Tokyopop has announced (via Facebook) that, while the anticipated Hetaila: Axis Powers series will be available in print on September 21, you can buy it digitally through digital download partner Zinio right now. For its 148 pages, the digital price is $5.99 US; in print, it’s $12.99. That illustrates Tokyopop’s variable pricing — why it’s not the now-standard price of $10.99, I don’t know. Either they expect it to sell worse than other titles, and need to profit more on each book to cover costs, or they expect it to sell better, and just want to make more money.
Update: (8/17/10) Tokyopop has clarified on Twitter that the price should be $10.99, explaining that it had been listed as the higher price in their system a “long time ago” and the “data feed needs to catch up”.
There’s been debate about the timing of digital releases, with superhero comic companies getting press for putting one or two of their publications online for purchase the same day as the print copy is available to buy. I’m not aware of any doing the digital release first — but then, superhero comics aren’t licensed publications already available in a different language elsewhere.
Hetalia is already well-known among the fan community (as illustrated by how many cosplay characters), many of whom have likely read it online already without paying. So putting out the digital version first is possibly an attempt to make some money off it now, although I’m not sure how successful that will be. Tokyopop freelance editor Daniella Orihuela-Gruber is encouraging support of the book (as you’d expect, since she worked on it, but it’s great to hear more about it from someone who’s familiar with it).
The comments at the announcement thread are interesting, with several saying that they’ll wait for print, either because they prefer hardcopy or because “Zinio is too expensive!” Others joke about reading scans or say they’ll check with their library. That’s because of the coolest part of Tokyopop’s digital release program:
We have made (*free*) digital editions of HETALIA available to all US public libraries–get your library card (also *free*) & go to your public library’s web site. If they don’t have a copy, ask them to order it through the “OverDrive Digital Library Reserve” program.
I’m guessing that libraries that aren’t already part of that program won’t join just for this, but if you’re interested, and you have a compatible device, it’s worth asking about.