Robot 6

Would you buy a digital comics subscription?

whether I like it or not...

The headline on Darrell Etherington’s article says it all: “Comics Should Jump on the iOS Subscription Bandwagon.” His argument is a consumer-based one: He has the apps, but at $1 to $3 a pop, comics are too expensive a habit for him, so he proposes a subscription model that basically gives the reader a 50% discount for paying up front—$25 for 12 issues, say. Etherington thinks that would boost readership, but it could also carry some risks. For one thing, readers who are accustomed to getting print magazine subscriptions for $10 or less per year won’t find that price point attractive (although magazine subscriptions do seem to be more expensive on the iPad, so the price is getting pushed up anyway). And in an industry notorious for delays, 12 issues does not necessarily equal a year’s worth of comics. And for superhero comics (which I think is what Etherington is talking about here), following a single series won’t necessarily give the reader a satisfying experience. Dropping three dollars here and four bucks there for you weekly comics is one thing; lining up $200 worth of annual subscriptions (even though that includes a hefty discount) just to be able to follow the events in a fictional universe could prove to be a troubling reality check to some readers.

Etherington quotes Jesus Hates Zombies creator Stephen Lindsay, who divides the comics audience into three groups: “those inside the industry who buy comics to support one another, the casual reader, and the collector.” I’m impressed that he sees creators as a large enough group to merit a mention. Collectors will always want to have the physical comic, but Lindsay sees the casual readers as a potential market. I’m not sure how well that works with complicated superhero universes, because it takes us back to the problem of accessibility: How will the reader know which Thor comic, say, to subscribe to? I’m not sure it’s possible to be a “casual reader” of superhero comics any more. (For those who want to get on the bandwagon, though, I like the feature that the New Yorker magazine subscription has: Your subscription allows you access to back issues as well. That could be a real boon for new readers.)

On the other hand, creators of self-contained indie series who are good at promoting their work could do very well with this model. This is the sort of work that is mainly sold in comics shops but has very little appeal to the typical comics-shop customer; putting it out on the iPad could attract that larger audience that is more interested in the story or the subject matter than the medium. I’m thinking here about literary comics like Fun Home as well as comics that appeal to a narrow group of deep enthusiasts, such as comics about paintball or spelunking. This is really just taking the webcomics model to the next level, and adding a cost, but unlike internet users, iPad users have been trained to pay for their content from the beginning.

This sort of subscription is different from the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription, which allows access to all comics for a limited amount of time; this would be strictly limited to a year’s worth of a single title. It’s not clear to me what the status of your comics would be once the subscription ends; presumably you could download them and keep them, although downloading again might be a problem. That’s a much bigger issue for comics readers than the magazine audience, and one that would have to be clarified at the outset. But with the bumps ironed out, subscriptions might turn out to be a good deal for readers, who would get their comics at a discount, and creators and publishers, who would get paid up front for year’s worth of sales. So come on, comics innovators—bring it on!

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82 Comments

IMO this is exactly why DC is doing the post-Flashpoint “non-reboot”. They want to simplify their universe for the casual reader, who most likely will be reading it digitally.

I honestly couldn’t give two cents about digital downloads. If I can’t hold it, it’s just not real.

Whatever happened to Longbox? It got a lot of PR out there for a while, but I haven’t seen anything from them even while similar services have emerged.

Subscriptions of some sort need to be figured out but you raise a lot of good points about the complications inherent in them.

As a reader, I’d gladly trade DRM and “ownership” of digital comics for some sort of Netflix/Rdio/Spotify cloud-based subscription that gave you access to an entire library of comics on a monthly basis. I want to be able to try out and follow a lot of different comics digitally that I would either not take a chance on otherwise or just don’t feel the need to own a physical copy of.

As a small-press/webcomics creator I would love to be part of a system like this as well. Maybe one that is solely an indie-based service and would give readers a low-risk chance to sample lots of new books like mine.

I have no idea what the economics of this type of thing would be or how financially feasible it would be for publishers and creators alike but fans and potential new comics readers would eat it up.

I’d pay for a digital subscription service. Its another revenue stream for the publishers– so why aren’t you doing this!?!? Its like they (Marvel/DC) want to leave money on the table.

Simon DelMonte

June 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

Not that I have an iPad, etc, but I would be likely to experiment with one comic to read online at a good rate, something like $15 for a year. I’ve read free comics at Comixology and I like the interface.

I’m a trade-waiter and stopped buying monthlies a couple years back. I’m looking forward to DC’s day-and-date program and will start buying some titles again. And I say that as someone who has been known to download comics. But i’ll support DC. Especially since their trade dept puts together books SO slowly.

What I hope DC, and eventually Marvel, realize is that with digital comics you can customize special packs to get the full story. For the casual reader they’re not so much concerned with collecting the comics as getting a great story. Offer a special single price for the Final Crisis pack that gives you all the relevant books. For a smaller price you’ll get just the core books. Even if the story is a few years old you can get the people who missed it the first time to buy it by making it easy to read. There is a giant back-list of books that will sell if they’re accessible.

Marvel currently offers print subscriptions for around $1.80/issue. There’s even deals that bring the price down to about $1.40/issue. If they can offer a model where you can get a digital copy (that can be read anywhere, not just an iPad) for $2, I would be all over it. I would prefer an actual download, though I know that opens a whole other can of worms, but I would settle for some sort of online library where I could log in through a browser that would store everything I purchased.
I look at the stack of books I keep on my night stand and am ready to embrace digital. I read about 10 monthlies and plus at least 2-3 minis. I try to keep out the issues from the current arc for each series for reference, so that leaves me with like 50 issues laying around. I would love to have that stuff stored digitally. I think I would still buy print copies of my favorite books, but there are some books I want to read just to get the story. I’d pay $2 for stuff like Black Panther, FF, Mighty Thor, but am currently passing on the $3-4 printed versions.

As a result of my ‘collectors mentality’, I am very unlikely to buy any digital comics. Once it jumps into a digital medium, I just lose interest. It’s like surfing the net: at some point, it feels like a waste of time instead of enjoyment.

This is regrettable, as it would be nice to reduce storage (and usage of paper products). But I ignore most of the publications that I get digitally today, and I don’t see any likely continued interest in comics in a new medium….

If I know I’m following a series already, a subscription makes sense. Like signing up for Ultimate Spider-Man or Green Lantern or Invincible Iron Man. These are series I’d buy every issue anyway. And with solicitations being released months in advance, it wouldn’t be hard to plan around crossover.

The only way I’ll subscribe to a digital comic is if the entire industry goes digital and I have no other way to read the latest stories. Until then, I’m supporting my LCS and only buy print copies.

Would I buy a digital subscription? Not in a million years. Internet content should be free. I’ll never pay money for something that’s not a physical product. Nor will most other people.

I’d consider it… the only actual superhero book I read from either DC or Marvel anymore is just Daredevil. (well, I will continue to buy it when it comes out again) Too much of a pain to keep and file all these loads of issues of stories that I feel are more perfunctory than artistic. I still kind of like the stories… but not enough to clutter up my house with all that stuff anymore. If I could read comics that don’t matter like Spider-Man or whatever on my computer for (much) cheaper than cover price, I’d definitely think hard about picking up things I’ve dropped like Captain America or X-Men…

If DC did a bundle of all their post-Flashpoint #1′s I’d totally buy that too. I’ve never much cared for the DCU, and I’m definitely not buying anything from them as floppies, but at a digital-discount? I’d check it out.

As for physical vs virtual products… I wouldn’t really consider this a product at all. I’m just paying for the experience of reading a story… I don’t need to hold that for it to be real.

I’ve always thought that a good way to bridge the gap between retailers and the apps is for DC, Marvel et al to develop gift cards that are only sold through comic shops. That way the retailer takes his cut, the consumer can use the credits on the card on whatever titles he or she chooses, and the cards themselves may become collectible. There won’t be a need for a subscription service.

Of course, inherent in this plan in order to make it work is dropping the price point to $1 per regular issue, max. I can’t imagine it working with the books being anymore expensive when pirated copies are so easily available for those who want them. And it requires books being released digitally on the same day as print publication for the same reason.

I understand the complaint that if you can’t hold it in your hands it isn’t real, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s valid. You could say the same thing about going to a movie or a play or a concert or a sporting event. I’m sure just about everybody here has some sort of software they’ve purchased online. Isn’t that basically the same thing here… we’re paying for something that isn’t tangibly ours?

I’m not a fan of the price of digital comics for the same reason nobody else is. But if/when they drop the cost to something that makes it competitive with print books, I’ll probably start picking them up.

Rollo Tomassi

June 7, 2011 at 10:41 am

I’m a brick’n'mortar guy and probably will be until they all go out of business.
But that said, I think publishers should embrace digital and just go for it. Instead of hypothesizing about everything and trying to deduce the outcome of every initiative, just do it. See what sticks and see what doesn’t. Refine the distribution system as you go until you get a system that satisfies both the publishers AND the consumers. Trying to figure out the WHOLE plan before you take the first jump ain’t working. Just do it already.

I’d pay Marvel for a subscription to their library of work from the 60′s if they would start paying royalties to the Kirby estate. Otherwise I’ll stick with back issue bins.

Why not have digital issues at $.99 or cheaper, to hook potential readers and what not (look at Kindle Authors). Get things rolling that way THEN collect the story arc into a GN and sell that through Print on Demand or Amazon. The Comic Industry doesn’t need to limp along just to appease dying retailers.

I’m sorry but they are record stores and video rental stores, it’s awesome to stop in and get that emersion but it’s illogical for that model of business to continue and why does the Comic Industry need to flounder to keep them going?

Creator to audience is possible and here right NOW. Use digital to very cheaply build an audience that want a trade for their shelves (and digital doesn’t have to be its stand alone App developed, just slap a PDF together and have your audience check it out through iBooks, a free and established App). I have no idea why this is so hard.

“Creator to audience is possible and here right NOW. Use digital to very cheaply build an audience that want a trade for their shelves (and digital doesn’t have to be its stand alone App developed, just slap a PDF together and have your audience check it out through iBooks, a free and established App). I have no idea why this is so hard.”

Commented about this on the original GigaOM article, but it’s worth noting that there isn’t any mention of how the 30% revenue “Apple Tax” would affect sales on the iOS market. Especially with a creator-owned product, not everyone is willing to give up that cash.

Pots and Peter

June 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Okay I think Dr. Pepper means PDFs like Skottie Young and other artists put out on their websites for sketchbooks, comics or what have you can be viewed through iBooks and I’m pretty sure there’s no Apple jacks tax to simply use iBooks as a viewer. But I think everyone who is a comic book fan has trades up on their shelves next to their Harry Potter books and proudly display them (not too sure on the people who have their long boxes it their living rooms waiting for guests to comment on them). The physicality will not go away but why not streamline and trim the fat where you can. I care about the comic books, not the stores.

To answer the question posed by this article: NO, I would not buy a digital comics subscription. Where’s the substance? That’s what goes through my head when I see stuff like this. It’s still why I prefer printed material, both comic and regular book. I love the feel of the printed page in my lap or my hand. Besides, with reading it on a bright screen, I wouldn’t want to waste my eyesight on that. Seriously, instead of transferring to digital, why not make all printed books from recycled paper?????

Also, when Marvel and Hasbro announced that they’d be giving out exclusive Marvel Universe Nick Fury and X-Force Archangel figures, I was ticked that getting a Marvel digital subscription was the only way to get them.

I’d say yes, but considering the following:
- If I cancel a subscription by any reason, do I get to keep the comics files? (It should be like that, the same way that you get to keep a printed magazine. If you want to trash it later, hey, it’s your choice)
- DIgital comics definitely should be cheaper than they are. When you’re not facing costs of printing, distribution or inventory, charging the same (or even more) as a printed comic is just pointless and unjustifiable. They could even charge less than $1/issue and still make a huge profit, I think.

I’ve been more of a casual, indie comics reader and collector all these years. When I was a kid all the Superman/Spiderman/Batman superhero comics were self-conclusive stories. It was easy to take grasp of things and become a fan. Now we have all these ubercomplex story arcs and plot-over-plot thing across hundreds of issues — it has gotten so complex and uninviting to casual readers that it’s an scenario only a Comic Book Guy clone could love. I don’t know if the so-called DC “reset” is a fix in this direction.

Now, I love my library of TPBs and scattered issues as much as any other fan, but honestly I feel ready to face the digital trade-off — I can’t really allocate any more space to books in my house, and I’m looking forward to a rather nomadic lifestyle, so digital makes even more sense to me. Plus, I write from a place where there’s not such a thing as comic book stores, so digital would be pretty much the only way to get access these works in a practical way. The future looks interesting.

I would pay a fixed monthly fee for access to a library of back issues, Hulu or Netflix style. I absolutely would not pay to “own” a digital issue… if I wanted to hold onto a comic I’d buy it in print, but I’d sure be happy to read as many back issues as I want for $15 or $20 a month.

I guess I’m old-school and enjoy comics for the reading *and* the adding to my collection. A digital collection doesn’t really do it for me.

I am buying books right now on iPad, and I enjoy it. It’s no different than buying your music off iTunes really. You own an image file just like a music file (with DRM). I agree the prices need to drop, and they need to find a way to allow you to organize your comics better if you want to keep them. I also bought the Marvel digitial download with unlimited comics via the Marvel website but you can’t read them on iPad (I have to use an app to take control of my laptop and do it that way).

Seeing as how Chrome has a Marvel app, I would think that Android would soon have a way to access the Marvel subcription and then you’d have more access at a lower price.

If you can introduce a Ping-like tool for Comics Apps (tells you what else you may want to read based on what you’re reading) then you’d know what else was relevant to some story-arc. I think a subscription is fine as well, and a TPB model.

Basically you need to introduce a number of logical choices on how you get your comics, and the model is there with how they offer music and movies/tv on iTunes. Maybe someday you get to buy a “season pass”
for a DC/Marvel event and you get all the books. Or you buy the ones you want, or you just get what you get via a single title subscription. These should all be choices.

But above all, we need to get day-and-date simultaneous release (or something close to it). DC has pulled the trigger. Why have I not seen anyone press Marvel on the question?

One of the facets you seem to be missing is the reason magazines offer such deep discounts on subscriptions. They are paid by advertisers based on the size of their circulation.

If comics companies want to truly stop relying on the Direct Market for the bulk of their revenue, the advertising generated by the increased circulation from digital subscriptions is not the worst idea in the world.

Funny, I said something incredibly similar in my blog. DC Digital: You’re Doing It Wrong

I think I’m part of a slightly different fourth group who loves the stories and medium of comics, has disposable income, but no space to store comics anymore, and no desire to own the physical books.

When I buy a comic, I read it once, put it in a box, and revisit that box ten years later when I need more space (where I invariably sell the comic).

Digital subscriptions? I’m all over it. Shops should care no more about the digital market than they do about mail order subscriptions. Both cater to the non-collector.

For a limited series, a discounted subscription would be a great idea — instead of paying a buck an issue, you could pay (let’s say) $7.50 for a 10-issue series, saving $2.50 off the $1 per issue pricing. And the creators get the money upfront (and incentive to keep the issues coming in a timely fashion!).

(Of course, for the digital comic we’re putting out right now, IN MAPS & LEGENDS, we probably wouldn’t have gotten many upfront subs, because artist Niki Smith and I aren’t established names in comics, alas!)

I still think $1 an issue for 18-24 pages of a digital comic is the right price. I find myself thinking twice any time I add a $2 comic to my digital cart. And thinking twice kills impulse buys.

We’re doing bundled versions of our comic, 4 issues for a discounted price, all in one download, at Amazon and B&N, and those have proved very popular — 80+ pages of content for about 3 bucks.

Personally, I’ve stopped buying floppies in favor of digital versions — I just don’t have space, and my kids tear up the floppies anyway. And that hurts. ;)

If DC offered a flat, let’s say, $75 or $100 digital, full-line subscription, i would strongly consider it. The two things i would want is a) a way to purchase digital through my LCS’s website (an idea that has already been floated) and b) some sort of digital backup. If i’m dropping that kind of money on my books and my laptop gets a virus, i don’t want to have to re-buy everything.

captainamerica_4

June 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

If brick and mortar stores, book stores, newstands, etc. disappear how will the industry attract new readers? The locations I mentioned place the product in areas that children through adults see and are reminded of, whether they see it in a store or drive by a LCS. Walk into a book store and most of them have some comics and/or trades sitting out. People are always picking them up and either being introduced, or re-introduced to the medium. If the print editions disappear we will see a stagnation of sales. As a community of readers on the Internet we are much more aware and savy about the products and would like to purchase digital copies for whatever the reason. However, those who are not currently collecting/ reading comics, no matter at what age, may not think to look for digital downloads. Out of sight and out of mind. This would close an avenue of extending our community and would cause the industry to either find new methods of distibution, which I hypothsize would be expensive, or close down smaller publishers.

every part of the entertainment industry is struggling with the same economic problem. iTunes seems to be model that is the most successful .. with a price point of 99 cents per song. I don’t know how that works for comics companies and creators .. just that it seems to be the most successful digital entertainment model right now.

point being .. the entire entertainment industry will solve this problem at the same time. It is not just comics having this problem. Every entertainment product has this problem.

Personally I will always be a physical copy reader/owner. There is nothing better than digging through longboxes on a rainy day (or just before bed) and reliving old stories with a new perspective.

I am not against digital comics at all. Anything that brings new readers (or prolongs the patronage of long-time readers) is a good thing! It’s just not for me. I feel the same way about e-readers for books. They are a wonderful technology, and a boon for people who would otherwise not read very often, but I will always need the heft and scent of that book to go along with the mental aspect of reading.

nope…if i’m gonna buy something i want to physically own it…this goes for movies and music as well…

Nope. I’m an “old fart” suffering from New Technology Syndrome in entertainment. First I had to change from records to cassettes to CD’s to Ipods for music. Guess what? I don’t own an Ipod. I got “burned out” replacing all my music. I just don’t care anymore. Then it was movies/TV. First it was VHS then DVD’s. Now it’s Blue Ray. Guess what? I stopped at DVD’s. Again I just don’t care anymore. TV. OK I like the flat screen TV’s but HD, 3-D? Nope. I watch less TV now then I did 10 yrs ago. Movies? I HATE 3-D. Now books/comics. I don’t own a kindle, etc. I like going to the library or bookstore to get a book to read. Same with comics. I like my weekly trip to my LCS. If comics go all digital then that will the time for me to stop getting new material.

If I can’t sit on the toilet and flip through my comic without having to worry about the battery dying then I don’t want to read it. If any of the books I read go exclusively digital I will drop them.

I would absolutely commit to 12-issue subscriptions in return for a low price. But, just as with with single issue digitals, not until I can buy I file that I can read on my computer even without an Internet connection.

I would easily pay for a open subscription, say a flat $50 a month for total access
To a big 2s entire digital library- no need to download, just any issue I want could be accessed on demand at any time as long as I subscribe.

Just need a device to read it on! Come on comic sized tablets!

Digital comics might as well be Ultimate comics…not interested.

Love going to my local comic shop and seeing the stacks of new comics waiting to be purchased.

I have no interest in being an agoraphobic digial comic subscriber.

I download comics from internet. They are there thanks to a lot of suffered scanners guys. I download, the comic book, and later IF I LIKED, I buy the TPB. Why pay for a copy when I’ll pay for the trade? Welcome to the XXI century, Marvel!

I like the idea of digital subscriptions with a physical copy that I can pick up at my local comic shop. That way I could download & read the digital version on the release day and pick up my physical copy at my leasure to file away & “treasure.”

I’ve been doing that the last few years with comic scans found laying around the Internet. Now that I have an iPad it is even more convenient to do that and my physical copies stay nice and mint-ie. If I could pre-pay for both physical & digital copies with immediate delivery of the digital copy i would do it happily.

I’m not too keen on the bagged with a digital code plan. You can’t read the book until you have picked up the physical copy that way. Digital needs to be available without having to wait. It also won’t appeal to OCD collector types because you have to open open the bag and de-mint-ify the comic.

The problem with the current pay-per-issue model is the price. Why is the digital version of Super Dinosaur just as expensive as the paper copy?! As much as Joe Blough’s comment burned me up inside, he’s got a point. It has to be easier to purchase a comic than it is to download a comic for the digital industry to grow.

I would look at AmazonMP3 vs. iTunes Music Store as an example. I’ve spent under $20 total since the iTMS was opened almost a decade ago. I’ve spent almost double that (~$40) on AmazonMP3 (and I have a $25 gift card I just got as a credit card bonus points reward) in less than a year. This is simply because of Amazon’s daily deals. They release about 100 albums every month for under $5. Lady Gaga’s brand new album was $1 for a day. It’s easier to pay a few bucks for an album than it is to take the time to search for a quality illegal copy. Comic books should do the same.

Correction::

“It has to be easier to purchase a comic than it is to download an illegal comic for the digital industry to grow.”

Living Silver, you’re absolutely right but I also can’t see a way that it WOULDN’T be easier, unless you’re talking FLASHPOINT and FEAR ITSELF. I’ve looked online to see what’s out there and it seems that unless you’re looking for top-20 type of titles the illegal sites are a crapshoot. That suggests to me that this business model will be good for the books that need it most.

Dear DC, Marvel, et al,

While I love the physical books, I haven’t bought one in years. I can’t be bothered to drive out to a shop, and I’ll never pay the price you charge.

Here is how you win my middle class, iPhone-app-buying, superhero-movie-watching demographic back:

#1 Price
$3 is WAY too much for a single, 15-minute chapter in any larger story–no matter how much work went into it. Hour-long episodes of LOST are about the same price, for comparison. Was Batman #700 as expensive to produce? That’s a loaded, unfair question, of course.

You can charge a premium because of your audience’s emotional involvement (and you probably have to given what I read about your distribution), but speaking for the millions of other people you want to capture, we don’t care about any of that. We like the characters from our childhoods, sure, and we’ll probably see the movies, but we’re absolutely not going to pay you $70 for some stack of event books in which you pretend to kill someone. More on price in #2.

#2 Digital Distribution
We are not purists for the paper books. We are a different audience. We want to be entertained on the train or in waiting rooms. Right now we’re turning to ebooks, music, games, and video. Why not comics? Because they’re not convenient or priced right.

Consider the app stores for phones. A million people will drop a dollar or two on a 10-second whim. Physical stores can’t give you that. You need a different product. You need to be on our devices.

I have an iPad, and I’ve been getting content from a screen for decades. I’ve even read a few comics on the iPad, and it works for me. Remember, we’ll tap and zoom if the price is right–see: all games.

The following would bring me, and probably thousands of 30-somethings with disposable incomes, back to comics:

PLAN 1
$10/mo digital subscription (rentals, not to keep)
- Any 10 titles I choose, past or present, and I can read them all month
- all additional titles $.99
- titles can be purchased for download at higher prices, 15¢ per page of content, for example, to allow for larger books
- previews: all covers and first 3 pages are free (this is critical for your success)

PLAN 2
$20/mo unlimited subscription (read all: past and present)
- titles can be purchased for download
- previews: all covers and first 3 pages are free

Now, when you have a big event, I might pay $20 to have the full run of the titles for a while — if the event is actually meaningful (just please stop pretending to kill cash cows. Give me more like Civil War, just have the stones and creativity to stick with the consequences.)

In other months, I’ll just follow the next issues of a handful of books, and try out new ones. 10 for $10 is plenty — and if you offered 5 for $5 with the previews, you’d sign twice as many of us up. You’d be getting into the whimsical, throwaway spending category for a lot of people.

Please think about it. You’re Borders and CD Warehouse right now, and we’ve all moved on. You need to be Audible and iTunes.

PS: Comic book shop owners, we’re not coming to your stores now anyway, but if a million more people are suddenly into comics, we might have a reason to drop by, because yes, there’s nothing like the real thing.

“I download comics from internet. They are there thanks to a lot of suffered scanners guys. I download, the comic book, and later IF I LIKED, I buy the TPB. Why pay for a copy when I’ll pay for the trade? Welcome to the XXI century, Marvel!”

Cool, where can i get something free from you and all the other downloaders? I mean my impression from your post is that in this century we’re all OWED free products from one another, so what are you going to give me?

I like the on-line library model.
Marvel uses their back issues as a selling point. DC seems ashamed or too lazy to feature theirs.
If you can’t own it out right, you shouldn’t be paying full price for a comic.
So, I guess That’d be a no for me.

Steve,

I think the tone of your response is correct, and artists should not have their work stolen from them. That said, I think free/steeply discounted with the option to pay is becoming THE standard business model.

Many phone apps start with ‘lite’ versions that entice you to pay for the real thing if you like it, some first episodes are now being offered for free too. Artists no longer control distribution (pirates do), so artists need a high enough concentration of fans that enough of them will pay through legitimate channels.

As a new novelist, I’ve had to change my strategy, and I’m considering making my first book free when the second comes out. (So, to answer your question to that poster, I’ll gladly send you a free ebook of my novel, if you like.)

That said, I think the scheme I outlined in my earlier post could make pirates somewhat irrelevant. $10 for 10 books with unlimited previews? $20 for all in an easy to use and find library? No pirate can make it that easy.

I would easily buy a “line-wide subscription”, where I pay a flat fee (at a reduced per-issue rate) to gain access to every single comic DC puts out.

I think the subscription model should be turned on it’s ear. Instead of subscribing to a set series, how about allowing readers to purchase a certain number of issues in bulk. If the idea is to make it attractive to readers to follow what they need to follow in a given month, they can purchase blocks of issues. 15 issues for $30. Then a reader can pick what titles they want in a given month from a particular publisher. That allows them to follow a set number of monthly books plus also grab a couple of mini-series that appeal to them. They can do a soft-subscribe to certain titles they know they are always going to buy (which gives the publishers a little bit of consistency in knowing which books have a solid following), but a reader can easily ‘drop’ that book if they decide they no longer enjoy it (without being stuck having several more issues of it locked in on a no-refund subscription) and be able to pick up something else on the fly.
I think that model would be more appealing to a reader because it gives them the ability to get the comics they want each month without locking into a longterm ‘contract’ of sorts on a given title. It also provides the publisher with advance money because they are still getting paid previous to the release of their product. And if they want to get more money up front, they can offer incentives. 15 books for $30. But if you buy three blocks of 15, then you get two extra books and maybe you get access to a couple of variant covers or digital sketches or something.
If publishers do want a little more consistency in their buy-through, they could offer blocks of a title (sort of a soft subscription that the reader is locked into). This would work for mini-series or for story arcs. The reader locks in for a full four issue mini-series or they lock in for the next 3 issue or 5 issue story arc of a given title. That might help publishers to get some idea of whether it is cost effective to continue with a certain monthly title or whether they need to look at changing creative teams or book direction or whatever.

Well, I already use DC’s and Marvel’s print subscription service for alot of my books. And I already get some non DC/Marvel books via digital only.

So, as long as the price was right, I’d be all over a digital comics subscription!

“Would I buy a digital subscription? Not in a million years. Internet content should be free. I’ll never pay money for something that’s not a physical product. Nor will most other people.”

So when you go to a movie in the theatre your paying for the seat? Seeing as how you can’t actually “touch” the movie. Your just sitting there and using your eyes to take in the product.

Digital and print can live side by side. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Drop the price to 99 cents a book and piracy is gone and we get tons of new readers. Let people who want to pay a premium for the psychical copy pay it.

The upside of digital, the digital store is NEVER going to tell me ” I didn’t order that book”

For me personally as a collector, i wouldnt subscribe to digital comics. Its not the same thing to me. BUT i definitely would buy some digital singles or arcs that i am particularly fond of. Nothing beats reading comics on the train of a bus but i am always too scared to take singles issues with me in my bag.

If i could just chuck em on my Iphone and read them on the train it would be wonderful!

Josh,

If you choose to give away content for free, then you may do so. The idea however that we should be forced into working hard and giving things away BECAUSE of piracy sounds incredibly backwards to me. As far as business models, using a free light version and a more expensive version is not new, as AVG anti-virus and thousands of other products have used the same model for years. What’s often ignored when people do that is that some sort of revenue always HAS to be generated for the content to continue, whether that be a direct charge or through advertising. Pandora and Skype and tons of other products are proof of that.

Michael Murphy

June 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm

While I like the idea of a digital comics subscription there are to many things that Marvel and DC do that make such a subscription not make sense for me. First, to many titles do not come out on a timely basis. Second, the constant crossovers/events means that for several months I will be getting partial stories. Third, the current distribution system does not allow me to own the comics and if the provider goes out of business or stops offering the service then I lose access to my purchases. Finally, the cost is too high.

If those things were fixed I would love a digital subscription.

Claude Parish

June 11, 2011 at 9:23 pm

How do you bag and board a digi-comic?

Claude Parish

June 11, 2011 at 9:24 pm

If they did it like NetFlix, they may have something. But at a price that’s the same as a regular issue? Why bother?

Digital Sub? Not under the current offerings from the big two. While there are plenty of people out there who are happy with their ipods/ipads/kindles/comixology/etc, there are an equal amount or more who hate the idea of being locked into a proprietry path. You get locked in to a something that cannot be accessed on any device and then it goes out of business or the fad bubble bursts and you are stuck with a product you cannot use on whatever system replaces it.
What would tempt me if the above can be sorted? Single issues should be 0.99c (or as close as the economics of the industry can achieve without paupering the talent). I like the idea of digital comics but there is no way I would pay the prices on offer from DC at the moment. I also quite like the reading library model with a download option if you want to keep something.
Would DC be offering all their books in a reading library model or just the DCnU/Vertigo stuff?

A million times yes to this, personally I would love to have some kind of digital subscription where all my comics are pumped to my iPad at 12.01 Wednesday morning ready for my commute the next day. It’s convienent as it means I don’t have to drag myself to town every Saturday purely to buy comics, and also timely so I don’t have to avoid the forums for three days due to spoilers it also means that the storeage is handled for my by the Marvel/DC/Comixology servers saving me space at home. I do like the guys at my LCS and would probably miss the interaction, but then I didn’t hear the same outcry to support an outdated business model when Blockbuster went the way of the dodo due to Lovefilm/Netflix.

“This sort of subscription is different from the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription, which allows access to all comics for a limited amount of time; ”
Well, yes, IF you ever make it past the subcription page… I have been trying to subscribe for 6 months now. It said there was an unknown error. Tried it with another CB, from another computer,another country…nothing worked. The consumer service said they were gonna help, I send seems a capture of the error screen…never received an answer, even when they said they were working on it when I complained in the forum. So I gave up. If they dont want my money, somebody else will have it….THEIR loss.
Seems there is this kind of trouble for some people trying to subscribe from outside the US…

with scans widly and easily available through torrents I think DC should be more realistic . possibly offering a subscrption for ten dollars a month that allowed access to 20-30 titles but not allowing you to download them . comics have been too costly for too long . when i was a kid they were great value now they are simply too expensive to bother with . if printed comics at a comparative price including inflation to what they were in the 70s then i would still collect them but the industry got greedy and now cant sustain itself . no amount of reboots will improve sales untill the prices come down .

I would not pay for DL comics. I prefer the HC collections, Omnibus’, Absolutes etc. Though just for curiosity, if I had an iPad or some such device, I would download something worthy of the screen res to test it out. But nothing compares to reading on actual paper and binding.

I’m all for digital subscriptions but I want to own what I pay for. Not having a paper copy is no great loss but never being able to reread what I paid for because my subscription didn’t renew would be tough to swallow. Sure pricepoint is a major factor and always will be, but not having a floppy to hold won’t break my heart. Probably 25 to 40 percent of the thousands of comics I own have been read only once or twice… then they go into a box to be forgotten. Storage and accessibility are a constant issue with them. Digital solves that and a subscription service would just be icing on that cake.

As a collector and creator, I feel really torn about this idea. Honestly as an indie who can not do it full time and has taken a long time to produce a single issue that I feel worthy of reading, it’s really difficult for me to support an upfront subscription. I’m also not a huge reader of digital comics and perhaps this is because I don’t own an ipad. I will read on pc, but most of my time on the computer is spent working on comic related issues. The casual reader will hopefully be wooed by more powerful tools like graphic.ly and etc. Secondly, I believe there needs to be in continuity books and out of continuity books. I think trades are proving that people binge consume comics and want begin middles and ends without the hassle of keeping up with too much unless they want to. I think a happy balance would be larger out of continuity trades that the causal reader responds to like essential hulk, all-star superman etc. And for us more hardcore fans leave us with our not completely accurate continuity and floppies.

Marvel floppy subscriptions are already 40% or more off, for hardcopies (that arrive 3-5 days later than newsstand). In this case, digital subscriptions that aren’t at least 50-70% off cover price are nonsense.

Eventually – having your 6,000 comics in a hand held device rather than taking up half a room of your house: possibly worth cover price per comic.

I read a few digital comics. The Long Halloween. It immediately made me realize what I had been missing since I gave it up 20 years ago and ran straight to my comic store and now have a hold box.

Although there’s nothing like holding an actual comic book, I’m wondering if it’s feasible for the industry to mimic some record companies in regards to the digital/physical divide. I buy vinyl records regularly from various sites across the internet and a good 90% of the webstores provide free mp3 or wav downloads when you buy the physical edition of the LP (whether vinyl or CD). Stand-alone mp3 download is available as well. To me, that model is satisfying. Option is there if one prefers digital only but people who buy the physical product gets a free digital version as well.

One more thing. Us comic book lot are a cynical bunch, but we REALLY need to embrace ANY publisher initiative. We are not of this digital children. We like to read a book, paper, in hands. If you choose to boycot DC, then start saving up for an ipad, because digital comics on a phone suck. You’re looking at a world without comicbook stores guys. DC is trying to save them and embrace the inevitable. But the inevitable could be a long way off or next year

JOE O, the question really becomes does the industry survive going digital. Sure a kid in Odessa Ukraine without a comic store can now buy his comics, but those guys are expert pirates. Will paper readers make the switch en masse to keep sales high? I can’t do it. I can’t carry my computer around so I can read comics in the drs office. I believe this will work out. Its Jim Lee, Johns, and Didio, these guys can sell comics.

I LOVE that Image offers the equivalent of a trade collection for a discounted price in their app! Now, they mostly do it with Kirkman’s stuff that I *already* have in trades. But I hope they’ll expand outside of that if creators are willing.

I imagine the financials work out well enough given how big the drop-off tends to be between # of people who buy #1 and the fall-off to #2. As a creator, I would rather incentivise people to read the *whole* story (even at a slight loss in profit margin).

I’m stopping buy all comics next month. Why? Space. Good lord comics take up a lot of space. Three years ago I was literally buying 4+ inches of comics a week. Obviously cost wasn’t an issue for me; at the high point a few years ago I was consistently $40+ a week in my pull list. I just got sick and tired of having them around, taking up space, having to be filed, boxes that had to be moved around, space found for new stuff, etc. I sat down and asked myself, “Self, you enjoy reading these books, but how many do you read again in two months? Almost none.” So I cut down to three sets: Legion, JSA, and Bongo books. I still have an inch or two of comics each month, and I’m sick of having to deal with it.

When I buy a cd, it’s ripped in 10 minutes and put away. I can’t do that with comics. Sure, I could download everything I buy, but it feels really stupid buying a comic(to give some small bit back to the company) and then getting rid of it.

Not to mention that a comic isn’t good value for money. $3 for five minutes of reading vs. $10 for a paperback that lasts 3 hours and takes up much less space.

So I’m done with physical comics entirely. I’m going to try DC’s digital comics with their relaunch. I would have done it years ago, but their store stinks. Let’s say I want to read JSA. I get three choices, numbers 56, 57, 58 from Volume 1. Not the right answer. Volume 2 is up to issue 51. So my choices are 3 issues from over 4 years ago. That’s ridiculous. Especially when you realize that almost every comic in the last 5 was probably digital from start to finish.

Sure, give them to me a month later to keep people going to the shops, that’s fine. But it is inexcusable that they haven’t had all of their comics online all the time.

Hyperactivator

June 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

Why not bundle print and digital subs? Many other forms of media offer a digital copy when you buy the dvd or cd so why not do that with comics? I love my Marvel subscriptions but hate when they are late. Which they usually are. I would not mind paying a little extra to get my comics on the same day as the shops do.

Why would I spend 2.99 or 3.99 for what is essentially a rental. Would you rent a blu-ray for 20-30 dollars on your computer?

The answer is no.
If they want a large digital audience 99 cents is the maximum amount they should charge and it should be a file that can be opened in various media platforms. If you want to burn a disc full of them or have a usb full of them you should be able to. They need to make it easier than torrents and they must be day and date(it must be easier to find and download as well as so cheap that someone is willing to try out just about anything because it is as cheap as a can of pop).

Digital comics should not be viewed as the future primary source of revenue for comics companies, it should be considered a bonus on what they sell in stores.

And again 2.99 for a digital comic is absurd, the people who are willing to spend that much on a digital copy are either insane or have to much money. Comics companies are idiots for thinking that they will sell large amounts with those ridiculous prices.

I’d buy them, for a reasonable price ( $12 for year subscription seems ok).
but it’s abusrd if they are going to cost as much as the printed copy.

The industry has been trying to push digital comics since the mid 90s. There is a reason why it hasn’t worked….for a recent example Google “Zuda Comics”. People have an Inherent need to collect, whether it be rocks, books, or comic books. A digital file cannot be collected, will never appreciate in value, and those who already read digital comics do not pay for them. I understand the push, and if it will get new readers, then so be it, but I will never read a digital comic, and I don’t think the model will have success.

I’ll never buy a digital subscription. Hard copy or forget it.

I would buy a digital comics subscription the moment they sell me downloadable PDFs that I can read on any device at any time. Until then, I’m going to be a very picky purchaser.

Though there are plenty of negative responses, I am actually encouraged by the number of responses saying they would buy a digital subscription. Obviously, anyone checking out this blog is more than likely to be part of the die hard comic book fan base and probably more apt to be a collector. But as some have already said, there are plenty of us out there who have no desire, interest, or space to collect comics. I would gladly spend @$100 or more a month buying comics I am interested in but I have no wish to save the hard copy. Even now, I only get mail order subscriptions because I have no time or interest in visiting a brick and mortar store. Once I read them, I throw them out. There are plenty more like me out there. And no one is suggesting that the print versions go away. But for those of use who just want to keep up with the characters and enjoy a good story, the digital format and subscription is ideal.

It is a failure of imagination to assume the way you approach or enjoy something is the only loglical or proper way to do so. Theres room for new models without destroying old ones. Bottom line: more readers, whatever medium they are using, means better comics in the long run.

So, instead of charging $25 for a subscription to a series, why not charge $25 and let the reader pick and choose which issues/series to buy? I’m going all digital (although I’m finishing out my Red Robin series in print). My main problem right now is Marvel comics on Comixology are only available on iOS. This makes DC (and Boom and IDW) look a lot more worthwhile. But, if you do have iOS, Marvel regularly offers a certain series for .99 an issue. It’s called Marvel Monday .99 sale.

These are comics that you can read on your handheld device or on your computer. You don’t have to be connected to the Internet to read the comics you have already bought and downloaded. Just like you don’t have to be on the Net to read your ebooks after you have purchased them and downloaded them.

You may not have a copy in your hand, but you have access to it any time, which is better than the database subcription service that Marvel also has. With that, once you stop paying, you have no access to the comics.

I like to be able to re-read mine when I feel like it.

I would definitely purchase a monthly subscription for comics – in fact I have. Marvel charges 10/ month, or 5 if you pay for the year up front. Great deal and you can get a ton of comics for digital streaming. I’m loving it. But i just wish DC and Darkhorse would offer something similar – I’m dropping $2 or so per issue if I want to read any of my favorites from them. Which adds up really quick.

I think monthly subscriptions for comics is great because its affordable, you can access a ton of comics on the go without having to carry them or worry about them being damaged. Of course, I still buy hard copies of my all time favorites. #justsayin

Both. More options the better. Cater to everybody. Also most of the profit in digital form should go to the creators.

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