- Posted by Johanna on May 6, 2010 at 8:18 am
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
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.