Why Isn’t Previews Online?

Graeme McMillan asks a good question: Why isn’t the entire Previews catalog online?

Well, actually, he does’t ask that. What he says is:

There’s something depressing about the amount of great material that not enough people are aware of, because they rely on the internet for solicit information, and it’s just not really out there for them to find easily. There’s so many comics that people just don’t know about. Short of just putting all of Previews online, what’s the solution?

I’m not sure why he rules out putting the ordering information online — although I can make some guesses. First, there’s copyright. If publishers provide the text for their sections, they likely maintain reprint rights to it, so putting the whole catalog online would mean getting everyone’s ok.

Then there’s profit. (That usually plays a role when the question is “why?”) Previews sells those catalogs, and plenty of retailers sell them to their customers at cover price. We can debate how silly it is to charge customers to sell them more product, but it’s an established factor in the comic market at this point. Even if it benefits the stores as much as the end buyers, who have a better idea of how much to order. (To build loyalty, many stores give the catalog to subscribers, which since it would otherwise have a cost, feels like a bonus.)

The big publishers don’t need to worry about it, since their upcoming issue solicitations are considered “news” stories at several comic sites. It’s the smaller publishers who would really benefit from having their descriptions available in a central location. Since the order form is online, everyone’s titles and prices are out there, but the contents and credits aren’t. If you see something you’re curious about, you can search, and smart publishers will have the same description posted as is in the catalog, complete with order code, but that’s a hassle most potential buyers don’t go through.

Since putting the full catalog online would only benefit those publishers with the least power, I don’t see it happening any time soon. They don’t have any pull with Diamond Distributors, and those who do don’t have an incentive to encourage people to buy comics by smaller competitors. Comments at Graeme’s post point out that some online stores, such as DCBS and comiXology, have more information available, but that doesn’t seem the most ideal choice.


  • OMG, I have been asking myself this question since I started getting into comics a couple of years ago. I used to buy Previews every month, but I stopped a few months ago. The reason I stopped buying it wasn’t so much the fact that it’s ridiculous to pay money for a catalog which is essentially just a collection of ads designed to make you spend more money (although, yes, it is ridiculous), but more the fact that I already have too much paper in my house and I couldn’t justify bring more in each month for information that should all be available online.

    Now I just use sites like Newsarama for the big publishers’ solicits, and I try to flip through a copy of Previews at the store to see if anything else grabs my attention from the back pages. But it would make so much more sense (to me, as a customer) to have it all available online.

  • Mike Kowalczyk

    Diamond has squandered their opportunities so many time over the years. By embracing a “status quo” position, they have allowed themselves to fall behind the consumers appetite at an exponential pace. Diamond should have been building a complete online catalog 15 years ago! There was demand for that long before the digital dawn. But they rested on their laurels. relaxing in a comfortable position far ahead of all their competition. Diamond needed to be far more forward-looking. Instead they continued distributing the print catalog, raising the price on it at a cost to retailers. Diamond makes it’s money off comics. Making the catalog FREE and accessable through the web and EVERY social media avenue possible would have built the customer base ten fold before the digital comics were being developed. This is a major failing by the biggest distributor. The artery that the direct market depends on. Diamond’s marketing of the product they provide is and has always been stagnant. Relying on exclusivity for profits and never reinvesting portions on said profit towards it’s own growth.

  • Joan

    Such a good question. I don’t buy Previews because if I’m spending money on that, I can’t spend it on actual comics, but that means I’m stuck working off the text-only list on previewsworld.com. That means that I only know about indie titles if the title jumps out at me (and if there’s then info out there when I search- update your publisher websites, people!), or if you or some other blogger I visit regularly points them out. It’s inefficient at best, and who knows what goodies I’ve missed?

    Which, in a very round-about way, means thanks very much for highlighting titles like Princeless! I’d never have known about it otherwise.

  • William George

    Looking at Progressive Ruin’s monthly “End Of Civilization” posts I’d say it’s smart of them to not have Previews available to the general public.

  • Mike Kowalczyk

    In a way I agree but don’t, William. Yes, Diamond carries a ridiculous amount of “pop culture” merchandise and mature readers material that are not suitable for young audiences to openly view on a website (if that’s what you’re referring to). Conversely, having knowledge of web design/programming, I know there are ways to “wall off” said material. To make it a voluntary action or submit your age before entering said sections. Diamond should have been investing in this years ago. Any number of video game and alcohol co.s already practice these in promotional sites. These are features Diamond could easily implement into a public site promoting their complete catalog for all. To ignore the growing tide of online/digital distribution was a massive misstep by Diamond. Now they are flailing, trying to play catch-up. I don’t believe Diamond is capable of a “come from behind” win in their current business model. A stronger, more transparent online presence would have helped them 5 or 10 years ago.

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