Alarm over Marvel’s future digital plans

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201403060333 Alarm over Marvels future digital plans

GoodEReader is site that often has interesting digital news, but it just posted an alarmist article called Marvel Phasing out Retail Comic Distribution to Focus on Digital, which frankly is just wacky.

Which is not to say that all the signs and leaks and rumors and gossip haven’t been pointing to Marvel significantly growing their own digital sales. This weekends SXSWi will see Marvel announcing some stuff, and there has already been a press conference scheduled for tech outlets. What the most credible rumors say is that Marvel will launch its own digital storefront—as with the expansion of it’s Marvel Unlimited program—and take a lot of that business away from Comixology. It IS a little like the early 90s purchase of Heroes World distribution so that Marvel could distribute its own comics, and that was one of the most disastrous events of comics’ most disastrous decade…but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

The idea of Marvel ditching print sales at this point is…well, ludicrous. The writer of the piece, Michael Koslowski, seems to have misread every recent comics happening, including Marvel pulling its unprofitable RETURNABLE periodicals from bookstores. In the comments he goes on and on misreading everything, claiming that comics shops are closing in “record numbers” and incorrectly stating Marvel is giving away 150,000 Amazon vouchers (Comixology is doing that) and so on. The whole piece seems to be clickbait and maybe I just fell into a trap but given Marvel’s lack of a real book program and print’s still-substantial profitability superiority over digital the idea of them “phasing it out” right now is…silly.

NOW that is not to say that maybe this could happen at Marvel OR DC or everywhere down the road. As we head to the someday digital everything, every publisher is wise to take stock of paper vs byte. I don’t think Disney or Warner Bros want to be in the magazine business, and both have taken all the steps they can to get out of that business except for comics. I think that either a) licensing out books or b) going digital COULD BE eventual strategies for Marvel and/or DC as the cost of 100+ person divisions to put out Fantomex comics that sell 10,000 copies becomes harder to justify.

We just aren’t there yet.

Comments

  1. I like Marvel’s Digital comics (and digital comics in general), I spend more money on digital comics than I used to on print….

    I also want all my digital comics in one place, one app. I also want Guided View. So I have zero interest in Marvel trying to do it on their own.

  2. The author of the original article is a dingbat. Marvel pulled single issues from B&N, not trades, and somehow that spun into click bait “Marvel is abandoning print, the sky is falling” posts all over.

  3. JoeC_Mommy says:

    I’m a subscriber to Marvel Unlimited. It’s the best bang for your buck for back issues. And I like that its kinda like your local library in that you can try before you buy (in print, for your bookshelf or collection).

    That said, I’m hesitant to replace print comics and trades for digital comics and trades. What if the digital storefront closes, enters bankruptcy, fails? What if a behind-the-scenes dispute or clerical error causes the storefront to remove certain issues or collections *that you’ve paid for* from your account? (I know that’s happened at least once with Amazon and its Kindle.) I like technology. But more than that, I like to own what I buy.

  4. > 100+ person divisions to put out Fantomex comics that sell 10,000 copies

    False equivalency.

    Marvel puts out A LOT more comics with those 100+ divisions. The number of persons devoted to a single comic is not really that many.

  5. And didn’t you have an article a few months ago that the number of comic shops are on the rise?

  6. Yeah, that’s a mess. Probably best not to take as one’s numbers guru a writer who can’t get subject-verb agreement down…

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    Warners already sells direct: Warner Archives DVDs, which are Print-On-Demand DVDs. You buy a title online, and a week later, it arrives, looking like any other DVD you might find at Barnes & Noble (are there any other video chains still in business?).

    Marvel recently opened their library for APIs. (Google: Marvel Developer Portal) So, that’s basically letting online apps set up a comics shop online… “Here’s our App. Select the Marvel titles you like. Give us some money. Enjoy.”

    Me, I’m still hoping DC, Marvel, etc. will set up a POD portal. I could select the stories I wanted, design the book, make the payment, and receive a copy of that anthology a week later.

    Basically, it’s marketing to the fleas on the long tail.

    Meanwhile, Image is selling DRM-free copies DIRECT to consumers. PDF, ePub, CBR, CBZ …and no one panicked when this was announced last July at the Image Expo.

  8. MBunge says:

    “the cost of 100+ person divisions to put out Fantomex comics that sell 10,000 copies becomes harder to justify.”

    That final issue of Fantomex that sold 9,890 copies generated $39,461.10 in revenue and there were over 50 Marvel titles which sold better than that. In other words, that 100+ person division generated several million dollars of revenue that month.

    Mike

  9. Urbanlegend says:

    I hope they won’t abandon comixology after their deal ends (I already have a lot of comics from Marvel inside). I think that print should be minimized and restricted only to OGN/TPB/HC releases (accompanied by a few 1st issue only promotional new titles & weekly mini series) that would be made available in stores after the story was finished in digital. Savings would be tremendous and it would help keep the cost of published books.

  10. Frankius Santoroius says:

    Everyone now read Heidi’s article on Marvelcution from the Comics Journal #200 for context

  11. Wallace Ryan says:

    I think the hack at Comixology points out one of the problems of digital comics. And paper’s way cooler.

  12. I think the hack at Comixology points out one of the problems of digital comics.

    Which is?

    (The hack in question gave people access to books you’ve already purchased. It didn’t remove those books from you, and it didn’t reveal financial information. It is one of the most mild electronic security breaches I’ve ever been involved in. The only problem it caused for me was the need to change my password.)

  13. I think we’ll see more B-list character books going digital exclusive. It makes sense as print costs only go up and the readers just aren’t there for non A-list titles and creators.

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