The Biggest Digital Challenge: Pricing

I didn’t mean for today to turn into “The World in Digital” in terms of posting, but most of the stories coming out of convention season that interested me related to that area, since it’s a brave new world for the industry.

And the biggest issue remains: how much will it all cost? Jim Campbell does a cost analysis of comic creation to argue that digital distributors are taking too big a cut, which requires publishers to sell more electronic copies to make a profit. Based on a reasonable 99-cent price, the difference between the traditional distribution model and the digital one is about 5,000 copies — that many more digital comics are needed to sell to make the same profit. As he says:

at least some online comic distributors have fashioned a business model that is even less favourable to publishers than the one Diamond uses, despite having lower overheads.

From a fan perspective, Eric Burns-White uses lots of words to point out that buying all of the 52 series costs $54 on Amazon, while on Comixology, it will run you $102. Because of the per-issue pricing, digital is almost twice as much as print when it comes to back issues. He has some complicated pricing suggestions to remedy this.

I found that link via Brigid Alverson’s piece on the subject, which makes a key distinction between current and catalog work:

Marvel, DC, and Archie comics have over 50 years’ worth of comics whose costs were paid off decades ago. The creators should continue to get royalties, of course, but aside from that, every cent a publisher makes on those comics is pure profit, which should offset the costs of the newer comics. And if you look at comments on digital comics, these are the comics people hate to pay more than 99 cents for.

Many people are still waiting for a comic Netflix, a flat-rate all-you-can-read subscription, but that seems like a far-off dream at this point. Unless copyright violation doesn’t bother you.

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