Marvel Gives Away Digital Copies But Considers Them Worth $4

Marvel has just announced that they’re including digital copy codes in every $3.99 comic beginning in June of this year. Specifically, those issues will provide free codes for use in the Marvel comics app for iOS and Android. No word on whether they work in the web version of comiXology, which provides the app. This also means seeing that ugly black box on more covers, as with this Avengers #27 piece by Walt Simonson.

Avengers #27 cover by Walt Simonson

I picked my headline based on the title of their announcement, as emailed out: “Marvel doubles the value of all its top-selling super hero comics”. So they consider the value of a digital copy to be $4, the same price as the print comic, an estimation that many readers would disagree with. (If you already have the comic, then the free online copy only provides access to something you’ve already read.) At the same time, Peter Phillips, SVP & GM, Marvel Digital Media, said, “With this next step, fans will soon be able to buy their comics from their favorite retailers but also enjoy them on their mobile devices and tablets, all at no extra charge.” So what is the true value of a digital copy?

This move is in contrast to Marvel’s parent company, which recently began charging an extra $5 to get digital copies of its movies in Blu-ray combo packs. They have begun offering Blu-ray/DVD packs without the digital code for less than the version with the digital copy.

I also hadn’t previously realized that Marvel’s pricing strategy was that the best-selling books were priced higher; in most industries, doesn’t that work the other way around?

I wondered whether this meant Marvel was going to start polybagging all of these comics, which adds weight (and thus shipping costs) to retailers, but KC informs me that the newest Ultimate issues, which have been providing free digital copies for a while, feature a peelable sticker blocking access to the code, so anyone trying to steal a code will be noticeable wrestling with the issue in the store. Aiming at that audience, Marvel included this pullquote: “The positive reactions from both retailers and fans make it clear that including these codes with our books drives customers into comic stores on a repeated basis.”

2 Responses to “Marvel Gives Away Digital Copies But Considers Them Worth $4”

  1. Anthony Says:

    My latest copy of “Ultimate Spider-Man” has the code for such advertised. Though again, I’d much rather have non-DRM-ed digital comics, vs the Comixology system (which reminds me of the early days of online music sales, or the current state of online video sales, i.e. not a good thing).

  2. matt Says:

    are they crazy?! Why do I want to build a digital comix library that I cannot store on MY computer and that I cannot back-up?

    Why would I buy issues of comix from marvel only to have them store them for me on their computers?

    Fifteen years from now when tech changes or they feel their current digital comix distribution model isn’t any longer profitable and they shut it down, where will all the comix I’ve bought over those fifteen years go? They’re not stored on MY computer but theirs. Will they then send me my digital copies so I can archive them on disk?

    No. No they won’t. So, I believe that until Marvel allows you to save the digital copy on your computer, their current digital business model will ultimately fail.

    I think many people have not thought this through. They are paying for digital copies of comix that they cannot REALLY have and are at any time subject to be taken away from them.

    Even Rhapsody and iTunes allow you to download DRM-free songs and iTunes even encourages you to make a back-up copy on disc.

    Until Marvel & DC become as smart as iTunes, I think their digital comix system will fail.

    I would happily pay for a digital version I get to save to MY computer. Wouldn’t it be cheaper for Marvel to not have to pay for production, shipping and distribution? Yes, it would be and therefore digital comix should be less than two dollars.




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