DC Raises Online Prices, Offers Print/Digital Combo Packs
Just posted at the DCU blog was an announcement (excerpted below) about the upcoming Justice League #1:
On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will make publishing history again with their first-ever comic book combo pack. Each issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE, by New York Times bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, will be available in a convenient combo pack including a print edition and digital version of the comic book.
Those who want a physical copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE to read and collect, as well as the ability to download it onto their favorite device for easy transport, get ready. Each print edition of the comic book and an individual code for digital download will be wrapped in a poly bag and available for $4.99. Separately, the standard version will retail for $3.99 and the digital version will retail for $3.99.
Both digital and print editions of DC’s comics will have parity pricing for the first four weeks of release; thereafter, the digital titles drop in price down to our standard 1.99 digital price point. Oversized issues, including JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, will start at $3.99 and drop to $2.99 after four weeks.
My jumbled thoughts:
1. If I was a retailer, I’d be worried about damages if cheating customers slit open the polybags and stole the codes. (You know someone would.)
2. Combo pack makes me think Blu-ray/DVD joint releases (especially with the movie companies running the comic industry currently), which has become the default format there. Will the same thing happen here? How much longer will you be able to buy a non-digital-enhanced print comic?
3. I know there’s a lot of fogey-ing going around this week, but I was first reminded of Marvel’s biased “experiment” where they tried out upgraded covers at a higher price — but rigged the game by shipping the “standard” editions two weeks later. Is DC working towards a $4.99 standard price point?
4. Polybagging is back! Sigh. Let’s reintroduce a technology that, over the long term, eats its own contents. But no one’s thinking long-term any more, because survival is at risk in a shorter time period.
5. Warner movies that come with digital copies have one-year time limits on the download codes. How long will DC’s codes be usable, and what does that mean for back issues? Will we have different grades of near mint, based on whether the code has been used?
6. Finally, a change in digital comic pricing based on age of the material. Although it’s going in the opposite direction I hoped for. Instead of $3.99 (for an online comic you don’t even own!) for four weeks, then $2.99, I would have hoped that the digital debuted at $1.99 and then dropped to $0.99 as a “back issue”. But then retailers would be screaming even more than they are now.
7. So much for “holding the line at $2.99”, hunh? I wonder just how many of the new #1 launches will be “oversized” to justify a higher cover price.
8. If the goal is to attract new readers through greater (digital) availability, then sticker shock ($4 for THIS?) isn’t the way to go. Especially since, through your combo pricing, you’ve demonstrated that the “real” value of the digital book is a dollar.
Update: Clarifying two things. The first is that I want to emphasize point 8 above. You get new readers through easy, affordable samples. If someone tells me about a TV show they enjoy, if it’s on network, I find the next episode and check it out. If it’s only on a pay cable channel, I wait to see if more people talk it up, because I’m not going to pay $12 (or whatever my monthly fee is) to try it. Pricing digital comics at $3-4 EACH will not attract the new readers DC so desperately needs and is aiming for. Lots of people (anecdotally) were planning on sampling lots of comics at a lower price — they’re now turned off by this new initiative.
Point two. Graeme McMillan justifiably took me to task for the headline. I was assuming that the top price for an online DC comic to date had been $2.99, so if DC is now setting the top at $3.99, that’s an increase. Graeme thinks he remembers Justice League: Generation Lost being that same price digitally for the final issue, so if that’s the case, DC isn’t raising prices — just standardizing ones that are too high.
Recently, I’ve been trying out new comics I normally wouldn’t read via digitally. Why? There are two main reasons: the closest comic shop is three hours away, and the other reason is the price point being between .99 and 1.99.
The majority of comic shops are now located in major metropolitan areas. Those of us who don’t live within a reasonable driving range either have to order our comic online or buy them digitally.
When I heard about the recent news about DC relaunching the books, I thought this would be a good time to check out some books which I haven’t read in years due to all the back history and continuity weighing the characters down. But when I heard about the prices the digital versions would be, I can’t help but wonder why DC would take such a major step forward only to take two steps back with the pricing.
I realize comic shop retailers are a vital part of their business, but if comic publishers are going to grow their readership then they need new readers which digital comics can give them. I have no evidence to back this up but I can almost guarantee there have been more people trying or getting back into comics because they are available digitally compared to someone finding a comic book store, let alone venture into one. That isn’t meant as a knock against comic shops but as I mentioned earlier, comic shops are few and far between. And even then, few are on the level of, say, The Beguiling or The Golden Apple.
So I applaud DC Comics for taking the plunge into digital comics but they seriously need to reconsider this whole pricing thing or it will all be for nothing.