ICv2, a company that reports on the “geek” industry, claims that sales of comic books increased by 4% between 2021 and 2022. However, the most interesting note from its efforts is how sales in the $2.16bn industry are structured.

Comic books are sold in four ways: major retailers like Amazon and Walmart, dedicated comic stores, digital downloads, and what ICv2 refers to as “other”. This fourth category includes newsstands, crowd-funding sites, and anything else that doesn’t qualify as a traditional store.

More than half (57.2%) of all comic book sales from 2022 came via the book channel, closely followed by comic stores (34%). “Other” is a negligible figure of 1.6%. This means that just 7.2% of readers chose a digital download.

However, this may not be the damning report it seems. ICv2 admits it can’t include stats from Marvel and DC’s online stores. The figures are similar to the UK’s interest in (regular) books and e-books from earlier, though.


A Different Take

For digital comic sales, the problem isn’t necessarily one of popularity. They were never intended to replace the original product. Just like the casinos and arcades mentioned earlier, the choice to play online is made for convenience.

The BleedingCool website offers a different take, claiming that the stand-off between digital and print media is caused by pricing. Publishers aren’t lowering the prices on digital editions to increase sales, lest it upset the balance keeping physical stores going.

So, overall, the comic book industry isn’t set up to take advantage of physical and digital sales at the same time. How that might affect the latter’s trajectory in the future remains to be seen. Can sellers increase the popularity of something even if its creators aren’t eager to mess with it?

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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