- Posted by Johanna on November 9, 2011 at 9:22 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
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.