Saturday, February 25, 2012

There's a Reason Why Digital Comics Aren't Flourishing...

...and it comes down to one thing--price. But before I complain about it, how did I get to a point where the price on digital comics even mattered so much to me?

Only when we moved to our current home did I realize how many comic books, of the physical form, I actually owned. The picture on the left shows my collection after having eliminated about 4-5 long boxes of comics through Ebay. My collection was cumbersome and space-eating, and I really didn't need all these comics cluttering up the basement, did I? Probably not. So I decided to start selling chunks of my collection on ebay (which I'm still in the middle of doing). It's nice to see the number of boxes (slowly) decrease, but it's a battle that I'm not helping because instead of strictly selling comics, I still buy comics as well.

Just because I'm selling my collection doesn't mean that I've given up on reading comics. Quite the opposite! The older I get, the more I need that connection to a simpler day and a link to my youth. That and I absolutely love the visual storytelling medium that comics create.

But I don't need to have floppy versions of comics. I'm not in it for the collectibility or resale or anything like that--I just want to read the series and graphic novels that I like in the most cost effective manner possible. Ideally, it would make sense to just go completely digital like I'd started to do with my book collection thanks to Amazon and their Kindle app for my iPad. And I thought I could do the same with the Comics app from Comixology, but even though I occasionally buy comics through the app, I still don't use it as my primary way to buy comics.

The notion that I could have my entire collection on my iPad, which is smaller than my cat, instead of taking up a chunk of an entire room, is so enticing, but it still doesn't work on a price level.

If you think about it, digital comics should be cheaper than their paper counterparts. There's no materials costs, no shipping costs, no printing costs, and no warehouse costs. Yes, you'll have some costs related to various outlets (such as iTunes) taking their cut, but overall you'd think that companies should be able to price digital wares cheaper than their physical versions. This is the case for some comics, but for most it actually is not the case.

Marvel and DC have both jumped into the digital world, which is completely awesome, but they are pricing all of their new releases at the same price physically and digitally. So that new copy of Batman is $2.99 whether you get the physical floppy version or the digital copy. And the latest X-Men (or other Marvel title) will run you $3.99 for either version. Yikes. That's not persuading me to buy the digital copies at all.

If I can get the physical copy for the same price, and often less, then why opt for the digital version? I make all of my physical comic orders through DCBService, where everything is usually at a, to start, 40% discount. So instead of paying $2.99 or $3.99, I'm paying $1.79 or $2.39. I'm already saving money by going physical over digital. As a bonus, which is what I do now, when I'm done reading the physical copies I'll often sell them on ebay, allowing me to recoup some of what I did pay, so I'd say in actuality I'm paying probably $0.99 or so for each comic in physical format... so why aren't the digital prices there?

I'm not sure, actually. I can't possibly see any reason why digital prices should remain as high as they are and equal to print. Sure, there's sales every now and again, but only on very select titles. Also, some publishers have caught on and are pricing their digital comics a little less than print, but until the entire market, especially the big players Marvel and DC, gets to a point where digital comics are cheaper and easier to get than their physical version (they're already there on the easier part), it's just not going to work.

And if people really want to get their comics digitally and not pay the ridiculous digital prices, they'll just torrent them and use Comic Zeal to store them on their iPad. Heck, for portability's sake, I'll often torrent digital copies of the comics I own and buy physically just so I don't have to lug around big old trade paperbacks or a stack of comics. I want to buy comics digitally, but until they're cheaper, it doesn't make sense for me to move away from the physical format. Let's get with it, Marvel & DC. I guarantee you sales will increase if you bring that price point down a bit.


Erik said...

It is such a short sighted business plan to not offer a price break for saving the content producers so much time and money. As you note, it costs far more money to print and distribute dead tree copies of comics. Until the providers make it worth one's while to move from dead wood to digital, piracy will be rampant.

Heck, I'd like to see them make it so that if you buy the dead tree copy, you get the digital copy free (but, of course, that creates issues on the secondary market).

Rick Gebhardt said...

If I were still a collector, I'd eschew digital as a medium for sure, but I just like reading now. I don't have the urge to collect. So I'd rather NOT have all the dead trees in boxes in my basement. Just like the transition from paper to digital for books, I'll buy the kindle version of a book if it's cheaper than the dead tree version, but if I can get the dead tree for less, that's the direction I go.

Oh well... whatever the medium, I guess I don't care all that much... except for when I want to take books with me places. Then I wish everything was digital!