How Should Free Comic Book Day Deal With Online Readers? The Books Are Free, Right?

Free Comic Book Day was created, ten years ago now, to get customers into comic book stores, to show new customers where to buy comics and the diversity of what was available.

In many cases, though, publishers create new material for the special FCBD comics they sell to retailers (yes, they’re not free to stores), which makes fans of featured brands or artists or concepts eager to get them. And publishers want to build interest (and sales) in upcoming books promoted in the sample FCBD comics, so they have incentive to get the material in front of as many readers as possible, regardless of whether it’s through a comic shop or not.

That may explain why Dark Horse has made their two FCBD flipbooks, Criminal Macabre/Baltimore and Avatar: The Last Airbender/Star Wars: The Clone Wars, free to download for the rest of the month of May. Boom! has also allowed CBR to post the story (but not the background text material) from one of their two books, Elric: The Balance Lost, online.

I started thinking about this because I couldn’t attend FCBD this year. I wanted to read several of the books, and while a friend picked up a couple for me, I didn’t feel right asking him to get too many. Our preferred mail order vendor is sending us copies of all the ones we requested, although we have to wait for our next shipment. In the meantime, I know that almost all of them are downloadable online, although not officially. (The only one I couldn’t find easily is the James Patterson/Svetlana Chmakova Witch and Wizard from Yen Press, which oddly was also the only one unavailable through my local comic shops. Was it underordered all over, or just here?)

So should publishers post their FCBD books online? They’re intended to be free samples, after all. But will comic shops be as eager to support the “national comic holiday” if they’re not the only source for the material?

6 Responses to “How Should Free Comic Book Day Deal With Online Readers? The Books Are Free, Right?”

  1. Thad Says:

    Realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but not only should publishers make their FCBD offerings free, they should offer them in standard formats.

    Will Dark Horse’s reader run on the Linux laptop I read my digital comics on? I doubt it and I’m not about to bother finding out. Will I be able to read them in Comix, the same program I use to read all my OTHER digital comics? Again, doubt it.

    Credit where it’s due, though: the publishers have done the right thing in waiting a couple days after FCBD to offer these books online. If they were offered same-day, it would hurt the efficacy of FCBD at getting people into comic shops.

    (I would add that the very idea of same-day digital releases is wrongheaded, because the only people who know that new comics come out on Wednesdays are people who go to comic shops every week anyway. With the exception of major we-leaked-spoilers-to-the-press “event” books like the death of Johnny Storm, new readers looking for online comics don’t care if they’re reading the latest issue or not.)

  2. Johanna Says:

    It’s a good question whether we will ever have a true iTunes for comics, one program that will allow the user to both organize their digital comics, whatever the source, and buy (not just rent proprietary) files. The way things are going, I suspect not any time soon.

    I suspect new digital readers, if they’re introduced by someone or a community (the most common way to bring in someone new), do know that they’re considered second-class citizens, being sold old books at new prices.

  3. Grant Says:

    my only complaint with FCBD are the offerings. I don’t think I’ve been to more than one or two of these events where they had a comic that I was remotely interested in.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I thought that this year, Grant, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many of those I’ve flipped through. They were better than I expected.

  5. Adam Says:

    They should definitely be made available to the public by any means necessary. Just not on FCBD in my opinion.

    I have a horrible store here myself so I wasn’t able to get any free comics again this year. I’m sure there’s plenty of other people out there in the same boat.

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