DC Raises Online Prices, Offers Print/Digital Combo Packs

Just posted at the DCU blog was an announcement (excerpted below) about the upcoming Justice League #1:

On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will make publishing history again with their first-ever comic book combo pack. Each issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE, by New York Times bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, will be available in a convenient combo pack including a print edition and digital version of the comic book.

Those who want a physical copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE to read and collect, as well as the ability to download it onto their favorite device for easy transport, get ready. Each print edition of the comic book and an individual code for digital download will be wrapped in a poly bag and available for $4.99. Separately, the standard version will retail for $3.99 and the digital version will retail for $3.99.

Both digital and print editions of DC’s comics will have parity pricing for the first four weeks of release; thereafter, the digital titles drop in price down to our standard 1.99 digital price point. Oversized issues, including JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, will start at $3.99 and drop to $2.99 after four weeks.

My jumbled thoughts:

1. If I was a retailer, I’d be worried about damages if cheating customers slit open the polybags and stole the codes. (You know someone would.)

2. Combo pack makes me think Blu-ray/DVD joint releases (especially with the movie companies running the comic industry currently), which has become the default format there. Will the same thing happen here? How much longer will you be able to buy a non-digital-enhanced print comic?

3. I know there’s a lot of fogey-ing going around this week, but I was first reminded of Marvel’s biased “experiment” where they tried out upgraded covers at a higher price — but rigged the game by shipping the “standard” editions two weeks later. Is DC working towards a $4.99 standard price point?

4. Polybagging is back! Sigh. Let’s reintroduce a technology that, over the long term, eats its own contents. But no one’s thinking long-term any more, because survival is at risk in a shorter time period.

5. Warner movies that come with digital copies have one-year time limits on the download codes. How long will DC’s codes be usable, and what does that mean for back issues? Will we have different grades of near mint, based on whether the code has been used?

6. Finally, a change in digital comic pricing based on age of the material. Although it’s going in the opposite direction I hoped for. Instead of $3.99 (for an online comic you don’t even own!) for four weeks, then $2.99, I would have hoped that the digital debuted at $1.99 and then dropped to $0.99 as a “back issue”. But then retailers would be screaming even more than they are now.

7. So much for “holding the line at $2.99″, hunh? I wonder just how many of the new #1 launches will be “oversized” to justify a higher cover price.

8. If the goal is to attract new readers through greater (digital) availability, then sticker shock ($4 for THIS?) isn’t the way to go. Especially since, through your combo pricing, you’ve demonstrated that the “real” value of the digital book is a dollar.

Update: Clarifying two things. The first is that I want to emphasize point 8 above. You get new readers through easy, affordable samples. If someone tells me about a TV show they enjoy, if it’s on network, I find the next episode and check it out. If it’s only on a pay cable channel, I wait to see if more people talk it up, because I’m not going to pay $12 (or whatever my monthly fee is) to try it. Pricing digital comics at $3-4 EACH will not attract the new readers DC so desperately needs and is aiming for. Lots of people (anecdotally) were planning on sampling lots of comics at a lower price — they’re now turned off by this new initiative.

Point two. Graeme McMillan justifiably took me to task for the headline. I was assuming that the top price for an online DC comic to date had been $2.99, so if DC is now setting the top at $3.99, that’s an increase. Graeme thinks he remembers Justice League: Generation Lost being that same price digitally for the final issue, so if that’s the case, DC isn’t raising prices — just standardizing ones that are too high.


21 Responses to “DC Raises Online Prices, Offers Print/Digital Combo Packs”

  1. Eric Rupe Says:

    I really hate those BR/DVD combo packs since I’m not conceivably going to even be slightly interesting in buying a Blu-Ray player any time soon, which if fine since I don’t buy a lot of DVDs, but if that became standard for comics it would definitely stop me from buying what few remaining single issues I do and if it carried over to collections I would definitely cut back as well because of the increased price point.

    Sadly, I don’t find it terribly surprising that DC are keeping the price-parity with the print editions but it most likely means that the initiative will be ultimately be a failure in terms of attracting new readers since I can’t imagine most people paying that much for a comic book.

    I’m also wondering if all of the new launches will be $4 oversized issues like Justice League though. If they are, I think would be another bad move but that just seems par for the course for DC at this point, which is disappointing because the day-and-date digital kind of got me hoping that DC would take some actual chances and maybe improve the overall comics market and instead of just pandering to the DM.

  2. MC Alcock Says:

    This combo pack deal reminds me more of the book+e-book combos that B&N did a test run of about a year or so back–higher than the regular trade, but less than buying the book in each format separately. That didn’t move well, didn’t last long, and hasn’t been mentioned since.

  3. Anthony Says:

    Archie charges $1.99 for same-day digital comics, and 99 cents for older back issues (though not sure if the newer books drop at some point to 99 cents once old enough), versus $2.99 for their paper floppies. A lot cheaper than what DC’s charging—$3-$4 for a digital copy I don’t really own?! How does *this* “attract new readers” who have plenty of other stuff to spend $3-$4 on, especially during a recession/with the options out there?!

  4. Johanna Says:

    Eric, I suspect that DC didn’t want to look like it was burning bridges in the Direct Market. If this doesn’t work, they’ll need that outlet to survive. (Of course, if they set things up from the start so they won’t work, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

    MC, interesting. I wasn’t aware of that experiment. It does seem to me as though comics is one of the few media where a buyer would want both print and digital copies (given the collectibility aspect).

  5. James Schee Says:

    Weird, perhaps I was being naive thinking that DC might offer a special deal like they’ve been doing recently with GL and Flash, etc. on Comixology (99 cents per issue) to get people to try the huge # of new series. Something like if you preorder online all 52 #1 issues, you’ll pay only $52.

    I would have done such a deal anyway….

    Now I’ll just wait to see what sounds good and get the TPBs.

  6. Eric Rupe Says:

    Well, DC is already potentially burning bridges with the current fan base so I’m not sure how keeping the retailers happy is necessarily going to help them if this fails in the long run if their current audience stopped reading. To me, it looks like an all or nothing deal, and they seem to be treating it that way in the DM with potential full returnability and extra discounts, so it seems backwards to not do the same thing in a market with that is potential more enticing to new readers.

  7. John Jakala Says:

    On the one hand, I was kind of excited to check out some new comics as impulse buys on my iPad if the price was low enough.

    On the other hand, I really don’t need to get back in the habit of buying superhero comics, so this is probably a good development for me.

  8. Grant Says:

    I just don’t see how digital is going to be the big savior of comics that so many people think it’s going to be. What is this based on? The one percent of sales that the big two get from them? Is it even that much?

    I can “maybe” see it being helpful to the little publishers, the indapendents.

    “I suspect that DC didn’t want to look like it was burning bridges in the Direct Market. If this doesn’t work, they’ll need that outlet to survive. (Of course, if they set things up from the start so they won’t work, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.)”

    Exactly. I mean, how does the big two make money at digital? I guess I’m too old to get this stuff but if no one wants to pay the hard copy price for digital and if all the people saying hardcopy is dying or dead or soon to be dead are right and everything eventually goes digital, then won’t that mean a huge drop in profits for the big 2 and less money for the creators as well?

    I guess this all hinges on the idea that more people will be fans of comic books because they’re digital and more easily available or something. But won’t the people that never liked comics still not like them? Are there really that many people out there with this nagging curiousity about comics who have been waiting for digital so they can read one? Won’t it be relatively the same audience? Where are the numbers that encourage people to think that digital will bring in an audience massive enough to offset the lower prices that the companies would have to sell them at to get this new audience? (these aren’t rhetorical questions by the way, I’d really like to know because I really don’t get it. I feel like my parents trying to figure out the dvd player)

    This seems like a clear display of complete lack of faith in the future of digital by comic companies. And I can’t blame them for wanting to cover their buts on this.

  9. Ralf Haring Says:

    Anything more than $0.99 for a digital version of a comic is insane.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Grant, it’s more that there is an audience eager for the digital product at a reasonable price — and the producers seem to be ignoring them (or, in the case of movies, actively working against them, as the studios try to shut down Netflix streaming). There are people, as we’ve seen in these comments, who want to start reading comics or get back to reading comics digitally. There are so few good comic stores in this country that there is an underserved audience who will buy comics if it’s convenient. No one has numbers because no one’s working on reaching them right now. (Except Archie, who went same-day release with all titles, but their works are aimed at a younger audience.)

  11. William George Says:

    I just don’t see how digital is going to be the big savior of comics that so many people think it’s going to be. What is this based on?

    The fact that the old way stopped working back in 1992 and it’s just taken until now for the corpse to stop twitching.

    I mean, how does the big two make money at digital?

    They’re lacking the printing shipping and storage costs for physical copy. There’s a good chunk of the cover price gone right there. I’d be surprised if the digital distributor’s cut came out to anywhere near that. But you never know.

    If they really want new readers, they need to do the one thing they’re not:
    Offer non-superhero material (This would have been a better market for their Minx line than the direct market). Offer it at a price that may entice the curious. Offer it to people who aren’t them and people like them.

    That is: They’re all fans, these comic publishers. They all come from fan culture. They think like fans. And fans want everyone to like the same things they do, just on the their terms. They don’t want to change anything in order to appeal to the public. They want to public to go to them. That’s why they’re offering yet another Wonder Woman comic that no one was interested in before and won’t be interested in again. Because maybe THIS time everyone will admit they were wrong and the fan/ creators DO have perfect tastes in entertainment.

    So as a way to entice new readers, they will fail to gain traction with digital no matter how cheap they offer it, simply because they’re not changing a damned thing about what they do. It just looks like they are to the comics bloggers because any change, no matter how superficial, is scary to a fan.

    Meh.

  12. Thom Says:

    Between Marvel and DC’s current pricing plans for digital comics, looks like I won’t be returning to comics anytime soon (outside of random trades)

  13. Wesley Craig Green Says:

    Recently, I’ve been trying out new comics I normally wouldn’t read via digitally. Why? There are two main reasons: the closest comic shop is three hours away, and the other reason is the price point being between .99 and 1.99.

    The majority of comic shops are now located in major metropolitan areas. Those of us who don’t live within a reasonable driving range either have to order our comic online or buy them digitally.

    When I heard about the recent news about DC relaunching the books, I thought this would be a good time to check out some books which I haven’t read in years due to all the back history and continuity weighing the characters down. But when I heard about the prices the digital versions would be, I can’t help but wonder why DC would take such a major step forward only to take two steps back with the pricing.

    I realize comic shop retailers are a vital part of their business, but if comic publishers are going to grow their readership then they need new readers which digital comics can give them. I have no evidence to back this up but I can almost guarantee there have been more people trying or getting back into comics because they are available digitally compared to someone finding a comic book store, let alone venture into one. That isn’t meant as a knock against comic shops but as I mentioned earlier, comic shops are few and far between. And even then, few are on the level of, say, The Beguiling or The Golden Apple.

    So I applaud DC Comics for taking the plunge into digital comics but they seriously need to reconsider this whole pricing thing or it will all be for nothing.

  14. Russell Says:

    I just got my first iPad and have downloaded some free comics. I also plan to buy a few digital copies of books I already own, so I can read them on an upcoming trip. But I refuse to may more than $1.99 for anything that’s not a trade. (For example, a friend’s lengthy graphic novel is downloadable for $4.99). Digital comics are all profit, and to charge the reader the same price as an actual tangible book is ridiculous. The industry needs to look at what book publishers, music companies and film studios are doing — charging less for the digital copy.

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  20. Chuck Says:

    You said it. I haven’t been a collector, but am I huge fan of DC’s animated shows and movies so I was thinking of getting into Justice League but 4 bucks just seemed a little steep! 3 bucks is still a bit much for my tastes. $2 and I’d be on board

  21. Sharks Says:

    I find it ironic that so many people are complaining about the exorbitant pricing of comic books when a small mocha latte will run you the same price and probably last half as long.

    Since I’m a cheapskate who likes saving money, I’m always about paying less, especially when it comes to digital (you’re cutting out a lot of middlemen, so by all means you shouldn’t be charging as much), but as someone totally new to comic books, I have to disagree with a lot of the veteran sentiments here. Digital comics, even if they’re priced the same as physical copies, are a big draw for a newbie like me for several reasons:

    1. Convenience. I’m not someone who frequents the comic shops, and considering the crowd I’ve seen there before, I’m not sure I’d want to frequent them. I’m not trying to be mean, but since I’m not someone you’d consider to be the “target demographic” for comics, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t want the attention.

    2. Space. I have enough clutter in my house as it is, so starting up a comic collection would take up a lot of room and attract a lot of dust, fast. Keeping everything digital keeps it nice, clean, and organized. I’m also not planning on being a serious collector, so for the one or two series I’d like to read each month, digital works for me.

    3. Availability. If you have a tight schedule or don’t want to drive 20 minutes to find the nearest comic shop, only to discover the issue you wanted is on back order, digital is a nice solution for getting day-one access without the hassle.

    So overall, coming from someone who is a newbie, owns a tablet, and is very interested in the strides DC is taking to expand the universe by including more diversity and dropping some of the continuity baggage, I think they’re taking at least a few right steps. Like I said, I’m always about paying less for stuff, but I certainly think that as a working adult I can spare $3 a month to read an issue here or there.




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