[UPDATED with Comments From Tony Bedard] What Does Digital Mean for Hard-To-Sell Collected Editions?

This week, DC Comics released Booster Gold #40-43 through its Comixology app, which means that (when combined with the previously-released 44-47, the final eight issues of the series are now available online for $1.99 apiece. Considering that neither of the two storylines contained in those issues have been made available, or solicited, as a trade paperback collection, one must wonder: will discounted digital sales eliminate the need to produce collected editions that are either shorter than usual, or that the publisher doesn't believe will perform well in the marketplace?

The last time there was a collected edition released of Booster Gold stories was April 2011, and in fact there were two that month--Time Masters: Vanishing Point was paired with Booster Gold: Past Imperfect (the first half of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis's run on the title, the second half of which was issues #40-43) to give fans of the character a treat--but the titles didn't light up the sales chart. Time Masters: Vanishing Point debuted at #28 on the trade paperback sales charts, according to Comichron, but that had the advantage of a lot of positive buzz and a tie-in to the Flashpoint event that was starting at the time. Giffen and DeMatteis's Booster Gold trade hit the charts at #47 and neither of the two appeared on the charts the following month. At the same time, the pair were shunted abruptly off of the underperforming monthly Booster Gold title to make room for the returning Dan Jurgens (currently working with Giffen on Green Arrow and Superman, so apparently there are no hard feelings there), who took the character into the heart of the Flashpoint universe and never really came back. Sales on the Flashpoint story were substantially higher than they had been during Giffen and DeMatteis's last arc, but with only four issues there was still some question as to whether that tale could be properly collected, with most of DC's trade paperbacks holding six or more twenty-page comics stories.

Until the last ten years or so, it was not common for DC and Marvel to release basically their entire publishing line in collected editions. Whether cult-favorite series like Marc Andreyko's Manhunter, the recent R.E.B.E.L.S. relaunch and other stories which have still-uncollected tales left in the tank might be headed for the digital frontier seems like a no-brainer but if that stops some of these stories from BEING collected in the first place is a question that's still to be answered.If so, though, it seems fitting that Booster Gold, DC's first major post-Crisis on Infinite Earths hero, should be the one to set a new standard in the digital frontier.

UPDATE: Bleeding Cool is now reporting that DC has canceled the firth and final volume of R.E.B.E.L.S., originally due to hit stores next month. As of now, only issues 10 and 11--which collect the Blackest Night tie-in issues--are available thorugh the Comixology store.

In the comments thread on the Bleeding Cool story, former R.E.B.E.L.S. writer Tony Bedard told fans, "DC published R.E.B.E.L.S. at a financial loss for much longer than I ever expected them to because they believed in its quality. Seriously, the book was well liked and supported internally. I'll always be grateful for that. I'd love to see the whole thing collected, but not if the company has to lose even more money on it. "