Why Did It Take So Long for the Ordering Catalog to Be Given Away?

Marvel Comics has announced that the Marvel Previews monthly catalog will be available for free digitally starting November 6. It’s about time! I’ve wondered for a while why a customer should be asked to spend money in order to know what to spend more money on. However, there’s a big snag that makes this almost worthless: you can’t use it to preorder, since “Marvel Previews will not transition to a free download until the month its contents are on sale. Retailers can still enjoy selling the catalog to customers within the usual window.”

Marvel Previews November 2013

So Marvel will give you an out-of-date advance look at comics that have likely changed contents or creators by the time you’re reading the catalog. I thought this was a forward-looking idea, but it’s just a typical comics industry half-assed attempt to pretend to be modern.

I understand that print catalogs, especially monthly 400-plus-page phonebooks, cost money, and as times have gotten tighter, many retailers no longer offer Previews (and its little Marvel sibling) for free. That’s short-sighted thinking, though, in my opinion, since these days, preordering benefits the shopkeeper more than it does the customer.

What this boils down to is, instead of generating timely marketing material to drive customers to retailers (or encourage more digital purchases), which would cost money, this approach is a lame attempt to wring more value out of existing content.

Marvel’s SVP of Publishing David Gabriel attempted to put a shiny spin on the announcement. “By putting information about new print products and collected editions in the hands of our growing digital customer base, we can inform those customers about the great Marvel products available at their local retailers!” Except we’ve pretty much established that digital and print customers are different audiences, so this reads like a lot of wishful thinking. Even if I found something in this free catalog that I (as a hypothetical digital reader) wanted, why wouldn’t I just click a few buttons on the device in my hands and get it there?

While we’re on the topic, there’s an even bigger question still out there: why are retailers and end customers still being given the same advance promotional material?

6 Responses to “Why Did It Take So Long for the Ordering Catalog to Be Given Away?”

  1. Jamie Coville Says:

    Answers! Or at least my answers.

    Marvel fans have long paid for information about upcoming news on what they are publishing. They are/were fanatics about the company and wanted to know what they were publishing next. From 60s and 70s fanzines, to Marvel Age, to Wizard and in part Previews.

    But if they want to grow their sales they need to make this free as I don’t think the newer readers are willing to pay for something like that.

    A whole lot of retailers would be incredibly pissed if Marvel put links in it’s catalog aiming at either their site or comiXology to buy the books digitally, possibly even to the point of suing them for unfair competition.

    And I think the reason the consumer and retailers are still being given the same information is because any “exclusive” info only going to retailers would end up on the news sites very quickly, to the point where it’s pointless to separate the two.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I knew the idea that retailers aren’t professional enough not to share the information would come up. My cynical side says you’re right, but it’s a shame.

    Regarding cross-selling digitally, I wasn’t suggesting actual links, just that someone using (for example) a tablet to read Marvel Previews already has a whole comic store in their hands.

  3. Jer Says:

    knew the idea that retailers aren’t professional enough not to share the information would come up.

    I’m a bit confused – why is it a problem that customers who want the information have access to the retailer info?

    I thought your lament above was that comics companies don’t seem to bother even creating targeted advance promotional material for separate retailer and customer audiences, and assume that everyone getting the info is part of the same long-term comics fan culture. I think that’s problematic and has been for a long time. But I don’t see the problem with retailer info being available to customers who want to see it.

  4. hapax Says:

    One of the (many, many) reasons I gave up buying mainstream comics was the day I looked at my monthly PREVIEWS and asked myself “Why the *hell* am I spending good money for a crappy commercial?”

  5. Johanna Says:

    Hapax, you reminded me of long, long ago, when we’d talk about how embarrassing it was to read Previews in public because it looked like soft porn.

    Jer, the problem is that there could be info that retailers need to accurately order (such as an upcoming character death) that would spoil a currently running story (where the team just went into battle, say).

  6. alwayslurking Says:

    Is there anything significant in the print Previews that doesn’t appear on the comixology pull-list site?


    I wasn’t getting enough value out of the full-cover-price catalogue to justify it and I haven’t had any problem so far with pre-ordering my physical titles based on the comixology version. Am I missing something?




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