More Reaction to HTMLComics Shutdown

As word spread of the FBI shutdown of HTMLComics, various reactions popped up around the net.

Rich Johnston, who is normally so eager to take credit for righting comic industry wrongs, said “don’t blame me”. (A position Kevin Huxford supports.) Of more importance, he also explains why Image Comics was the only major publisher not to sign on to the effort to close the free comic site, with a collection of comments from Erik Larsen praising the site as an “awesome” resource.

Huxford also somewhat mischaracterizes my take, so I wanted to elaborate. Of course publishers want to eliminate what they see as “unfair competition”, but getting rid of such sites (to the extent that’s even possible) will not magically turn readers into buyers. There are plenty of things people will read for free without being willing to pay for them. Now, those readers will just search harder for digital copies.

Although, most people would be willing to pay for online content, says a survey, only the content producers want a lot more than customers think is fair. Content owners tend to overvalue digital work, trying to maintain similar price points to physical objects when customers don’t accept the equivalence. Those owners have the legal right to charge whatever they wish, but maybe this explains why I think their plans are self-defeating. They’re stuck in an old model of what they think they “deserve”, and the internet has opened up more options for users.

Publishers seem to think that eliminating user choice is a viable business strategy instead of putting out competitive products. iTunes showed that customers would pay for reasonably priced legal content in a system that made lots of music easier to find and obtain safely. But Apple had to fight music companies to set a price point that made sense to consumers, and there’s still concern over DRM that restricts customer ability to use files they’ve legitimately purchased. Publisher interests don’t match those of readers, and until there are more competitive options that gives users what they want, they will continue to read illegal comics online.


40 Responses to “More Reaction to HTMLComics Shutdown”

  1. Jer Says:

    only the content producers want a lot more than customers think is fair.

    Publishers have had their monopolistic pricing scheme working for them for so long that they think it’s a right and not an artifact of technology. They’ve always had the ability to convince us that certain formats are “more prestigious and therefore more expensive” because they’ve been able to completely control which formats we see and when. Hardcovers come first – they’re the most durable and most prestigious and therefore we pay a premium if we want a book in hardcover. Softcovers come next and are cheaper – both in the cost to manufacture them and in the price we pay for them. In the comics world you also have the magazine pamphlet – “cheap” for the individual issues, but you get the story in installments and usually end up paying more than if you’d waited for the collection.

    Two things are conflated together in these models – the cost of the material that the book is printed on, and the immediacy of the material. You generally pay more for more “prestigious” formats but you also pay more to be able to get the material close to the initial release date.

    But digital throws that all for a loop. There isn’t a link between the format and the cost with a digital product – the marginal cost of each copy is negligible (server hosting fees, bandwidth, etc.) even if the fixed costs are all still the same. And it’s a tough sell to tell people that the digital copy in their hands should cost the same as even a softcover book, let alone the premium price publishers are used to charging for those initial sales. Most people have it fixed in their heads that the digital book, because it costs so little to produce each individual unit, should have a substantially lower cost than a physical work. Meanwhile all of the fixed costs that go into the production of the physical work are still there for the digital work and still need to be paid.

    It’s a challenge. I do think that publishers err too much on the side of high prices, but that’s because they’re using an outdated model of how the market works. It also doesn’t help that they’re trying to demand that customers pay for the books as if they were getting a physical book but they refuse to let us treat the books like physical books – being able to resell digital books via right of first sale, or loan digital copies to friends for example. None of it makes much sense, but that’s because it’s an old model that isn’t equipped to handle the tech we have today.

  2. Jer Says:

    Jeez – that went on far too long. Sorry Johanna – I didn’t realize I was rambling quite so much.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I didn’t think it was rambling – seemed quite on point to me. I especially like your point about customer losing rights (to resell, to loan) with legal digital copies.

  4. Kenny Cather Says:

    Johanna – I agree with *everything* you said. A problem I see is whenever someone like yourself points out “until there are more competitive options that gives users what they want, they will continue to read illegal comics online,” most people somehow interpret that as somehow saying piracy is morally ok. It’s refreshing to see someone as articulate as you are

    Jer – I thought your point was well made, too. You recognized the challenge publishers have – what’s a “fair” price that will both produce a profit and be seen as attractive by consumers. It’s a tough one….

  5. Johanna Says:

    I’m trying to distinguish morality from practicality. Arguing about the legality of the situation won’t change the behavior, which is what I think *has* to be addressed. Our culture is treating copyright violation much like speeding. Everyone does it, you just hope you’re not one of the small percentage that gets caught.

  6. Stuart Moore Says:

    Johanna: I totally agree that shutting down pirate sites doesn’t solve anybody’s problems, though I think you also mentioned in your first post that this is what happens when the site goes around bragging too much about violating copyright — which is also true. But I’m leery of a lot of the discussion about digital pricing that goes on around the comics and book industries. By its nature, that discussion is dominated by early adopters, who aren’t necessarily representative of the public at large. When easy pirating methods are shut down, early adopters will go the extra mile to find a replacement; a lot of other people won’t — they’ll either go back to hard-copy reading, shrug and stop entirely, or wait for the legal alternative.

    The DRM question strikes me as a short-term issue. Almost all legally downloaded music is now DRM-free; I don’t see why that won’t happen in comics as well, in a few years.

    Jer’s comments are fascinating, too. My own guess is that DC/Marvel/big-license digital comics are going to settle down into a hardcover-softcover pricing model, but with more gradations. If you want them brand new, you’ll pay $4-5. Three months later, they’ll be $2. Wait a year, and they’ll be a dollar. (All prices approximate, of course, but you get the idea.) The question is whether readers will accept that pricing model divorced from considerations of the physical format. But, you know, this stuff is expensive to produce, and a surprisingly small part of that expense goes to printing, binding, and shipping (contrary to popular belief). So the money has to come in from somewhere.

  7. Johanna Says:

    As always, Stuart, your comments are insightful. The format question is a tricky one. There is a near-standard online comic format, but salespeople and publishers want to stay away from it because of the piracy/trading implications, and they want DRM on their products. Will it take another decade for comics online to get where music is now?

    I suspect a pricing model similar to the one you mention will not fly with readers. $4 comics are causing the problem we’re in — paying that much without even a physical object will face a lot of resistance, I think.

  8. James Schee Says:

    While I know it does cost a lot to pay the people who do the comics. Isn’t another reason for the high price, the small amount if people who buy comics? Even the best selling comics barely sell 100k.

    Hopefully a digital comic would sell more than that, as it’d be reaching a larger audience. Which in turn would lead to lower prices needed to make a profit. Though I guess that might mean companies doing more diverse styles of comics too if typical stuff doest sell as well as hoped.

  9. Johanna Says:

    You have jut suggested much too much change at once for the current companies to contemplate trying it. :)

  10. James Schee Says:

    Lol yeah my bad! I sadly think that most comic companies fall into the same trap as many fans. They want more comic sales, but only of the same comics they already do and that they love.

  11. Stuart Moore Says:

    At the same time, slashing your prices on the assumption you’ll triple the size of your audience is a gamble few companies would take. (Yes, I’m aware this is an oversimplification of the argument.)

  12. Kenny Cather Says:

    Oh wow, my first comment to Johanna totally got cut off when I abandoned the sentence to reply to Jer! ^_^

    Johanna, I *love* your analogy of pirating and speeding! That’s perfect!

    Stuart – This is going to be controversial, but I think people in publishing are going to have to accept salary cuts. It’s happened to almost every other profession. I’m an engineer and I make $10k/year less now than I did in 2002. It’s happening to lawyers, too. Technology and outsourcing (which hasn’t really affected comics – yet) have lead to reduced salaries for everyone else. It’s going to happen for people in book publishing, too (comic or otherwise). So, I think same day digital releases sound great because I don’t care about the money people making comics make. People who make comics didn’t care when I started making less. It just makes sense – it’s the free market, we’re all going to want to buy a cheaper comparable alternative.

  13. Stuart Moore Says:

    Oh, it’s already happened in book publishing — staff jobs at many companies have been wage-frozen for a couple of years now. In fact, I’d say staff costs at both major comics companies have already dropped too, overall, because editors at both DC and Marvel now handle many more books apiece than they did a few years ago.

    But there are two wholly different considerations here: the cost of staff and the cost of creative talent. Talent cost varies wildly from one company to another and, even within a company, from one project to another. If you can’t afford to pay top talent, you risk losing them to other media or to respectable jobs. So if they don’t make enough, you just won’t see any more comics by them. With respect, that’s the reason (probably the only reason) you should care about how much money comics creators make — at least, comics creators whose work you like. It’s already a constant problem for indy comics creators.

  14. Kenny Cather Says:

    The cost of creative talent is going to have to come down because the free market is going to dictate it does with digital delivery and the economy being in the trouble it is.

    Whether it’s an indy creator or someone working for a major company – the question is how badly do you want to do this? I continue to be an engineer because I *love* it, even though financially it’s not the best decision. Any comic creator is going to have to make the same decision eventually. If that means less work from talented creators because they can get pain better doing something else, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    As for indy versus someone working for a corporation – I can only speak for me, personally, but I’ll pay more for work from someone who’s doing it on their own. So, if an indy creator wants to charge the same for a digital work as they would a print version, I’d probably pay the same (depending on how much I like the creator, the appeal of the work, etc.). I value that work much higher than corporate work, but the question is not about me. It’s how many other people in the free market feel the same. If it’s enough, then indy comics will live. If not, then most will disappear.

  15. Stuart Moore Says:

    Absolutely, but my point is it works from the supply standpoint, too. If the market won’t pay for work from expensive creators, then either companies have to make up the cash somewhere else or you’ll see less work from those creators. That might be “the way the cookie crumbles,” but personally I’d rather have an industry that supports new comics by Alan Moore, Brian Bendis, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, etc., etc., than one that drives them away into other fields.

  16. Johanna Says:

    I would rather have an industry that supports new comics by Hope Larson, Raina Telgemeier, Jill Thompson, etc. Which may indicate how the direct market has failed customers like me. :)

    Change is scary, but part of me is excited to see just what comics becomes in the next few years, the same way I was excited when I discovered manga and found a whole new world opening up to me.

  17. Stuart Moore Says:

    Well, yeah. Them too!

  18. Jer Says:

    Stuart: I think we’re living through a fundamental shift in the way content publication is performed. It sounds hyperbolic, but I really do think this is the biggest change to the whole model of publication since the printing press forced copyright into existence in the first place. Digital delivery has changed the supply/demand equation entirely – the ability of the publisher to set the price that readers pay for content is gone – and the world is slowly catching up to that fact. It used to be that publications fit into a standard market economic supply/demand framework, even if that framework was enforced by a government forcing other publishers to respect copyright. That’s a fairly easy thing to do – if a publisher starts up that’s breaking copyright lawsuits will fly on an open-and-shut case and the company breaking copyright will be forced to stop publishing the work – if not forced into bankruptcy. (As this case with HTMLComics shows – they were basically acting as a publisher, and they got smashed fairly easily).

    But now it isn’t the fairly easily-controlled publishers who have the power to break copyright – it’s the readers. The readers can essentially “opt out” of the supply/demand curve model and stick themselves at the end of the demand curve where the price is “free”. The only thing stopping them is goodwill towards the creators and the sense that if you’re enjoying a work you should be paying someone for it somewhere. But I don’t know how stable a system based on goodwill and guilt can be, especially as it seems like folks younger than me have a somewhat different attitude towards copyrighted works than I do (anecdotal evidence only – I have no means of backing that claim up). And if the only recourse is to fall back to the traditional model and use the government to force readers to respect copyright – I think that’s doomed to failure. There are just too many readers to police and it will generate too much bad will. And if goodwill is one of the things keeping people paying, well, that’s a vicious circle that sounds like it’s going down the drain.

    I don’t honestly know what the answer is, but I’m really starting to think that the model of publication being used today will all but disappear in my lifetime. The traditional economic model is putting the publishers at odds with their customers, and that’s a recipe for disaster. And I don’t think a shift to a sliding price scale for releases is going to do it either – once one digital copy is sold at any price the problem appears again. Apple has shown that given a large enough market and a cheap enough price point, you can get a sufficient number of people to pay to make a sustainable market. For now. But who knows if that is really going to extend outside of the “pay per track” world of music, or if it will still even be feasible in another generation. It’s a really problem – a Tragedy of the Commons problem – and those generally don’t end well. I don’t see a good solution to this, but I’ll bet whoever does eventually ends up winning a Nobel in Economics for it.

  19. Carol Says:

    I don’t know what various types of engineers are making these days (I was told to go into engineering so I could be rich! You mean I wouldn’t have been rich? Dagnabbit. I also wanted to become an engineer so I could go to Mars. Also dagnabbit). I took my pay cut ($30K cut) from what I was making in another industry to return to publishing. My choice–I wanted to be here. At many companies, staff have had no raises in years, and editorial and design staff have been alid off mercilessly while at the same time we try to create more books so we can stay afloat. That’s just how the world is right now. The creative talent earn very little for their time and work. At some places the pay for creators is actually rather good, but at many places… very very little. Again, that’s how the world is, lacking a network of dukes to offer room and board and boxes of jewels in return for painting their mistresses into the crowd scenes. And it’s how publishing is when your company isn’t built on superstar authors and series. So, how will we keep it all running over the next decade?

    Book pricing–everywhere I’ve worked, anyway–is not particularly mysterious or nefarious. It’s calculated based on generating enough income, from the audience we know we can count on, in order to keep the business alive. At an iTunes-style price point, even eliminating the costs of paper and printing and binding and warehousing and shipping and distribution, we’d need to count on having many times more readers than we do now, and there will be new costs of reaching/marketing to those potential readers. Is this model feasible? Maybe. Is it inevitable that the market goes that way? Maybe. Do I think it’s bad or good? Well, I’d like to keep having a job and eating and living and all that good stuff. I’d like to keep being able to hire writers and artists who are otherwise are unable to be indy creators, so would otherwise not be telling their stories at all. So I’d love to find a way to make it work.

    Maybe the only book publishers that survive will be the ones who figure out how to sell digital books in the hundreds of thousands instead of printed books in the thousands. And perhaps also those specialty publishers that take joy in creating a book that’s a beautiful physical object–an object for which a certain type of reader will be glad to pay a premium price to support its creation (say, $15 for a short story instead of $2 for a digital book), considering it just as much a part of the artform as the drawings and words in the panels.

    What Marvel and DC will get up to, who knows. But many traditional book publishers right now are putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to go digital. Maybe not an efficient effort, but there’s a lot more planning and shuffling going on behind the scenes than probably the outside observer can tell.

    If a short digital comic book costs, say, $1, what should a 240-page digital graphic novel cost that would be acceptable to the new market? $5? $1? Maybe the long-form graphic novel disappears and is replaced by the serial digital comic. Pay per track–I mean, chapter. I could see that working as a way of keeping the price point low, yet still providing enough income for books that aren’t created simply as a labor of love.

  20. Stuart Moore Says:

    Couple replies: The lesson I take from the iTunes situation is that a huge number of people, probably a majority, will choose a legal and convenient method of buying content over an illegal and less reliable one. There may indeed be a generational shift going on here — that’ll take a while to shake down. But it goes back to what I said in my first comment: We, as early adopters and observers of the tech, are quick to see the ease of pirating content. Most people don’t. They’re scared and/or bothered by the idea, and they don’t want to install weird quasi-legal software on their computers. Plus: iTunes just WORKS.

    (From early reviews, the Marvel/Comixology app for the iPad sounds similarly well designed. I haven’t tried it yet.)

    Re Carol’s comments: I don’t think you’ll see book publishers selling hundreds of thousands instead of thousands, because the other consequence of the digital revolution is a greater number of available titles. The more books available, the more sales are spread out among them and the lower per-title averages go. This has already happened in the direct market, where per-title comics averages have gone down, leading fans to bemoan the decline of comics circulations — when, in fact, what’s happened is that many more titles are being published, so per-title averages have gone down while the overall market has remained remarkably steady.

    I have no doubt there’ll be some weird experiments in pricing going on over the next few years. But I will say: from a content creation standpoint, $1 is too low a price for a new, fresh-content comic book. That won’t work for anyone — indy creator OR big cigar-chomping superhero guy rolling in greenbacks, flying his Learjet all over the world to promote the latest crossover.

  21. Jer Says:

    Stuart: The iTunes model is an interesting one, and if it works outside of music I’ll be very happy. But I’m not sure that publishers have quite grasped the impact of what the iTunes model means to them. Because the iTunes model is essentially “music as service”. It’s a service where a listener can download music and be reasonably assured that they’re not downloading a virus, and that they will get a decent sounding piece of music – and that if something goes wrong there’s a place for them to complain to to get things fixed. All for a very reasonably small fee per download.

    But they aren’t really paying for the music – they’re paying for the convenience and the piece of mind. Which is why the music has to be so cheap – if it gets too expensive the cost will outweigh the peace of mind and people will just start taking risks again to get the music they want. Which gets back to what Johanna is saying about content creators overvaluing their content – even with the most successful digital content provider on the net, people are paying for the service, not for the content. And note that with iTunes the record labels have had to give up a LOT of control – there’s no DRM on iTunes music. Which means that there’s potentially a lot of people who have iTunes tracks who haven’t paid for them. There has had to be an attitude shift away from “how do we stop people from getting this for free” and towards “how do we make sure we have enough paying customers for this to be profitable”.

    All of which means there’s a “sweet spot” between production costs and “peace of mind” insurance that your product has to hit to make the iTunes model work. I’d love to see comics be one of the areas where the model works – I think that the serial release nature is similar enough to the “per track” model that it could work. But I think you’ll need to get more customers into the comics-buying market to make it work – you need a huge customer base to be able to sell things that cheaply.

  22. Stuart Moore Says:

    Okay, and I agree about the “sweet spot.” But:

    – Comics don’t have to sell in the same numbers as music, in order to be a viable business. They just have to sell like comics. Or, hopefully, a little better. Which means the same pricing rules don’t necessarily apply.

    – Pirated music isn’t new. Mixtapes didn’t kill music sales, and VCRs didn’t kill movies (though the MPAA sure yelled about them at the time!). Digital files are easier to swap, yes; but I’m still not convinced this is a sea change.

    – I take your point about what people are really buying when they buy music, but I think it’s an academic difference. Most people don’t think “I’m buying convenience/peace of mind” when they download a song from Amazon; they think “I’m buying a song.”

    – 99 cents per track is not really cheap — it’s actually pretty close to the price companies were charging for CDs. (I remember talk that it was too high a price, when digital downloads were just coming in.) The difference is that now you can buy one song at a time, so it feels cheaper. I’m not sure there’s quite an analogous situation in comics. It would be like, say, David Mazzuchelli issuing a multi-story graphic album in one print volume and offering the individual stories as cheaper downloads; it just doesn’t happen. Most comics either start with serialization or appear as single, longer, novel-like works.

    Great discussion, BTW.

  23. Johanna Says:

    Yes, what a wonderful discussion. I particularly like the VCR comparison, since it shows how wrong the movie industry was about it. Jack Valenti called it the Boston Strangler and was convinced it would kill the industry, but in reality, it created a whole new market that kept the movie studios going. However, they had to be dragged, kicking and screaming and via lawsuit, into even considering the future possibilities. And now we’re seeing the same behavior again, as customers are much more interested in new markets and technology than producers are. Movie studios are (ironically) clinging to the DVD/Blu-Ray as the profit center they know and aren’t willing to move on. Comic companies cling to the stapled issue as the way they know to make money and won’t let go of it long enough to truly commit to either book-format comics or digital issues.

    That behavior is understandable if you want to reduce risk, but it’s also not going to work in the long run.

  24. David Oakes Says:

    99 may mean that a full album still costs you $10-15, same as a CD. But it allows the consumer more *perceived* value, since they only buy what they want. No one is going to purchase only their favorite three chapters of “Asterios Polyp”, but they would prefer to only buy the Wolverine episodes of “Marvel Comics Presents”. While iTunes has made the music industry return to a singles model where every song lives and dies on it’s own merit, digital comics may create even more call for “done in one stories” rather than graphic novels.

    Also, and perhaps more important to comics, 99 has turned music tracks into impulse buys no different than candy. You hear a song, you can buy it quickly and easily, and “it’s just a buck”. This minimizes buyers remorse. If iTunes has turned back the clock to the days of 45s, iComics has the potential to return comics to the days of spinner racks.

    Is 99 cents enough to sell a million copies of “Superman” like the heady days of the Silver Age? I don’t know, but I would like to think so. But if 99 isn’t enough for anyone to to create new content, the fact that iTunes set the bar and that Comixology is already selling (“many”) comics at 99 means that the consumer is unlikely to want to pay more.

  25. Johanna Says:

    Don’t forget that one of the big changes of the internet is getting rid of middlemen in many areas. So the question of who pays for the overhead — in comic companies, editors, marketing, admin, VPs, etc. — is relevant. 99 cents may be enough for an artist to create new content, if she gets it directly.

  26. Stuart Moore Says:

    I doubt that, and I suspect most indy creators would blanch if they really did the numbers. But it’s a complicated equation: If you still have to print up SOME hard copies, your costs stay higher than if you go all digital.

  27. Johanna Says:

    And if you consider digital an additional market instead of pure competition/transition, then numbers may be more favorable — but that’s the big question no one’s demonstrated, right?

  28. Phillip Temple Says:

    Good discussion! I think perhaps the model could change to a blended one, where whose who wanted a “single issue” could buy for, say, .50-.99 cents online, or some such.

    When you think of a “comic book issue” , as a physical ‘item’ to be sold, still ties into the old paradigm of physical pamphlets in a brick n’ mortar store. (The fact we still have comic stores is good- more on that later.)
    What’s truly selling is an artwork-illustrated story told in a certain style, with certain recurring characters. The blend comes from building the interest for the entire brand, or, franchise, if you will, for the character/stories.

    For an example, let’s REALLY use the online music sales format. Say, each (instead of using the word ‘issue’, let’s call them “episodes’ = a single song) B&W episode created to start a series would leverage the internet as delivery system, and build your customer base by making each episode of the series available for free, for a certain period of time. The series of episodes should be made extremely easy for anyone to jump on board and follow the story.

    The interest would have to be watched carefully, either by pageviews, clickthroughs, time on site measurements, etc. As the interest increases, at the right time, each episode could be sold in a iTunes-type of online store, with a low-price per episode price, for those that wanted to buy. As the series completes its first arc, most/all episodes should be available, in most electronic formats, (avatars, wallpaper, small pics, etc.) in the online store for purchase.

    At the start of the second arc of stories, maybe the last third of the the first series of episodes are available in the online store, but the full-color, completed first series is available in your local comics shop, with new artwork, sketches, in-depth looks at the characters, plot twists, major points and character progression, teasers for the 2nd series of episodes, and teasers for the upcoming book of all the mechanical vehicles, robots, etc, of the first series, in a nice bound book format, available at your comics store.

    As the 2nd series begins, side stories of the supporting characters of the 1st series are released into the comic shops, and available ONLY in the comics shops, featuring new art, and new stories set in the 1st series. These new releases could be suppied in a print-on-demand format, so that new material can be added at any place on the schedule, and could be used to buttress events/characters happening in the 2nd series showing online.

    As the 2nd series closes out online, the !st series closes out everything in one big album, available online for a limited time, and after that, only in comics shops / bookstores. The 2nd series enters the same rotation as the 1st series, as the 3rd series kicks off online.

    This is one way leverage a series/brand using the internet…Your thoughts, please!

  29. Phillip Temple Says:

    sorry about the long post!!

  30. Rich Johnston Says:

    You know when you put things in quote marks, people are meant to have actually said them, right?

    People can blame me as much as they like.

  31. Thom Says:

    One point about places like iTunes and Amazon, although they charge .99 cents per song, a full album is usually less than the cost of buying each song individually. I might pay $15 to get fifteen individual songs, but it might be $7.99 to get a 15 song album.

    That might apply as a workable situation for comics, but not for movies (hence, clinging to DVD/Blu-Ray for movies).

  32. Slash Print | Following the digital evolution | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson thinks publishers are charging too much for digital books. Paul Biba backs that up at TeleRead with […]

  33. Hsifeng Says:

    “…99 cents per track is not really cheap — it’s actually pretty close to the price companies were charging for CDs. (I remember talk that it was too high a price, when digital downloads were just coming in.) The difference is that now you can buy one song at a time, so it feels cheaper…”

    However, it’s much less than the price companies were charging for buying CDs 1 song at a time.

    I remember when CD and cassette singles cost roughly $3 each. Buying a $10 CD or cassette album only made more sense if I liked at least 3 of the songs on it.

    However, finding out whether or not I liked at least 3 songs on it took a while back then. Even if I liked a new song on the radio, not all of its album’s other songs got aired too. Not every album quickly made it to my library where I could borrow it and then test-drive the whole thing at home.

    Meanwhile, the singles went out of print pretty quickly and I couldn’t keep asking my parents (and older friends) to give me rides to music stores that sold both new and used (I grew up in a suburb and didn’t live within safe walking or bicycling distance of any stores). In some cases I bought a single just in case I would only like 1 or 2 songs off its album then later bought the album after I finally got to hear a 3rd song I liked off it after that previous single was out of print. :/

    David Oakes Says:

    “…But it allows the consumer more *perceived* value, since they only buy what they want…”

    It also allows the consumer more time to decide whether to buy. iTunes et al. keep songs available longer than the singles rack of my local Record Town or Newbury Comics, or even the singles racks of my local Strawberry’s or the flagship Tower Records, did.

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…As the series completes its first arc, most/all episodes should be available, in most electronic formats, (avatars, wallpaper, small pics, etc.) in the online store for purchase…”

    Electronics formats as in “avatars, wallpaper, small pics, etc.” instead of .pdf, .epub, .djvu, etc.? I now have the mental image of trying to read Y : The Last Man #54 in the space LiveJournal allows avatar images (100×100 pixels). o_O

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…As the 2nd series begins, side stories of the supporting characters of the 1st series are released into the comic shops, and available ONLY in the comics shops…”

    That would be good for the comics shops.

    That would not be so good for the authors, visual artists, and publishers that make the comics. These would be better off if they they also sold these books via other bookstores too (conventional bookstores like Borders and Amazon, independent bookstores, other-specialty bookstores when appropriate like the way both SF/F bookstores and feminist bookstores carry Octavia Butler’s books, etc.) too.

    After all, when a potential customer either doesn’t live within reasonable distance of a local comic shop or has been driven away from his or her only local comic shop, then would the creators and publishers rather not make the sale or rather still make the sale through another venue that the customer would actually use? Personally, I’m lucky enough to live within a short transit trip range of several comic shops, but I shouldn’t assume every current and future comics reader lives in an area as densely populated as mine…

  34. Phillip Temple Says:

    Hsifeng-
    Excellent point on the comic shops / bookstore dynamic..
    I was trying to broaden the brand customer base by having the core canon available & accessible to any prospective reader while, at the same time, keeping comic shops in the loop and supported with
    new creations that would only available thru comic shores; the reason for that is, even in this downturned economy, many comic stores are still in business, which signifies to me a core clientele who would at least have an interest in the brand and its spinoffs.
    Having a product that only is available in comic stores would help their bottom line, and also help guide a reader into the core canon, and thus, hopefully, engage them in the main story/characters.
    I would see that as a win/win;
    I would say, though, if any comic store is driving AWAY customers…hmmm.. Common sense says this would be business suicide, but, as you say about some..’comics stores”..hm..
    I would loook verry carefully and keep a tally on sales numbers..If a store has items that sell very well in all other stores/venues save this one right here,
    that is something that would have to be addressed.
    Also, there’s nothing that would keep the brand from creating content for the speciality bookstores you mentioned, either. It may be a matter of which outlet has the persons who like the brand and want more,
    which would not be a bad problem to have…

    Heres a question, though: How many specialty bookstores are there, vs how many comic stores?

  35. Stuart Moore Says:

    There are very, very few category-specific, brick-and-mortar specialty bookshops left. They were always low-profit businesses, and a lot of their traffic has gone to online booksellers. Which is another market, of course.

  36. Hsifeng Says:

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…Excellent point on the comic shops / bookstore dynamic….”

    Thanks! :)

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…Also, there’s nothing that would keep the brand from creating content for the speciality bookstores you mentioned, either. It may be a matter of which outlet has the persons who like the brand and want more,
    which would not be a bad problem to have…”

    When I said “conventional bookstores like Borders and Amazon, independent bookstores, other-specialty bookstores when appropriate like the way both SF/F bookstores and feminist bookstores carry Octavia Butler’s books, etc.” I should have clarified that I had in mind the selling-books-via-bookstores market dynamic in general and I wanted to be inclusive.

    For example, even back when Octavia Butler was alive and writing books, she didn’t write specifically for a specialty of bookstore. When she wrote a book and her publisher released it to bookstores…then it was just, well, released to bookstores. Whether it was mainstream enough for a chain bookstore, indie enough for an independent bookstore, skiffy enough for a SF/F-specialty bookstore, feminist enough for a feminist-specialty bookstore, etc. was up to the people running those bookstores, neither up to Butler nor up to the publisher.

    Of course they decided how much of their marketing targeted which kinds of bookstores, but actually rejecting any orders from a less-targeted bookstore too is something else…

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…I would say, though, if any comic store is driving AWAY customers…hmmm.. Common sense says this would be business suicide, but, as you say about some..’comics stores”..hm…”

    Tom Spurgeon just posted about that too, in the 2nd of ““Three Arguments We Could Be Having,” the Comics Reporter, May 23, 2010:

    “…All of these things are problems, but nothing should gall more than the idea that any customer feel less than welcome in a retail establishment on the front lines of commerce for an entire industry. This should be a base-line consideration, every single store that drives away customers in this fashion should be mocked and censured, the big companies should take a much more active interest in how they’re represented community to community and I’d argue that this is important to discuss again now because it seems like very little came of such discussions 20 years ago. There is no other art form where I dispense everyday advice about how to enjoy it and make routine, casual qualifications based on someone’s sex. I’ve never sent a prose reader to Amazon because Amazon doesn’t leer; I’d like to stop doing it in comics. I think we should talk about this until it stops, and then maybe we can talk about the rest of it…”

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…Heres a question, though: How many specialty bookstores are there, vs how many comic stores?…”

    Good question, and I honestly didn’t know the answer…

    Stuart Moore Says:

    “There are very, very few category-specific, brick-and-mortar specialty bookshops left. They were always low-profit businesses, and a lot of their traffic has gone to online booksellers. Which is another market, of course.”

    …until now. Thanks, Stuart! Personally I do live within a short transit trip range of several of those too, but that says little about how common they are since I also live within a short transit trip range of (off the top of my head) hundreds of thousands of other people (if not at least a million) and dozens of colleges and universities.

  37. Phillip Temple Says:

    Ties in with what Jer was speaking of at the top…I think the main hurdle would be cost. Damn, If I had the $$, I think it could be done with just 3 or 4 comics shops with Print-On-Demand capability, right here in Cali..Given the right financing to shepherd it along during its infantcy..the books are printed at the comics store, when needed.
    No distributors, no shipping, no packaging, no waiting. Hm..
    The ongoing costs of paper, ink, and machine servicing woould be an issue, however. I could imagine, though, like a big property, like, say, AVATAR..The movie comes into the theatre on Friday..Your interest is maxed, and as
    you go into COMIC RELIEF, you see that they have Print-On-Demand capability and have a number of AVATAR books ready for sale. You pick it up, you read, you get even deeper into the mythos, and you buy it. Other persons behind you do the same.

    BassAckwARDS Comics down the street, though, doesen’t have POD, and is proud of it. No newfangled fancy-schmancy gizmos here, no siree!! This the way REAL COMICS ought to be!

    (This also is the store, by the way, whose owner believes that “girls ain’t got NO bizness being inna a comix store”, and is proud of that, also.)

    Your comments, please…

  38. Hsifeng Says:

    Kenny Cather

    “…This is going to be controversial, but I think people in publishing are going to have to accept salary cuts…”

    BTW, less controversial than stale. Back in 2006 I’d already heard about publishing firms cutting full-time jobs with salaries or wages and instead sending the work out piecemeal to freelance copyeditors, proofreaders, etc.

    Phillip Temple Says:

    “…Your interest is maxed, and as
    you go into COMIC RELIEF, you see that they have Print-On-Demand capability and have a number of AVATAR books ready for sale. You pick it up, you read, you get even deeper into the mythos, and you buy it. Other persons behind you do the same.

    “BassAckwARDS Comics down the street, though, doesen’t have POD…”

    …and Conventional Mostly-Prose Bookstore up the street doesn’t have POD yet either.

    You tell your friends about COMIC RELIEF’s quality merchandise, professional staff, and of course its Print-On-Demand capability. Next thing you know CR is getting customers for all sorts of PODs, not even just comics (any machine that can print comics can print text and figures, right?), and beats both the bookstore down the street and the bookstore up the street at the POD game. If you think the same store printing comics for fans and, say, rare books for non-comics fans would be odd…

    Lindsay B. Says at Yelp:

    “…I lived around the corner from Melvin Pharmacy for a year and a half and as creepy and incomprehensible a store as it is, I grew to love it. Melvin Pharmacy is the one-stop shop for ‘Oh Shit I Forgot I Needed To Get This Item’ type items. A pharmacy, post office, liquor store, and greeting card store (??) all in one…”

    As for the creepiness, I’ve been there once myself (it stuck in my memory as the ultimate WTF? combo) and didn’t get spooked (it’s well-lit with friendly staff). I did see elderly customers, Yellow Tail wine for sale, flyers in one or more of the languages that use the Cyrillic alphabet, and a neon sign in English, Vietnamese, and what’s probably Russian. Maybe Lindsay B.’s got a problem with one of these for some dumb reason, or maybe someone who was nice to me is bigoted against her, or something else?

  39. Kevin Huxford Says:

    Just caught this entry now, as my Google alerts seem to be failing me. My apologies if I mischaracterized your stance. It was unintentional.

  40. Phillip Temple Says:

    Back in June 2010, I said this:

    Damn, If I had the $$, I think it could be done with just 3 or 4 comics shops with Print-On-Demand capability, right here in Cali..Given the right financing to shepherd it along during its infancy ..the books are printed at the comics store, when needed.
    No distributors, no shipping, no packaging, no waiting. Hm..
    The ongoing costs of paper, ink, and machine servicing would be an issue, however. I could imagine, though, like a big property, like, say, AVATAR..The movie comes into the theater on Friday..Your interest is maxed, and as
    you go into COMIC RELIEF, you see that they have Print-On-Demand capability and have a number of AVATAR books ready for sale. You pick it up, you read, you get even deeper into the mythos, and you buy it.

    It’s getting close..
    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/espresso-upgrade-via-kodak/

    these kiosks will be in CVS and some Walgreens, I’m told.
    If, as I said, 2-4 comics shop went in on this, it means an entirely new model for comic book distribution, AWAY from Diamond, opened to anyone who wanted to make a comic book and put in into the system for POD….The comic shops would
    directly determine what is printed, with
    no distribution company needed –
    No need for warehouses, shipping, Diamond, none of it, because it would all be digital..At least, the independent comics, at first…Then someone digitizes an entire run of a fav character, and it’s all right there in the comic shop, ready to be printed….
    What it might mean for back issue comics, dont know… collectors would howl and nitpick, but the simple availability would be a huge, huge juggernaut….
    In Calif…DrComics and MrGames…Flying Colors…Atlantis FantasyWorld…a couple of others, and there you have a digital distributing system…Print the comic when the customer wants it…

    I said it was coming…lol yeah, right…LOL




Categories:

Pages:



Meta:

Most Recent Posts: