Robot 6

Invincible Iron Man: Will paper be cheaper than digital?

The comic in question

The comic in question

Tom Spurgeon:

With the digital revolution’s glacier period just about played out, I fully expect at least one of the companies (probably Marvel) to adopt a more-aggressive-than-some-hoped-for same-day publishing philosophy when it comes to on-line iterations of their comics, and I expect them to adopt it soon. And then I expect the rest of the companies to do something similar.

Dirk Deppey:

Take the million iPads reportedly sold to date, divide it by the number of actual long-term customers Marvel would likely have (as opposed to the curious bystanders who downloaded a few introductory freebies or sampled a 99¢ comic or two out of sheer novelty), and I don’t think the remaining customer base is nearly large enough to justify the sheer rage that such a move would engender among retailers.

Marvel’s announcement today that it will release Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 simultaneously in print and on the iPad provides a glimpse at the possibilities of digital marketing for comics, but the crystal ball remains cloudy.

Marvel chose to leave one key detail out of their press release: The print edition will retail for $4.99 (for 80 pages), while Marvel has not given a price for the digital version. They have said that it will be split into three “issues,” so if they charge the standard $1.99 for each, the iPad version could be more expensive than print, which would certainly turn the standard model upside down.

My question about this to Marvel elicited a friendly but firm “No comment.”

Commenters at The Beat are pushing back heavily on a higher price for the digital book, but that would actually make sense, in a way. No, hear me out!

If Marvel goes this route, the hard-core comics fans will get pissed off and buy it on paper in their comics shop just to spite Marvel. Maybe they will even buy two copies, to drive the knife in a little deeper!

However, the vast majority of iPad users don’t know where their LCS is and may not even live near one. Buying this comic on paper is not an option for them, so they may not even know the difference. All they know is that there is this interesting thing that they were only vaguely aware of before, that looks sort of cool, and that they can sample for two bucks.

It’s not like Amazon selling a paperback for less than the price of the Kindle edition. It’s two totally different audiences.

That sort of segmentation is important because people will be watching Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 closely to see whether it brings new readers into the comics fold or merely cannibalizes the existing audience. In a way, it’s a good choice for Marvel, as the Iron Man movies have already introduced the general public to the character and the franchise. If it becomes a featured app in the iTunes store, it will be seen by many more people than if it is placed in the window of a comics store. And it will benefit from the instant gratification aspect of the iPad—does this look interesting? Here it is! Your credit card is already in the system, so you can have it in seconds. No driving to an out-of-the-way part of town, no pre-ordering, just one painless click and it’s yours.

As it happens, there has been a lot of discussion around this particular point lately. Here is retailer Brian Hibbs, less than a month ago, worrying that same-day digital releases could harm the Direct Market—and by extension, the industry as a whole:

I think there needs to be at least a six month gap between print and digital release for the overwhelming majority of releases. Even a small amount of cannibalization between the channels could have catastrophic impact on small stores – I don’t think the majority of the DM could absorb even a 10% permanent loss of traffic from migration. If stores begin to fold, that is more likely to lead to a lowering of regular and dependable readership than any gains in new Digital customers would offset.

Hibbs’s argument for making only older comics available on digital rests on the assumption that digital media will be the new newsstand, where people discover comics for the first time, and then they will be steered to their local comics shops, where they will buy the comics in print, as they should.

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A few days later, Augie De Blieck, Jr., made just the opposite case. He fears that the publishers are treating the retailers as partners and are limiting their audience as a result.

The audience at the local comics shop isn’t growing. It’s an increasingly smaller portion of the possible readership for comics. But, for some reason, publishers are afraid to reach out to the rest. The publishers hem and haw and make excuses and skirt around the issues, but none of them truly do anything revolutionary, remarkable or productive.

They’re leaving a huge bag of money at the side of the road, so as not to tick off their extant readership/business partners.

And he points out why:

Is there any better sign that the Direct Market is well and truly $%^#ed than that you, as a reader, need to buy a $5.00 300 page catalog and order everything you want to read a couple of months in advance, sight unseen? Isn’t it even crazier that your local comics shop is just as likely to sell out of the best-selling comic as it is the lowest-selling comic? You can forget about the “long tail” effect of collected editions when you don’t even have the product to sell to the people who want it today.

It’s hard to imagine iPad users adjusting to that type of business model. On the other hand, a user-friendly store (conveniently located, large stock, welcoming attitude) could benefit. Remember that sales of Girl Genius trades went up after the creators stopped making pamphlet comics and switched to a free webcomic, and that when BOOM! Studios released the first issue of North Wind simultaneously online (for free) and in print, it boosted sales rather than hurting them.

Tom Spurgeon answered Hibbs’s column by noting that he is the ideal comic book customer, except for one thing: He lives far, far away from any comics shop. And that’s a compelling question: If customers like Spurgeon are more numerous than the Wednesday crowd, then yes, the comics publishes are leaving a big pile of money on the table—and they are most likely leaving it to bootleggers who make the comics available for free.

But here’s another one: Could the industry survive, and even thrive, by serving a larger number of less dedicated consumers, perhaps people who don’t buy every issue but just the ones that interest them?

Ideally, of course, they will sell to both the hard-cores and the more casual readers, but that depends on digital and the direct market finding a way to coexist.



-Aside: Those Ipads are supposidly going to be pretty good for getting directions to the LCSs?
Sure, some folks are geographically isolated, but if they are they’re accustomed to it, and already make plans and shopping lists for the next trip to town; to which they can now add a stop at their newly discovered LCS.
And to me, that makes a trip to town even more interesting, and since these trips are probably less frequent them my weekly splurge, these new readers are [perhaps] more likely to pick up bigger stacks of stuff?

Still, I don’t see a healthy future for the B&M model.

Brigid Alverson

June 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Actually, ComiXology includes that feature in their app, and if the store that pops up is The Beguiling or Comicopia, then WIN! But for those who aren’t already immersed in the culture, many LCS are intimidating and downright unfriendly—not just the personnel but even the decor. That’s what’s ultimately going to limit them.

I agree about the future of B&M shops, JRC.

I’ve already said it once today, but Matt Fraction has murdered print. Thanks, guy.

Thank you for pointing out that we don’t know the prize yet. I’ve seen several professional comic news blogs declare as matter-of-fact that this will cost more than the paper version. For all I know, they might be right, but the point is we simply don’t know yet, and I think it is for a reason.

They said that this will be delivered digitally in three parts. They have also said that this will be test. I think it makes sense that they will release the first part for Free, and the second and third part at their standard price. This would not only test how many people would be willing to download on same day, but just how much a free preview affects sales, and just how many people are there for the free stuff. (In theory they could also try with different price points, but considering how all the digital comics they sell are the same price, why would they start now, right?)

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Then again, I don’t own a corporation that is worth millions of dollars, so what the hell do I know?

If Marvel goes this route, the hard-core comics fans will get pissed off and buy it on paper in their comics shop just to spite Marvel.

Or wait for the collected edition with a better value, or lose interest in the time between and not buy it at all.

Steven R. Stahl

June 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Could the industry survive, and even thrive, by serving a larger number of less dedicated consumers, perhaps people who don’t buy every issue but just the ones that interest them?

Perhaps the comics industry could, if comics were sold like books, with the content of one providing a satisfactory reading experience and the customer knowing what he was buying beforehand. Marvel and DC can’t do that. One issue of a five-issue arc isn’t particularly satisfying, and if the casual reader is dissatisfied, he might avoid the character, the writer, the artist(s), or all of them. The committed fan hopes the next issue will be better. One-shot stories about serial characters are rarely successful.


Sean T. Collins

June 4, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Brother: It’s not like Fraction ordered Marvel to do this.

My theory is that comics are too expensive and too hard to find for the audience to grow beyond what it is now. Comics characters are in the public eye a lot for the past 10 years. The writers in many cases are the same writers the public is familiar with from television and movies. But if comics are $4 a pop you can’t sell them to kids anymore. And at that price, it has to be mint, so newstands are out of the question. With digital comics, there is an opportunity to find a new audience. But my opinion is $2 for a digital comic is just too much for most people to want to try it. I think .99 for digital is the right answer. For print, I think 300-500 pages for $5 on the newstand is the right answer for getting non-traditional collectors involved. Read about my plan at my Comic Book Manifesto web site.

“…the vast majority of iPad users don’t know where their LCS is and may not even live near one.”

If anyone has a way to scientifically confirm or deny this notion, I’m willing to bet a large sum of money that it’s completely untrue. (Nothing personal, Brigid.)

Brigid Alverson

June 5, 2010 at 6:48 am

I have seen this frequently mentioned in discussions of the direct market—the density of comics stores is pretty low, especially outside of major urban areas. I’ll look for a citation. Of course, I’m assuming that iPad users are evenly distributed—they may be concentrated in big cities as well.

However, aside from the geographic question, awareness is an issue. I don’t think people outside comics fandom realize that comics stores exist, or even that they are still making superhero comics nowadays. I live in the Boston area, which is blessed with several excellent comics shops, and I get surprised reactions all the time.

I agree with Brigid that a lot of people don’t even know comics are still published. When I first started at my current job and would come back with my Wednesday haul after lunch, people would ask me things like, “They still make those?” or “You mean Spider-Man is still being written?”

Also, I grew up in a small town with the nearest comic shop being at least a two hour drive. My only source of comics was the local grocery store, so my options were fairly limited (admittedly, as a kid with little income, my choices would’ve been limited anyway). Now I don’t think that grocery store even carries comics, so there’s absolutely no source available. So, yeah, there is a readership out there with limited/no access to comic shops that would be well-served by digital.

Besides. let’s look to Reed Richards for guidance: don’t be afraid of the future. Yeah, some bad things (like LCS closings) may happen, but we can’t let fear get in the way of progress. Digital comics make the most sense in the long run, so let’s embrace it and find the best way to do it.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m fully behind this wholeheartedly.

I’m just guessing that the typical iPad owner is not a middle aged rancher in rural Wyoming. I certainly don’t want to stereotype; there may well be a few such folk with an iPad, but I’m going to imagine that most people with an iPad are relatively young, urban and, in many cases, geeky. Again, I’m guessing, but I feel safe suggesting that there’s probably a comic store relatively close to most people with an iPad.

And if they don’t know where that comic store is, perhaps they don’t care, given that they could find it pretty easily… since they, y’know… have an iPad. There’s probably an app for that, after all. :-)

Oh, and entirely parenthetically, but…

(Regarding Reed Professor Pangloss Richards… people do recall that Reed lives in a comic book universe where growing old, and death, are optional and reversible, the good guys always win in the end, and there’s always a supertechnological and/or magic fix for any problem. Right?

Honestly, that speech was probably the dumbest that Mr. Fantastic has been made to sound since his incredible logic-bending argument for saving the life of Galactus.)

Check Bleeding Cool. It’s not more expensive in the UK…

The attached site here is basically a big previews guide for free. I can browse all pre-order stuff just like I would in the magazine. They ship all comics and trades for free as well as free bags and boards. I don’t know of any online retailer that does that.

iPad users are NOT going to set foot into a comicshop. PERIOD.
Those places are dank, unfriendly dungeons adorned with softporn on the walls and dragon statues. It’s a freak’s paradise no regular Joe or Jane is going to enter, much less patronize.

Me: longtime fan reading comics in print AND on my iPad, which I love.

Print comics determined their destiny when they became a fetish item available only in speciality stores. Imagine if they were on display where real people spend money casually on non-essentials: 7-11, Wal-Mart, grocery stores, coffee shops, fast-food joints. Imagine a 12-year-old turning to his Mom in Quick-Trip this summer and saying, “Woah, an Iron Man Annual? Can I get that, please?” Never going to happen, because that book is only across town in something called a “comicbook store.”

As someone who collected comics his whole life, I don’t see how digital will be fully accepted. Unlike q book, people collect comics and like to pass them down from generation to generation. You take that quality away by making a digital version. More so, what about the collector value? Many people buy comics because of their value. A digital copy cannot hold value in the same way. They can be copied or I’ll be, so who cares if you have a spider-man issue one or x-men issue one if it’s digital? So I really don’t see this digtal revolution having such a large future impression. I understand the want qnd need for paperless but we all know that it isn’t possible everywhere-here being one of the many places.

whatever the pricing structure, if it’s available in 3 parts that first part (13-14 pages) had better be well constructed to hook the new readers. I wonder if Fraction knew about this in advance. Take any standard marvel or DC product, chop it in half and see if it’s a staisfactory read.

I don’t mind the aggressive pricing stance (Marvel’s standard tactic for a while now) but you really need to bulletproof this kind thing creatively.

I don’t like it and, I’ve said it before, the day comics are no longer available in print is the day I drop this lifelong hobby of mine. I spend enough hours looking at a screen as it is.

I’m not sure if anybody’s mentioned it, but I am wondering if this will affect the way comics are written. Surely the popularity of TPBs has done that. Back in the 70s & 80s, ongoing storylines continued as long as the powers that be saw fit, and I liked that. Plot threads were tied up whenever and new ones were introduced at any time. Now the books are written in such a way as to fit into a TPB, and the monthly read has lost a good deal of its charm as a result.

Now I’m looking at how this Iron Man annual is going to be broken into 3 parts for the iPad market. If it catches on, how wil it affect page count and story structure?

“One-shot stories about serial characters are rarely successful.”

This was most certainly wrong in earlier decades with far more distribution points to sell comics.

Digital can attract the casual buyer with one shots because that’s what the market was before and that’s what digital can allow.

” Back in the 70s & 80s, ongoing storylines continued as long as the powers that be saw fit, and I liked that.”

And part of that was that the newsstand distribution network was still in existence, which was biased towards casual buyers. With more caudal buyers as part of the market you had an incentive to write more done in ones and shorter multiparters.

I think a lot of folks don’t realize how distribution methods affect the content of the product.

Schnitzy Pretzelpants

June 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

[i]”…the vast majority of iPad users don’t know where their LCS is and may not even live near one.”

If anyone has a way to scientifically confirm or deny this notion, I’m willing to bet a large sum of money that it’s completely untrue. (Nothing personal, Brigid.)[/i]

Well, how can any generalization like this be true? Some will, and some won’t, and many will be comic fans/readers already.

For an ipad owner whose curious they’ll be able to find one, believe me – unless the ipad is sorely lacking in apps the damn thing will be able to actually help them find it.

The iphone/i-touch has an app that actually let’s you scan an item in one store and price compare with other stores in a designated area, so if the ipad doesn’t have the ability to tell you where you can find a book or comic book store, it most likely soon will.

I think that downloading comics and reading them on ipads or kindles will be a boon for comics in three ways – two of which may hurt retailers:

1) Casual and curious readers, people reading them out of nostalgia, etc – less likely to go into a comic shop

2) Comic book readers who have reached a point where they are tired of the bagging, the boarding, the hoarding. This was me about 5 years ago – sold almost all my long boxes, and what I own (past, sentimental) and new can now fit (just) into one short box. If I had a house, it would be a different matter, but space is at a premium for me, and I cannot justify renting a locker somewhere for an already expensive hobby.

3) I think that digital may mean that more of us by what are crap comics – at 1.99, I may buy some stuff just to keep in the loop on what a given character is up to, and be more forgiving of a story’s flaws.

I think it entirely conceivable that I would buy some digital comics monthly, but then the trade.

For the record, I am an proof of the argument that suggests that people will be buying the print edition of the comic just to spite Marvel’s digital initiative.

I am not even going to contemplate supporting a digital initiative until it is expanded beyond these poor mobile devices from Apple.

Late last year, after months of bad service, I decided to close my standing order at my local comic shop (an easy 15 minute walk away from my house) and opened a new account with a store located an hours drive away. Better service, better prices, more open lines of communication. Can be guaranteed (most weeks) of a brand new bundle of comics delivered to my doorstep every Friday morning.

Those comic shops who operate a bad to mediocre standard of business will be hurt by the advent of digital comics. The comic shops who pride themselves on operating at a high standard, the ones who actually look after their customers, both new and familiar will continue to thrive, as the interest generated by the online sales will have readers looking for collective trades and back issues.

Interesting question: as someone who’s spent thousands of dollars on ebooks over the years, I do have to say that if the price of e-Comics is higher than paper they’re going to fail. People just won’t buy them.

Also, given that Marvel does not apparently pay the creators for digital, there’s another strike against paying even cover price, let alone more than cover.

Charge less than cover and you might have me, charge more and you’ll just drive people to the pirates.

I say this with no joy, but the writing is on the wall: LCS are going the way of record & video stores. In a world where even Blockbuster can’t save themselves from media going digital, how can anyone expect comic book stores to stand a chance? I read these arguments as to why print is better, why stores are great and, hey, stores are great but they don’t sound any different from the music fans defending CDs. And we all know how that worked out.

There’s no question I will be supporting my LCS while it’s there. I just don’t think it’s going to be that’s going to be a long time.

Many people buy comics because of their value………

no comic today is worth the paper its printed on. the only reason comics go up in value is scarcity. Even a 4000 printed copy book isn’t scarce. there’s 4000 of them out there and most if not all are in backing board and comic bag. The same goes for the inflated alternate covers. anyone who is spending more than cover price for them is not getting a higher collectible. he/she is getting the same book with another cover. nothing in the last 20 years of comics being published is scarce. an Action #1 is scarce, because its like maybe 12 in really good shape are known to exist. I’m of both sides of digital comics and real ones, its nice to hold and read a real comic but 4.00 for a real comic is just too expensive. when I first started reading comics they were a quarter. you could get 4 for a buck. now a days you need four bucks to get a book. nothing and I mean nothing has gone up as much as comic books with inflation. and each time prices go up the amount of people buying them dwindles all the more, because the new price goes past the point they think its worth buying them. I have loved comics my entire life, if it goes to digital, I will feel badly for the comic shop owners, but a-lot of them also chased away clienttel in the 90s by selling multiple copies of supposedly hot books to new buyers, much like Superman 75 and the XMEN 1 multiple cover copies. neither of those books are worth even 5.00. Comic Shops to a point are their worst enemies. I have been in maybe 5 comic book shops in the New York City, Long Island area(we still have a lot of shops in a 30 mile radius I know of at least 20 ) that didn’t sell the alternate covered comics for higher than cover price.

Nice article, Brigid. As somebody who owns a comic shop, I hope they aren’t going away – and I’m frustrated by the oft-repeated stereotypes that they’re all dark, dank dungeons. I think the world is a better place with comic shops than without them.

What I encourage everybody to do is to buy their comics in the way they’d like to continue to be able to buy them. If you live a thousand miles from a good comic shop, digital should help you get more comics you enjoy. If you have a great comic shop near you, and you like spending money there, it’d be great for you to continue to do so.

I think comic shops can survive a lot longer than record/DVD/etc. shops because of the nature of comic book collecting and the social nature of the fans. But I suppose that is the big question we’ll be asking over the next several years as digital develops. If the print product is still done with care, and still is the most enjoyable way to read a comic book (which I think it is), then perhaps more digital availability will serve to make more readers aware of comic shops and the wares within.

I buy digital if it’s cheaper, not if it’s more expensive.

> However, the vast majority of iPad users don’t know where their LCS is and may not even live near one.
> Buying this comic on paper is not an option for them, so they may not even know the difference.
> All they know is that there is this interesting thing that they were only vaguely aware of before, that looks
> sort of cool, and that they can sample for two bucks.

This article makes one huge unsupported assumption: that those iPad users who are not comic book fans will even know about Invincible Iron Man Annual #1. Even if the Marvel Comics app is featured in the app store on that day, the spotlight is purely on the app, not the issue. Once in the store, even if the issue is featured, the casual reader will not have much to distinguish it from any other Iron Man comic on tap. Certainly, the novelty of it being released on the same day as the print edition will be lost on them.

This experiment will only be useful in ascertaining how much of Marvel’s existing customer base is interested in digital product. Whether the folks at Marvel behind this move are aware of that or not is a different story.

I think eventually comics will go digital but I think that’s years away and I think trades will not only be around but will increase in sales because of it. Why? Because even though many fans don’t live near comic shops getting hold of trades is far easier. If the iPad makes it eaasy for more pople to read/sample books it makes sense that the people who are into owning actual books will increase with a bigger audience.

But right now the iPad isn’t going to suddenly make big sweeping changes to anything. Yeah, the iPad is a hit and many people have bought one but that doessn’t mean most comic fans have. I’m always reading about fans claiming to cut back on comics because of prices. It sounds like for many fans the investment in a iPad isn’t going to be happening soon. So until they come to own one the comicshops are their only way to get comics and will be for awhile.

Also, the price point at the moment doesn’t work for me. I have access to a comicbook shop. I simply don’t believe Marvel is going to offer their new books at a cheaper price than they’re offering their back issue/old stuff for now. If I’m given thje choice between only saving a buck or so for a digital version or paying that buck or so more for an actual comicbook that I really like and uually buy, I’d just as soon pay the extra and buy the comic.

Lastly, while I like the idea of a device that allows me to digitally read comics, books and magazines without having to track them down or go to a store to get them, I don’t want that device bad enough yet to pay the asking price of an iPad. Sure, the iPad can do all these wonderful things but so can my computer and I already have a computer. If I want a mobile computer I’d rather pay a bit more and get a laptop. If they come out with an iPad that just lets me read comics, books, magazines and such without all the bells and whistles for about 100 to 200 bucks I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Right now the price point isn’t attractive to me for it to do what I want.

If you think it’s bad paying $4US for a comic, here in Australia, depending on where you shop, you can pay anywhere between 1.5 times to 2.5 times the US price.

Hopefully many of the comic shops here will wake-up to themselves and start making some changes to their poor business practices before the digital comic market becomes a firm reality.

All pricing digital comics like this will is drive more people to scans. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of iPad apps that can read those formats.

“nothing in the last 20 years of comics being published is scarce.”

Thats simply not true, Ultimate Spiderman #1, really the entire first arc, is quite rare because people didn’t catch on right away. I would image the same would be true for the first few issues of Y – The Last Man, Fables, Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, 1st editions of the First Marvel Zombies series, etc.

As an ex collector who has been trying to get back in to reading comics, I fully welcome a real digital distribution model. While I hate to see anyone lose their business or job, you can’t stop progress. If the publishers don’t get an actual working system together the pirates and scanners will. The music industry has shown that you can’t dictate the future, you have to adapt to it. Do you remember when major record labels refused online distribution? Now iTunes is the number one music seller out there. Do I miss the mom and pop music stores? Yes, I do, but I wouldn’t trade the convenience and options available today just to get them back. Comics will always have the collectors and purists who need the feel of that paper in there hands, but I feel that getting to those that would just like to read quality stories and see great art work, without all that is attached to collecting, is very important to the future of the industry. There are ways of inviting the future business models without alienating your core customer base, I just hope that they figure that out before it’s too late.

I agree if they do not start selling online comics at a sensible price (99 cents I suspect is that mark) they will just have to deal with a piracy market and then have to spend more money to fend it off. Maybe 2 bucks will work but I still like the price point of trades better value wise.


The thing to keep in mind it isn’t digital OR paper. It can be both. Even if paper comics stop being profitable to manufacture, you can always license TPBs to a Print on Demand service. The service gets its money, the comic company gets its money and the fans get their physical paper books. This is how most webcomics do it, and it works. Yes, the books are more expensive, but people who want a physical copy will pay it.

That said, I’ll be surprised if physical comic books disappear in my lifetime (I’m only 26).


Digital comics won’t be accepted by comicbook collectors. They can and will be accepted by some comicbook readers.


Digital comics could be the best thing for the old style of comicbook stories. If you want to break the TPB mindframe, selling them in a digital format certainly achieves that.

@Alex Dragon

I think a big draw could be the foreign market. Its too early for that market to have grown much, but here in Australia we do actually have comic books at the “local grocer” as you Americans say (in actuality they’re at a news agency, but that’s always been the case since the early 90s).

The downside to getting them at a news agency is they’re 3 months behind. You can also get them at a comicbook store, and Sydney has 6 stores in the city and its surrounding suburbs. That said, if they stick to the current pricing and we get $2 for a $4 comic, then Australians will be paying a third of the price of a physical copy when they get a digital one.

At the moment in Australia we pay $5.50 for a “$3″ comic and $7.50 for a “$4″ comic. Whereas digital comics are currently priced at $2.50. As long as Australians get to save HALF the price of a physical comic when they buy digital, digital will make fiscal sense.

3rd partys in Australia are certainly encouraging. Green Hornet by Dynamite is only 2 issues behind with comixology and its a $1.20 versus $6 – $7.50 for the physical copy. Irredeemable is only a month behind and you save $4.50 per issue. Invincible is about 8 issues behind but its still half price.

All this will be giving 3rd partys who use digital correctly a great big boost over what they would normally have in foreign markets as they seem content to price their comics realistically.

One same day as print, digitally distributed comic is not going to give marvel nearly enough data to know if this is god or bad, but if successful it will force them to test the waters a bit more.

John Lynch…I can certainly see how going digital can be a great thing for you and people in other countries and even people in the US who don’t have access to a comic shop. However I think for the thousands of fans who usually go to their local comic shops I don’t think the current business model will change their habits. Like I said, besides the cost of the iPad…if going digital only means saving me about a buck per comic I’d just as well buy the actual comic. If I didn’t have access to a shop my thinking would be different. I have to think there are lots of people who buy from a comic shop that share my feelings. However, drop those prices down to about 99 cents and going digital becomes much more attractive.

I’d say te best plan would be to drop the prices to about a dollar per comic but don’t release it digitally until 2 weeks to a month later. Let the people who have to have their books the day they come out buy the print books and the more casual readers and fans who want to try a new title can purchase the digital version when it becomes available.

I just ran my thoughts on my own site if you want to read them after I say this but everyone is just not getting the bigger picture.

This isn’t about the current readers and collectors. This is about growing the market. First of all we’re preaching to the choir that is already collecting comics. They already collect print and want print. Some, like myself, have had to stop collecting all together but still have the digital optional available. I end up reading more, buying more, and trying out more comics digitally then I do with print.

The people living in areas without a comic shop can now buy them. I’ve already had multiple people tell me this.

The people living in other countries can now buy them cheaper. Who may or may not even want the physical copy.

It’s cloud computing. Even if the technology changes and evolves you will still have your comics.

It’s not going to be just print or just digital. Both will be around. One will just cost more.

If you’re still in the mentality of twenty years ago or even five you’re just not getting it. Media has changed. You need to deal with that fact. For good or bad, whether you or I like it or not, this is where it’s going. Nobody is forsaking print here. It’s evolving. Distribution is evolving for the better. More people are reading comics now because of the digital comics.

I’ve had people read my own comic that have never touched a comic a day in their life. From teenagers to the forty something housewife and they love the fact they can get it in both print and digital. AND NOW that they have the apps they’ll be able to read more.

People have seen the Iron Man movies, that DON’T read comics, and love them. Yet are they going to stores? No. But I post that this is happening and guess what? They’re going to try it out. If the first part is free then it’s a sure fire bet on new blood in the industry.

So how is this bad? This goes way beyond DOOMSDAY! or THE DEATH OF COMIC SHOPS! This goes way beyond your personal reading preferences or comics in general. This is about media, distribution, and the survival of companies from the larger ones like Marvel and DC to the independent creator like myself.

And good or bad, like I said, I’ve posted my comments on my own site. I just felt like I wanted to add my thoughts here. I think many people are getting it. Others just aren’t.

But we’re all going to be just fine including the LCS.

In reference to the price point. $1.99 is my eyes is perfect.

You have to realize that there are creators and everything else creating the comics. They need to get paid. 99 cents does work.

So every time somebody bootlegs or scans their favorite comics…just know that your favorite creators behind it now can’t pay their bills because you took away part of their income. On all levels.

But you say you don’t have the money to buy these expensive comics? Digital is half the cost of print or less. It doesn’t give anyone the right to bootleg. If it’s done then THAT will what ultimately kill comics and the LCS.

The right thing to do is to save your money and buy them or just not read them. Nobody is forcing you. Times are tough yes but ask yourself this…if your boss asked you to work for free would you? No. Then don’t expect the comic creators to do so. It doesn’t take five minutes to create comics.

I tend to agree with the idea that there is a huge potential market out there that doesn’t have easy access to a comic book store and won’t bother looking for one either. What I’m not sure about is the best way to get it while still keeping (and helping, if possible) the print fanbase: low price, high price, low and then high or viceversa. What I’m sure about is that the current price of print comics is killing us all. I’d love it if digital comics could help lower the price of print comics. Oh well, I can dream, can’t I?

This move is not about the market that is here right now, well, not entirely. The cost of producing and marketing a digital copy is pretty much incidental when you’re already prepping the files for a print version.

This move, however, is very much so about the market that will exist in five years or less when tablet computers are as prevalent as smartphones or even cellphones. When a device with iPad-like functionality costs a hundred bucks or less.

I doubt that it will lower the prices Kolymar. I think, at this point, it’s a done deal and if you print via print on demand it’s even worse (with the customer service be it creator or buyer very much less than stellar).

I’ve been a collector for a good 15 years now. I’ve been creating for almost as long with my own comic within the last few years. The landscape is not what it was at all.

I use everyone loosely and know it’s not everyone but many people are just thinking of how things used to be. Or we have that thinking beyond holding a physical copy. We want to collect it. We want to get it signed and package it up and put it away for none to ever read again so it stays mint. And I think there’s very much a place for it all to coexist.

I look at this topic from all sides. As a reader, a buyer, a collector, and a creator. As a reader it’s the same story. As a buyer I’m getting a better price AND MORE IMPORTANTLY from a creator’s standpoint I’m giving them (or getting) more profit. As a collector…well there’s no real physical copy and no I can’t get the signature. But personally there are very few signatures I have or try to get while at a convention or signing. If I do have them it’s because I bought the physical copy anyway because i wanted it for whatever reason.

As a creator. Let me tell you that working on digital comics, with the people I’ve talked to met and worked with, has been some of the best experiences of the entire thing. I could get into process, and have in many of my columns, but it may bore some people. Picture it as, after making the comic, one step instead of 5 to ten barring problems with particular POD companies that just don’t give a damn. This is one of the best exciting times as a creator.

I charge $1.99 for my comics. But I do know people that charge 99 cents. And yet there are thousands, literally thousands, of downloads of their comic each month. They’re indie guys too and it’s quality work. Not just the random book. How is scanning, saving, etc. etc. each file and posting them or downloading them much better than paying 99 cents for a comic book? These are books that people love to read. They like the creators. They support the creators with their fantastic book and yet 99 cents is too much? They don’t even get half of that money by the way however it’s far more than they get for the printed page when you start comparing long term numbers.

Take those thousand plus and the creator you know and love, the one that’s struggling to make ends meet, could very much live off what they love to do.

The prices will be all over the place. This is all still in its infancy and there will be experimentation just like their is with the app pricing. Some people charge a dollar for apps and others charge $100. It’s going to happen.

As a creator, and digital reader, I’ve only ever seen positive from the experience. Except for the bootlegging. It’s gained people more readers. It’s gained me more readers, most of which as I’ve said have never read comics in their life. It’s let’s people all over the world read the comics, and in the bigger picture allows the companies to make more profit.

More profit I might add so that they can print more books in these trying times.

We don’t even need same day delivery. Because now you can in theory sell and buy anything on any given day of the week, not just Wednesday including discounts (or Freebies). We do however need some rhyme or reason to a delivery schedule. I do know that there is a master list that is awaiting approval at various places but my one gripe is that we’ll get comics based on what current stories are. And yet digital readers aren’t’ buying those because they’re not in shops. Two fantastic series, The Walking Dead and Invincible, are about six months behind but the run is on there including trades. I’d be fine with that and I can only guess it will progress that way.

We’re talking in addition to and not in replace of. As a person that worked at a newspaper and a book company, I doubt that companies will forsake printing any time soon. Some would rather go out of business.

There will be a shift. More digital offered. Maybe the same amount of titles from the larger companies yet smaller print runs. Factor in trades. Factor in conventions. Print is not going away folks.

Just the conventions alone, and all therein would be too big of a factor for companies not to print their comics.

In addition to and shipping on the same day (it’s done now anyway…just with older comics and honestly they’re not that old). Not in replace of.

What nobody seems to have mentioned is that there is already a same day distribution model for digital Marvel comics. Whatever impact same day downloads would have on the paper market, that process has already begun and will continue, and the question for Marvel is whether they are going to make any money out of it, or not.

It’s not a simple case of digital vs paper. It’s digital vs paper vs torrents, and I’m sure that this test is as much about looking at the impact on illegal downloads as it is about the impact on paper sales.

The thing I was trying to point out most in my posts is that the people worrying about digital comics making the print comics go away or the comic shops don’t need to worry about that for quite awhile in my estimation. I just don’t see digital comics having that big an effect. I think the digital will supplement the print just as trades have. Trades are much wider available to fans and yet didn’t affect the monthlies to the point of them going away. Digital has the abilty to bring in new readers but I don’t see much of the old guard jumping on the bandwagon anytime soon.

I also don’t know if 2 dollars is the right price point. Maybe people won’t mind paying that much. I think it’s too much. I think they could get by with 99cents. By going digital you’re elminating the cost of paper, ink, distribution, the comic shops cut, dealing with damages, storage, etc… All those things add up to tack on to the price. With them and the string of middlemen eliminated the prices should drop considerably. Also, keep in mind that the $4 price we’re paying for Marvel and DC comics is basically the price they decided they could get away with charging this time around moreso than an increase due to the cost of producing the books.

Anthony Schiavino

June 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Price point depends on the royalties split between company, creator, and Apple. Creator, at least in terms of the indies, get the majority of it. Factor in multiple creators or creative team and you have to split even more.

I couldn’t tell you why some, such as the ones from the 60s (they should be 99 cents or lower), are two but others like Criminal and Powers are well worth that in my opinion. It’s very high quality on a creator owned book with, in theory, the creators getting most of the cut. I couldn’t justify paying a low price for what I feel is low balling it.

All things you have to bring to the table discussion. It’s not just print verse digital in terms of what you’re viewing it on. The real discussion goes far deeper. Just because it’s not on paper doesn’t mean it allows for dirt cheap prices.

Anthony Schiavino

June 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Alex…you bring up some great points about trades.

Creators just end up with more pure profit at the end digitally then they would in print. Take out all the middle man things and it goes right to the creator. Well worth the price.

Comics are just too damn expensive. I can’t believe publishers are asking 4 bucks for a comic. It is hard to be a casual comics fan, with all of the crossover shit geared towards those who seem to dedicate their entire lives to comics and you guys in the business (who probably don’t pay for your comics anyway). The comic audience is getting smaller and smaller, but those who are left are hard core, so I think it makes it less obvious what the real trend is. Please leave some room for those of us who want to remain comic book buyers, but have comics as something other than an overwhelming passion. Cheaper digital comics could provide a way for that to happen, but the concern over how it will affect the shrinking fanboy base and the direct market (i.e. death market) will probably F*** it all up.

The Real McCoy

June 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I think digital comics are the way of the future. The same thing happened when MP3 came around. All the music companies did their best to stop people ripping CD’s and failed miserably to keep up with technology. I think digital and print can both co-exist. Hardcore fans will usually want the hard copy version that they can feel in their hands and have on a shelf or put in a box. The casual reader or not so fussed collector (and maybe the fans running out of storage) will enjoy the digital version. But realistically each comic should be about $1 or why bother??? I don’t think the digital versions need to be overly complicated, the IPAD is about the same size as a comic book. It can’t cost that much to convert into format considering pirates are doing it for free right now and marvel already have digital version of the comics for print production.

This is a case of adapt and survive!

Apple wasn’t the first to develop an IPOD type music player but it was the first to embrace the digital age and look where it got them.

[b]”Comics are just too damn expensive. I can’t believe publishers are asking 4 bucks for a comic.”[/b]

So where is your cut off point? If you have the option to go with the print version for 4 bucks or the digital version at 3 bucks, which do yu choose? The digital at $2 or the print version at $4, which do you go with? At what price are you willing to switch over to digital over print?

Anthony Schiavino: “Price point depends on the royalties split between company, creator, and Apple. Creator, at least in terms of the indies, get the majority of it. Factor in multiple creators or creative team and you have to split even more.

All things you have to bring to the table discussion. It’s not just print verse digital in terms of what you’re viewing it on. The real discussion goes far deeper. Just because it’s not on paper doesn’t mean it allows for dirt cheap prices.”

Nothing should really change as far as royalities and company splits by going digital. All that stuff exists with print already and with digital you’re taking away most of the production costs, paper, inks, distribution and comic shop percentage. The only element in place with digital that wasn’t there in print is whatever Apple’s fee is. How can the prices not go down significantly? If you publish you webcomics in print there’s a big difference in your cost as apposed to doing it on the web and charging. Your profit margin would move dramatically and you’d start to make a profit after selling far fewer books even if you cut the price more than half. The cost of 2000 books printed and going through Diamond at 3.99 a pop vs going digital and selling that same 2000 units at 1.50 per download. Which plan has you walking away with more profit?

Alex: I wasn’t arguing with you. In the long run you just get, as far as I can tell and I haven’t sat down to figure out the exact numbers, it does mean more profit digitally. I could be wrong but yeah you’re cutting out all of that.

Printed comics are $4 and up. Digital is $1.99 and less. Half or more than half.

How did they not go down significantly? I STOPPED COLLECTING due to the high prices because I can’t afford this. But I’m not also crazed in the fact i have to buy every title. I buy things here and there and it’s only because of digital I can get a comic every now and then.

People, and I don’t mean you, seem to either want them for what they were in the 60s (or even 20 years ago) and below a dollar or free. That just means the people making them don’t get money and in turn they’re not going to be producing the comics that you all so love. I think $1.99 is very much fare after you start breaking things down. Plus what about the people actually creating the digital files to make them work on your device?

Or do you not want creators getting paid? It’s an honest question. If you get things for free, and I’m not just talking Marvel here but digital comics in general…then what?

Just because it’s digital, and I say this all the time, does not mean content, produced by people with paying jobs, be it comics, newspapers, magazines, or any kind of media…does not mean consumers automatically have the right for it to be free. Or in this case beyond the realm of a good, fare, price point. I think we’ve sort of been spoiled for years based on poor marketing decisions, oh like newspapers throwing all of their content online for free because the internet is a fad, so now consumers just expect it. This isn’t highway robbery. This is a company trying to sell their wares, and they’re giving them at a lesser price.

So do we complain about the lack of print or the price being too high? Or both?

There still exist independent record and video stores selling new and antiquarian titles.
Comics shops will probably continue to exist, although the shift might be towards books and other ephemera.

There aren’t many national (or even regional) comicbook chains. The ones which do exist most likely have a robust web presence, and might even sell the digital comics on their sites. They are also adept at selling a variety of merchandise, and at tracking sales to avoid overstock.

I’m curious… the release date for this annual has changed, which means the Final Order Cut Off has changed. How many retailers are cutting their orders on this title after the announcement?

Is this only for the iPad? Or is it available for the iPhone as well? Does Marvel plan to port this over to other platforms?

Finally, what happens when Marvel realizes that a title might not be economical in print, but would be digitally? What happens when Marvel initiates the Dazzler Protocols and sells a title ONLY online?

Marvel app can be used on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Only difference is really full page viewing on the iPad.

A $2 difference, or half the price of the print version, is a good start. I think that would leave the publishers better off than selling the print version when you factor in printing costs, distribution costs, and retailer profit. I would think they could even do better than half the price of the print version…but I would be happy to double the amount of comics I could read on my current comics budget.

Anthony, I don’t think the fans expect to get their comics free, unlike a lot of the people who post on this site, but trying to make the 20K of us who buy a certain comic every month pay for all of its production costs, well, let’s just say it would be better to ask 40K, 60K, or 100K to cover those costs instead of just 20K.

Have you ever looked at how the prices of comics have increased over the last, say 30 years, compared to a gallon of gasoline, or the CPI? I haven’t either, but I think it’s worth taking a look…I’ll give it a shot.

Here is some interesting info…see what you think.

1980 2010

Big Mac 1.19 3.29 up 175%
Gas 1.22 2.75 up 125%
Movie Tickets 2.69 7.50 up 180%
Minimum Wage 3.10 7.25 up 135%

and the winner is…
Comic Books .40 4.00 up 900%

And before you even say it, I could not possibly care less that my comics are printed on shiny paper now.

The formatting didn’t quite turn out on that post but I think you guys can follow it.

Well, like I said, I’ve had to cut out print completely due to a number of factors, not just price but it’s one of the big ones. In the past few months I did buy a few books but essentially cut them loose after certain stories finished.

I like how people say grab the future, go digital, if stores close in the process who cares…

Well, I care, because I own and operate a successful comic shop. It would affect my life to the extreme, to the point where I would be out of a job and having to start over in a new profession after putting in years of my life to making this place a success in a time when the economy has affected not just comics but retail in all markets.

I’m not the only one this would affect, going digital would displace jobs for people in the printing industry, the comic production industry, as well as every other comic shop owner in the world. That adds up to a lot of people.

I’m not opposed to digital releases if it’s done in a way that isn’t going to cut my customer base in half. A six month window would be fine by me. But to try and convince me that all of comics needs to go to a digital format, I think I’m not alone in saying that’s a horrible idea on so many levels…

Why don’t comic book publishers go back to printing comics the way they used to on the cheaper paper? You know the paper they used in The Golden and Silver age. Could they not charge less? When I was a kid(born in 1971) we bought our comic books at the local drugstore. We lived in an area that had no comic stores. They are missing out on millions of possible readers. I don’t buy new comics anymore. For 4 a comic add that up by 10 and thats 40 bucks. Better off buying an older comic worth 40 bucks every month that will go up in value more later.

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