There is an economics book out there that has been causing some stir for quite a while now called The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. It makes some great points and I was thinking of this in relation to the comics business and how it would apply.
Imagine either DC, Marvel and/or Diamond applying these techniques to their business and purchasing a print on demand company like Lulu. And imagine that they digitized EVER SINGLE COMIC they have ever published and allowed anyone to either buy reprints for a buck, a digital comic for $.45 or create their own compilations in trade format. Maybe there are only is a small percentage of the comic reading world that would love, lets say the Complete run of an obscure Golden Age hero, or someone like me who would love a trade of every comic the Golden Age Batwoman and Bat-girl appeared, but all those niche buys would add up! Google, Net-flix and Amazon have made enormous amounts of money on this principle. Google makes a few cents on an average click on Ad-Words but they sell billions of it. Net-flix makes millions renting the obscure hits that Blockbuster doesn’t carry. Amazon, the same.
I think something like this would bring in the long time readers who have left too.
Of course the comics shop would have to evolve to fit in this world but they are not as important as the industry itself.