Diamond Comics Distributors, the dominant distributor to the comics shop market, has reached a multi-year agreement with Trajectory, a digital publishing and distribution vendor, to offer conversion and global digital distribution for print comics. Trajectory will provide digital conversion through a facility in China and provide distribution through a global network of online retailers, school and library vendors.

Jim Bryant, CEO of Trajectory, said the new deal reflects “a significant amount of demand around the world for English language comics” and the new partnership will allow Trajectory to offer Diamond publishers “a digital solution. Some of them are doing frontlist e-books but we also want access to their backlists.”

Founded in 2011, Trajectory nevertheless has a history among its founders that goes back to the CD-ROM era. The company has a longstanding partnership in Beijing for digital conversion, and Bryant said its Chinese conversion partner has “2,000 conversion operators already working on thousands of digital comics." He added: "our [Chinese partners] have processes and efficiencies that no one else has.”

Under the agreement, publishers pay a one-time fee of $1 page for production. Trajectory will also offer production services as an advance against royalties. Trajectory provides a logon site where publishers can upload PDFs of their comics. Trajectory converts the PDF into the format for each retail channel and distribute it to their network of vendors.

“Trajectory consolidates all the [retail] reports and pays the publishers,” Bryant said, noting that “we give smaller houses the ability to reach a global market.” This is Trajectory's latest foray into comics publishing and distribution. The distributor also focuses on kids and visual digital content. Trajectory acquired the digital rights to Classic Illustrated comics, the iconic line of comics adaptations of classic literary works first launched in 1941, and since 2012 distributes the line of more than 123 digital CI comics as e-books and as apps.

The new partnership gives Diamond Comics Distributors a digital component to the services it offers comics publishers. Diamond launched its own digital venture, Diamond Digital, in 2011. But the venture launched at a different point in the digital transition, a time when physical retailers—Diamond’s bread and butter—were terrified of the impact of digital on their stores. Diamond Digital folded in early 2014, a victim of the growing popularity of digital comics marketplace Comixology, now embraced by physical retailers who have come to believe the digital vendor is creating new fans and sending them to their stores to buy physical comics and graphic novels.

The new partnership also comes in the wake of the acquisition of digital comics marketplace Comixology by Amazon.com—and the recent end of in-app purchases at Comixology—and the recent acquisition of early digital comics vendor Graphicly by Blurb, a POD/digital self-publishing platform looking to upgrade its ability to produce digital comics and visual works. The landscape of the comics marketplace—digital and print—is changing and the Trajectory/Diamond partnership will offer retailers and publishers a new digital platform to compete with Amazon/Comixology.

“Digital distribution is a natural extension of their existing business models,” said John Wurzer, Diamond v-p of purchasing about Diamond's print comics publishers. “Trajectory is an ideal partner considering its vastly efficient production capabilities and its global eBook distribution network. We look forward to working with Trajectory to find meaningful ways to connect digital readers to print comics and comic book specialty shops.”