Dark Horse Digital Comics Should Be Cheaper: Brigid Makes the Case

At the beginning of the month, when Dark Horse announced it was moving to same-day digital release, there was confusion over their pricing. It took several days and a good deal of retailer anger before they clarified that digital comics would be the same price as print, in order to prevent retailer boycotts.

Dark Horse Digital

As followup, Brigid Alverson has written an insightful piece (that also clarifies that the same price announcement was a change of plan, based on what was originally communicated by email). As she introduces it,

Given the opportunity to give their readers what they want — new digital comics at a price that they perceive as reasonable — and potentially expand the audience from niche to something approaching mainstream, Dark Horse chose to retreat and give the retailers what they want instead. I think Dark Horse was wrong, and here are six reasons why.

She points out that maybe it’s time for publishers to pay attention to what their actual customers, the readers, want instead of what the retailers demand. She also makes the good point that a publisher like Dark Horse, who does business based on a variety of genres, including licensed works, should consider a different strategy than a superhero-dependent company.

The direct market of dedicated comic shops, while historically important, is no longer as significant to publisher business as it used to be (especially if you’re not DC or Marvel, since a substantial portion of stores are focused on those titles and customers). It’s a weird quirk of the distribution system (and non-returnability for comics purchased by stores) that publishers pay so much attention to shops instead of end readers. Those customers, the readers, don’t think digital books (of any kind) should cost as much as print versions do, and publishers need to pay attention, because that’s where the potential new customers are going to come from, especially given how few comic shops there are across the country, compared to population.

Visit the link for more of Brigid’s reasoning, and how she gets to this conclusion:

Forcing your customers and potential customers to pay higher prices is not going to endear you to them, even if it does protect your business in the short term. As for Dark Horse, this was its moment to shift the paradigm; it’s too bad someone blinked.

3 Responses to “Dark Horse Digital Comics Should Be Cheaper: Brigid Makes the Case”

  1. Scott Says:

    I have no insider information or anything but I don’t know if this:

    “The direct market of dedicated comic shops, while historically important, is no longer as significant to publisher business as it used to be. ”

    is true in Dark Horse’s case. I have to assume that they still publish single issues because they’re financially relevant, not just because they want to. If single issues are still important to the bottom line, then so are comic shops, which are where the majority of single issues sales come from.

    Don’t get me wrong, publishers going lower on digital is inevitable in the long run (Archie does it already, don’t they?) but I’d like to see more DM retailers accept that and help set up an infrastructure, so that the comic industry doesn’t end up with the equivalent of iTunes and Amazon as the only outlets available for purchase.

    I may, however, be dreaming with that wish. :)

  2. Johanna Says:

    Archie does do it, but no one gets upset about that for some reason.

    The question of how important the DM is to DH is tough to answer clearly without sales figures, but their publication of books that include Buffy and Star Wars suggests a potentially big mass audience.

  3. Scott Says:

    If i had to guess (and this pure supposition), but if Dark Horse wasn’t dependent on DM sales, they wouldn’t have backtracked/clarified their digital day and date policy.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Archie is doing what they do; the DM has never been a big part of their sales strategy. Best guess: Within 5 years most of the publishers will be doing the same. Hopefully by then, enough DM retailers have jumped on-board the digital bandwagon, but I’m not holding my breath.




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