It’s a measure of how key comics and graphic novels are to library collections that there is a digital platform solely devoted to the format. Comics Plus, powered by LibraryPass, primarily serves school libraries, but the number of public libraries that use the service is growing. Unlike OverDrive, Comics Plus allows multiple patrons to check out the same book at the same time.

“I love that for things like book clubs and community reads, everybody can read the same thing at the same time,” says Moni Barrette, director of collection development and publisher relations for Comics Plus. The platform offers packages for different grade levels, and librarians can also opt to remove books from their library’s service. Barrette, a former public librarian and Eisner Awards judge, assigns many of the age ratings and also creates curated lists. Comics Plus posts its collection development policy and age-appropriateness guidelines on its website.

Hoopla, another digital library platform, offers about 30,000 comics, manga, and graphic novels, including Marvel and DC titles, alongside prose e-books, audiobooks, and movies. Currently, its most popular titles are Scholastic’s Graphix graphic novels, including the Dog Man and Wings of Fire series, says Cat Zappa, vice president of digital acquisition. Hoopla, unlike Comics Plus, focuses on public libraries. Hoopla uses publishers’ age ratings (versus how Comics Plus has a librarian reviewing each designation); the service has a Kids Mode that, when switched on, restricts titles to those suitable for 12 and under.

Ricky Miller, cofounder and publisher of the U.K. small press Avery Hill, signed on with Comics Plus as a way to raise awareness among U.S. readers. Miller would like to see more Avery Hill titles in U.S. libraries, but that’s a challenge with physical books. Digital publishing allows the company to offer its books to a wide audience and makes it easier for readers to discover them, including early works by Tillie Walden and Zoe Thorogood.

In Avery Hill’s first quarter with Comics Plus, its books were read 2,000 times, Miller says, with the most popular title being Charlot Kristensen’s What We Don’t Talk About, a graphic novel featuring an interracial couple. The publisher also offers digital graphic novels on commercial platforms such as Comixology. “The revenue is small from digital comics,” Miller says. “It’s more about reaching readers, and hopefully they’ll go on to buy a physical book or buy it as a gift for somebody else if they like it. Getting the creators known is a big part of it as well. Anyone who discovers a book, even if we see very small revenue from it, is a good thing as far as we’re concerned.”

Sean Tulien, editorial director of Lerner’s Graphic Universe imprint, says that digital platforms account for between 5% and 15% of sales. But because patrons are selecting what they want to read, the company also gathers useful data about what genres and topics kids are trending toward. “Some of the books that were most popular in that format just in terms of reads and opens were not in line with what we expected,” he notes. For instance, one of its most popular titles is Video Games: A Graphic History. “Obviously, kids are searching for video games, even when they’re supposed to be reading, and if you have a really good book about video games, that makes sense,” he says.

The data helps him decide what new titles to develop. “It’s kind of like search engine optimization—what are kids going to want to search for?” he says. “That’s a fun way to think backwards.”

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