Exciting Digital Times LinkBlogging

Did you notice? Almost half of all new comics are available digitally on the same day they are offered in print. DC (with Vertigo transitioning fully by January) and Archie are same-day digital with all titles. Marvel’s moving that way (although it’s going to take them almost six months to get there, expecting to be finished by March 2012). Image the same (for their “top titles”, depending on creator).

(I know I’m ignoring smaller publishers, but so does comiXology now that they’ve got the big publishers.)

There seems to be growing evidence that digital readers (in addition to being older males) aren’t cannibalizing print sales; instead, they add to them. This movie list suggests the same thing; the most downloaded movies are also the most successful and popular. Retailers don’t believe it, though — outspoken Brian Hibbs has declared that he won’t order ANY shelf copies of Avenging Spider-Man #1 because it comes with a code to get a free digital copy (of the same comic you’re being asked to buy).

His right, of course, although it strikes me less as Marvel trying to convert readers to digital and more as a way to try and justify the $3.99 cover price readers are rejecting by providing a bonus. I’m not sure many readers actually want both versions, print and digital — the heavy digital purchasers I know are eager to ditch the paper altogether, since it’s a storage hassle. To protect the codes, the books will be polybagged, another stupid idea, since it discourages browsing.

Moving on, Augie De Blieck doesn’t stop to celebrate, instead emphasizing the two biggest hurdles he sees remaining in digital comic acceptance: you don’t own the files (meaning that if, for example, comiXology goes under, you lose your collection) and the pricing is still too high. I agree with him that $2.99 or more is too much for 20 digital pages. Heck, if I wasn’t still a collector, deep down, I’d find it too much for 20 print pages. (Where’s Larry Young to argue back?)

I think he’s missed one more problem: exclusivity is bad. First it was DC offering exclusive digital rights to 100 graphic novels on the Amazon Kindle Fire. That led to Barnes & Noble refusing to sell the physical books, followed by Books-a-Million doing the same. Then came Marvel on the Nook, the Barnes & Noble tablet. Regardless of who’s doing which deal, the only thing exclusivity gets you is annoyed customers, who can’t get what they want the way they want it. It never benefits anyone in the long run, and these days, it helps convince people that unauthorized versions are easier and less trouble.

Remember, new technology always scares established businesses, and it takes time to adjust and build new markets. Home video was going to kill the movie business until it became what kept the industry alive. Someday, digital comics may end up in the same position.

11 Responses to “Exciting Digital Times LinkBlogging”

  1. Ranma Says:

    First of all I do not own any apple product. I tried the code for the Avenging Spider-man #1 and viewed it on the chrome viewer. I closed the page after trying to read two pages. Text too small, loading taking too long and it just isn’t same as holding a comic.

    My LCS owner is really upset about this digital comic and he has expressed his displeasure to Diamond. He choose not to order the Justice League duel package and wished he could have done the same with Avenging Spider-man.

  2. James Schee Says:

    As someone who has an IPad 2 I’m glad to see so much available digitally. Though I did wind up reading most of DC 52 through an exchange with a friend in pamphlet form. (she got 2 volumes of Absolute Sandman I had and no longer wanted. I got me all the #1s & then the #2s I wanted to see more of)

    Now I’m picking up the #3s I want digitally, though some of those I will wait for price drop. So I’m with Augie in hoping for better deal, and am hoping Archie’s superhero digital deal will be interesting.

    I’m not really understanding Mr. Hibbs stance. It seems to amount to how old movie studios directing that there be no TVs shown in movies because they thought they’d kill the movie industry.

    People know they have a digital option already, preventing someone from just randomly buying what’s sure to be one of the bigger Marvel titles in years seems odd to me. He admits it in his column, but still odd to see a stance of I don’t want someone buying from someone other than me, but if you want to buy this (and didn’t order it ) you must buy it from someone else.

    His choice as you say though. The free download actually makes it more likely for me to buy the single issue, download and give the comic away.

    I wonder if it’s going to be available in bookstores? So many magazines in bags get ripped open at my bookstores.

    I keep hearing conflicting things on the exclusives. Any idea if I’ll be able to download them on my IPad Kindle & Nook aps? I’ve heard it both ways.

  3. Tom Ramirez Says:

    Chaos is the mother of opportunity. Time for the small press to seize the day.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Ranma, I agree, it does require the right equipment (mainly a good, high resolution screen) to be comfortable reading comics online.

    I can see, intellectually, why a retailer would be upset at a promotion like Marvel’s being sprung on them and feeling powerless about it, but I think getting too upset about it wastes energy that can be used in better ways. Focus on making your customers want to shop with you instead of treating them like they HAVE to shop with you.

    James, love the TV set comparison. I’d forgotten about that.

  5. Bytowner Says:

    The idea of digital reader gadgets acting as a force multiplier of print sales is intriguing and attractive in its way. If it holds up over the longer haul, a lot of people may be very happy to end up dining on crow.

    Here’s hoping it happens.

  6. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    You’re right about exclusivity, as well, though I’m not so bothered by it. I have a feeling those are generally short-term contracts meant to give both sides a quick promotional boost. In 6 months or a year, everything will be everywhere and we’ll get another set of press releases and a second marketing boost. The new tablets are trying to start strong, and pulling out all the stops they can to get people on board fast. They need to do that because people don’t want to buy multiple tablets. So they use these exclusives as lures, but they’re not worth the paper they’re signed on, long-term.

    You are welcome, of course, to call me out on this in 12 months when everyone is still exclusive and the digital market has gone all Heroes World on us. ;-)

  7. Chad Says:

    “you don’t own the files (meaning that if, for example, comiXology goes under, you lose your collection)”

    Just curious, does anyone care about this issue when it comes to Dark Horse’s app? You don’t own any files there either, really, but given that it’s Dark Horse’s app, not an app run through a third party, I’m guessing there’s less chance of you losing your entire collection.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I just picked one example, since most all of the digital comic stores work the same way. (Except for SLG and DriveThruComics.com, I think, which sell downloadable files.)

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  10. Ralf Haring Says:

    “Just curious, does anyone care about this issue when it comes to Dark Horse’s app? You don’t own any files there either, really, but given that it’s Dark Horse’s app, not an app run through a third party, I’m guessing there’s less chance of you losing your entire collection.”

    Yes, it’s a huge detriment no matter who maintains the app. The concern over spending money on something that could disappear in a puff of smoke tomorrow is the primary impediment to spending the cover price on a digital version. If the publishers want me to take that burden then I expect dramatically cheaper prices.

  11. Marvel Attempts to Bribe Digital Comic Readers Into Stores » Comics Worth Reading Says:

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