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Quesada: Digital Iron Man will cost more than print

InvincibleIronMan

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1

When CBR’s Kiel Phegley interviewed Marvel CCO Joe Quesada for the latest Cup O’Joe column, it was inevitable that Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 would come up. Although Marvel announced last week that the 80-page comic would be released simultaneously in print and digital format, they quite deliberately did not say how much the digital version would cost. So Kiel asked a direct question and got a direct answer:

The Iron Man comic is over 60 pages, and in print it’s priced at $4.99, but on average for that kind of page count, we would have priced it at $5.99 or broken it up into three $2.99 issues. Our comics on the Marvel App are priced at $1.99 and the way the annual is written it breaks up nicely into three chapters perfectly, so that’s how we’ll break It up in the app. So, when you do the math on this one, the direct market comic shop has the advantage in price on this one, and we’ve already received word from retailers that they feel this is the best way to set this test up.

Quesada also made it clear that he thinks retail will continue to be the dominant channel, with digital comics bringing new readers to brick-and-mortar stores—and bringing old ones back:

One would have to assume that because of the overwhelming popularity of the iPad Marvel App, there are people who have it who may never have ventured into a comic shop or perhaps lost interest in comics many years ago and are curious as to what’s been happening in our fantastic universe. The hope is that we capitalize on that and the high profile of Iron Man, get readers interested in this single story and from there, if they want to purchase more or purchase that issue, they are directed to comic shops.

So it sounds like this is a limited test, not a grand plan to start releasing all their content on digital at the same time it comes out in print, and that Marvel’s strategy instead is to use digital to boost traffic to retail stores.

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22 Comments

I’m sorry, but this just reeks of Joe. Q setting up digital comics, same-day distribution, to fail. Splitting the digital copy into 3 and charging for each, so that it’s more expensive is not a fair test of same-day distribution. I totally understand the desire to do something that will have wide appeal, but this is like having a race where one racer has a head-start and the finish line is closer (print) and the other (digital) has to run the whole race pushing a wheelbarrow. IMO, Marvel should have tried this with their new Astonishing books. The longer Marvel (and let’s not get started on DC) wait to set the standard on digital, the more likely they will be left behind by smaller publishers who are more into, wait for it, being innovative and taking charge of the ‘new frontier’.

CJH

Well that’s just stupid. It’s their first attempt, so I’m going to chalk this up to growing pains for Marvel’s digital distribution plans, but charging more for it on another format, when it is the exact same content, makes zero sense. If you’re going to release it the same day on both formats, it should be the same price. In time, I hope they’ll figure this out.

The digital book should cost less, since there are no printing or transportation costs. I’m no longer interested in collecting new books but I DO want to keep reading the stories and I’m willing to pay for them. But I’m not going to pay more or the same as cover price. Make it like songs on Itunes, new books should be 2 dollars max.

I actually think it’s going to succeed and surprise everyone and then we’re going to be left in a very confusing situation.

This is a complete farce.

Gotta say, this move doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Any interest I had in being part of the experimental group for this is now gone. We’ll try again in a year.

If only Steve Jobs had decided to charge more for music on iTunes than those extinct record stores did? Too bad he’s not a genius like Joey Q.

Meh, I believe Joe Q about as far as I can throw him. Just like all the bs that he has thrown out over the years, this too, will be simply more of the same. Has everyone already forgot the spin he threw on the rise to $3.99 comics?
Mark my words, within 6 months all Marvel’s new books will be released digitally.
This is just spin to smooth over the Direct Market and the standard format comic fans until they’re ready to go full on same-day digital.

SchnitzyPretzelpants

June 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

In a weird way I think this is shrewd.

Here’s my guess as to what they are testing the waters on here, and what I think they are ultimately trying to do.

I suspect that they are testing the market to see if people are willing to pay more for a comic released digitally THE SAME DAY as the comic shop receives them.

I suspect that this Iron Man Annual will be available for less in a few week’s time.

If the model/test works Marvel can truly have their cake and eat it too – retailers are kept happy by knowing they have the price point advantage, Marvel makes solid coin off the digital release (and I think loads will still buy the thing even at that price), and those of us who feel we don’t have to download the comic the day it comes out, can wait a few weeks, or a month or so to download the comic.

That’s if I’m right.

If I am right, the only thing this strategy doesn’t really factor for is that it is contingent on people’s honesty and integrity: why pay that much for digital comic when you can find it online for free within a handful of days? Why wait three or four weeks to buy it online for cheaper, when you can download it for free?

Maybe this has been clarified already, but I have a question:

Is the Invincible Iron Man Annual one 80 page story, broken up into 3 parts?
Or, is the Annual an 80 page comic book, consisting of one primary story by Matt Fraction and two additional stories (either new or reprinted, with relevant background information, from other creators)- so each installment sold is a complete story?

Hibbs must be loving this. I imagine he’s the only one.

Stupidity. Massive stupidity. Gonna stick with my LCS for the long haul after this news.

I don’t know why people expect digital comics to be cheaper than print. Whether it is an album off of ITunes, an e-book from Amazon or Sony, or a digital download movie off the Xbox/PS3 online stores, they all generally cost the same as their traditional hard copy retail versions; why are so many expecting comics to follow a different path?

Advertising, you guys. Where do you think Marvel is going to be getting the extra money that the digital version isn’t providing with ads? Of course it makes sense when you think of it from that angle.

Now, if it’s released with ads or some sort of integrated ad feature, that’s a moot point. But in this experimental phase I don’t think they’ve thought far enough ahead to incorporate them, and that’s more than likely the reason for the higher price. Publishing comics is still, at the end of the day, a business where the goal is to make money.

LongtimeListenerFirstTimeCaller

June 9, 2010 at 11:48 am

I certainly don’t have the perspective a lot of you have. I was a collector a long time ago, dropped out as prices crept up and I began to make decisions between baby food and entertainment. Now that I’ve moved up a bit I’ve found getting back into the stories amazingly satisfying, and it has gotten me back into the B&C stores. Still, just looking at business models and reading the wide variety of opinions, I can’t say it leaves me me feeling confident that I won’t just abandon comics again, this time because of the massive confusion in pricing schemes.

When I came back to comics a couple of years ago it was through the Marvel Digital Comics subscription. I loved it that i could pay a base subscription and catch up all the stories I had missed. That lead me to stopping by the local comics shop occasionally to pick up trade edition versions that weren’t available yet or because I wanted to read the entire story arc.

Now I have an iPad and I love it. Comics look great and the Comicsxology engine works exactly the way it should – unobtrusively and without crashing. So where is my unease coming from? Well, I just don’t see how the iPad model is sustainable. I’m not going to pay two bucks for back list comics just to read on the iPad. If I was running it, and I’m sure there a plenty of holes in this idea but I’m just one guy that loves comics for the stories and not necessarily the feel of mylar collecting bags, I would take the Marvel Digital subscription site and convert it to HTML 5, boost the price up to 10 bucks a month (a price i would be willing to pay for access to back list) and then sell new releases as a premium up-sale from the iPad. Hell, I’m even cool with giving the B&C a 3 month lead on the paper version.

We could argue about what exactly the backlist should be, but I think anything older than a year should fall into backlist and be part of the subscription. Now, along with paying the premium for quicker access to new comics, build a subscription plan similar to what iTunes does. I’m watching Iron Man Extremis now and I paid for the entire season. It wasn’t a big savings, but it encouraged me to spend the extra money immediately.

I’ll be interested to see what the thoughts are about this. It seems obvious to me that now is the time to adopt some radical practices to protect B&C and dig into the deep, meaty possibility of the digital audience.

For anyone with the iPad or iPhone app, are the comics purchased available to read on any device with the Marvel Comixology app? What I mean is: if you have both devices with the app, could you purchase one digital comic, read it, stop, and pick up where you left off on another device? I believe Apple is going to allow this for iBooks, with the release of iPhone OS 4 (if a user owns multiple devices with iBooks, he/she need only to purchase one copy of a digital book).

The reason I ask is because many people may be interested in the idea of starting digital comic book collections. If those collections are locked to one device, that could potentially be a lot of money lost, when upgrading from, say, one iPad to another in the future.

This makes me very happy that I only read one Marvel book now. This is just asinine. This isn’t a true test at all. Digital comics are coming whether Marvel and comic shop owners like it or not. Marvel can either lead the way or play catch-up. Sounds like they’re content to play catch-up.

This is a really stupid move on Marvel’s part. I’m not too keen on digital comics myself (I’d rather have physical copies), but digital comics are going to play an important role in the future, and Marvel should either get on board or prepare to go bust.

Having the digital copy be more expensive fails in a number of different ways.

The production of a digital copy is cheaper not having material, production, distribution, and retailer margin to worry about. As to the lack of ads, why wouldn’t ads be included in the digital version? There isn’t any reason they wouldn’t include them if they move to simultaneous release.

In addition, if the concept is to attract new readers (or bring back old ones) they need an enticing price point. $6.00 for an 80 page comic is unrealistic on many levels. You can justify the price creep in an actual comic based on material and labour increases. Take those away and you lose that crutch.

No one format will ever disappear. There will always be people and collectors that want hard copies of comics. As well, there will be individuals who only want digital. We’ve seen that with music.

I’ll be missing this but that’s ok, I still have my IRON MAN COMPLETE COLLECTION DVD/ROM, so I have plenty of Iron Man to read.

@Joseph:

I’m not sure how much digital purchasing you do, but you are wrong in your assertion that digital copies have cost parity with hard copies. Your average popular / current album in iTunes, for example, tends to be priced at $9.99, with brand new releases going as high as $14.99. But those same albums retail for $15 – $20 in stores. Granted, one can usually get them on Amazon discount for about their iTunes price; but that’s strictly an Amazon thing, not MSRP.

Likewise, a Kindle version of a current novel is usually far cheaper than a hardcover in the store–again, around $10 – $15 for the digital, versus $25 or more for a hardcover book.

Re: The IRON MAN situation — This is just stupid. Clearly, Marvel WANTS this experiment to fail. If they wanted it to at all be a fair experiment, they’d price the two the same and let the buyers decide. It’s bad enough that Marvel is feeding us digital scraps in the app (like the 2000 MARVEL KNIGHTS series–wow, hey, way to draw the readers, Marvel!) and not offering collected stories (why can’t just buy a digital THOR trade instead of having to buy six separate downloads?).

Hopefully DC will come along with an app soon and create some market competition; because right now, Marvel clearly thinks it can pull anything it wants when it comes to digital distribution.

I love Marvel! and was going to actually get an ipad for this (among other things, as I’m sick of long boxes) BUT it really feels like they don’t want this to work. They want the numbers to be stacked towards the print version for some strange reason.
If they would have made it $1 cheaper then BOOM they would have been off and running. Joe Q or rather his boss must think people are stupid if he thinks people will buy his rather feeble excuse. Hang your heads in shame gentlemen (all who are involved) as you have failed your fans on every level. I hope all concerned are embarrassed. Just look at the success of itunes with music over piracy and retail pricing. This is either because of sheer greed or sheer stupidity. I work in publishing and have for many years and can flat out tell you it does not cost more at all to produce, it will be cheaper by far. Joe Q has tried another ill advised slight of hand here. DC, please pull your socks up and show Marvel how to come in and do it right from the start. Vote with your wallets people, buy neither digital or print because they are just testing us and more fool us if we let them get away with it. I would have bought the digital fora cheaper price and may have considered it at the same price as a fair test of the market but I have to draw a line somewhere and it has now been drawn. Oh, and I buy over 20 Marvel titles a month and wanted to move to reading digital and buying trades for the shelf. It is a bad show all round folks.

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