DC announces digital pricing strategy: "Price parity"

201106021919 DC announces digital pricing strategy: "Price parity"
Good news! Turns out DC isn’t trying to destroy the direct sales market with their “Flashboot” — or whatever it’s called — relaunch after all! And it is a relaunch, not a reboot, according to a letter sent by SVP of Sales Bob Wayne to retailers, announcing a pricing strategy that will see digital comics at the SAME price as print comics for their first four weeks of release. Wayne calls this “price parity” — “ No DC digital comic will be cheaper than its physical counterpart at launch.” The Johns/Lee JLA #1 will be available with a digital download for $4.99, in print and digital only for $3.99 each.

Future digital titles will be at the regular price: $2.99 for an oversized issue, $1.99 for a regular sized issue.

Perhaps as important as all this to the retail segment and to the future of the line — returnability for 41 of the launch titles — presumably the more experimental ones that we haven’t seen yet. The returnability comes at the price of ordering 125% of a store’s May orders — so then, this is DC’s shot to blow Marvel right out of the water as far as market share goes.

Wayne’s letter is below. A consumer version of this information has been posted at the Source.

To our comics retail partners,

With The New DCU – the September launch of our 52 #1s – we have created an event that we believe will generate unprecedented buzz, and, more importantly, unprecedented sales results for you.  This is a shock to the system, no question, but we have the quality stories and the unrivaled sales/marketing support and the increased public attention to help you best absorb that shock and profit from it.

As a follow-up to my first letter, we wanted to provide some immediate specifics on September:

CONTENT
We know that you want more details on the creative teams and their title-by-title assignments for the launch. . (And by the way, let me just reiterate this point:  this is the launch of the New DCU.  It is not a “reboot.”  I think you will soon discover why that is.)  We will send you an e-mail with more creative details next week, as a teaser in advance of the solicitation copy for Previews going live on the 13th. Once solicit copy is released, we will be sending you a short introductory video, starring our creators and our content.  We will also be taking this act on the road, for a series of retailer meetings in markets including New York, Dallas/Fort Worth, Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles, during the days leading up to the release of the physical Previews catalog.  Stay tuned for more details, and send us a note to make sure you’re on the invite list.

DIGITAL
To clarify from my last note, we will be at “price-parity” for same-day digital.  No DC digital comic will be cheaper than its physical counterpart at launch.  Same-day (a.k.a. “Day/ Date”) parity pricing is for the first four weeks of release; thereafter, the digital titles will follow our standard pricing, with $2.99 comics dropping in price to $1.99, $3.99 comics dropping in price to $2.99, and so forth.  Keep in mind that our goal with our 52 new #1s will be to ensure that the physical comic book is more compelling than ever!

Additionally, we will be offering you an additional special “combo pack” for Justice League.  This is a Diamond-exclusive $4.99 physical polybagged JUSTICE LEAGUE comic which will contain a redemption code for a digital copy on the inside cover.  So consumers will have three main ways to read Justice League beginning August 31st – $3.99 physical, the $4.99 combo pack, and $3.99 digital.

As mentioned above, after four weeks the digital-only price drops to $2.99, per our standard price for oversized digital titles.

INCENTIVES
For optimal sales impact, each of our 52 titles will have one of three distinct incentives:

a) Variants
For variants, we chose our core iconic titles, the ones that you tell us your consumers want most.  And of course, we sought out those titles with the most compelling visuals.  At a minimum, this variant plan will be offered for September, October, and November. We will be offering variants on five different titles, with at least one each week.

· 1:25 variant
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 - 8/31 in-store.  This cover will have a 1:25 ordering incentive.

· Weekly targeted variant
FLASH #1 - 9/28 in-store.  Retailers may order at FOC up to as many copies of the FLASH #1 variant as were ordered at FOC of their lowest-ordered DCU title for the 9/28 in-store week.  (This is an example; each week will feature a title with a variant following this incentive pattern.)

b) Deep Discounting
For deeper discounts, we chose to spotlight potential break-out titles which can help you focus your staff and your customers. Books that have a compelling creator, an obvious jumping-on point for your readers, etc.  We will be offering an additional 15% discount on six different titles for orders placed by FOC, effectively giving you a 50% to 72% discount spread, instead of our normal 35% to 57% spread.

At a minimum, this deep discounting will be offered for September, October, and November.  The lead title is WONDER WOMAN with five others that will be announced next week.

c) Returnability
We are backing up our commitment to you and this launch, by putting our copies where are mouths are.  We will be offering 100% Returnability on all of the remaining 41 titles. Returnability across the rest of the 52 allows the breadth of these titles to get their fair chance with your consumers.  This comes with a qualifier – your total post-FOC September orders in dollars for DC periodicals must be 125% or more of your May post-FOC orders for DC periodicals.

As with prior returnable programs, qualifying retailers will be required to return stripped covers from the returnable issues along with an affidavit of destruction to Diamond Comic Distributors at a date to be named later. Retailers will then be issued credit for each copy, minus 10% of the cover price. At a minimum, this returnability program will be offered for September, October, and November.

Call or e-mail me or my team with any questions.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your patience, and your partnership. Come make history with us!

Bob Wayne
DC COMICS

Comments

  1. Kevin Bates says:

    Ugh. I’m really baffled why DC seems to be bending over backwards to not hurt the feelings of comic book store owners.

    Imagine if record companies had announced that no album would be sold via iTunes cheaper than you can buy it in a local record store. It’s a digital product, DC should provide these items cheaper to customers who want the digital product. Day and date is a good start, but its not enough.

  2. We’ve used the term trade-waiters for a while now. What will we call people who wait a month for the $1 discount on their comics?

  3. >> What will we call people who wait a month for the $1 discount on their comics? >>

    Digi-delayers.

  4. I get that the comic stores are mad…but like the record store, they are dead…done…finished…it’s over…

    DC had a real chance to step up and say “hey, the digital market is really important to the future of comics” and instead they chose the wishy washy route.

    The idea behind digital is NEW customers…the same old crowd of 40,000 who regularly buy comics isn’t going to stop going to their local…and NEW people don’t want $3 pamphlets…

    DC’s strategy went from WOW to MEH in one letter.

  5. >> I’m really baffled why DC seems to be bending over backwards to not hurt the feelings of comic book store owners.>>

    Feelings?

    DC seems to be bending over backward to not damage their single largest source of revenue. I doubt feelings have much to do with it.

    >> Imagine if record companies had announced that no album would be sold via iTunes cheaper than you can buy it in a local record store.>>

    When digital revenue looks like it’s competing well with print revenue, they might switch, but at this stage their numbers probably don’t suggest it’s a good idea.

    >> It’s a digital product, DC should provide these items cheaper to customers who want the digital product.>>

    They do. Just four weeks later. E-books do something roughly similar, where the pricing of e-books varies depending on whether they’re competing with a hardcover edition or the paperback. Same file, different date, different price.

    It’s easy to say “should,” but companies don’t just up and do what other businesses do unless it makes the same kind of financial sense. When it does, maybe they will.

    In the meantime, if DC is relaunching their entire universe, I can see why they’d be cautious about risking their primary revenue stream at the same time.

  6. >> I get that the comic stores are mad…but like the record store, they are dead…done…finished…it’s over…>>

    It’s always strange (if predictable) how there are always people willing to make sweeping declarations about the financial state of stuff they don’t know the financial state of.

    Comics stores aren’t dead. They may be someday, but right now they’re what’s keeping the comics industry alive. Throwing them under the bus because you imagine that digital revenues will catch up in time to stave off complete disaster would be foolish.

    Much like the readers who were willing to guarantee that comics sales would be fantastic if companies only cut the price back to a dollar on everything, people who insist that digital is everything and print is dead are engaging in a fantasy.

    Digital may well be the future. But it’s only part of the present. It took over ten years for direct sales to build up to more than half of comics publishing’s revenues — had they discarded the newsstand in 1982, they’d have died before it happened. Give digital some time to build before you trash print; the comics industry can’t yet survive on digital alone.

  7. “Digi-delayers.”

    Digi-dawdlers? Digi-daunders? Digi-dallies?

  8. “I get that the comic stores are mad… but like the record store, they are dead… done… finished… it’s over…”

    I seriously doubt that’ll ever be the case, either for record stores or for comics stores. They’re certainly facing tough times, and individual stores will need to reinvent themselves in a way that makes them valuable to their customers, if they haven’t already. But ultimately, I expect one of the results of digital distribution to be BETTER comics and record (“Comics & Record”?) stores, once the dust has settled.

    I’m as excited by the possibilities digital distribution offers as anyone, but physical books will never go away — and if there were a cool, stylish comics store with competent and friendly staff and an identity of its own down the road, then you bet that’s where I’ll be buying them.

  9. (One of the crucial questions for many current comics stores being: Do you really need a physical book for the kind of disposable, slapdash content DC and Marvel crank out most of the time, where “What happens next?” is, at best, the only thing that matters? Or is it time to try and cultivate an audience for a different kind of product, as some of the finer establishments have already done?)

  10. In other words, I don’t think Jim Woodring, Charles Burns or David Mazzucchelli will ever be short of an audience for printed books, if you catch my drift.

  11. jason says:

    It’s sad because we all know these comics will be available online for free the same day DC overcharges for them. Had DC been brave and did the 99 cent price point I would have bought all 52 new series. now I will just use flashboot as a huge jumping off point.

  12. Richard Adler says:

    A more reasonable pricing structure for a first-time venture than I would have expected.

    That being said, it’s hard to see a higher price than .99 cents in the long-term, both for new releases and backlist (assuming the market doesn’t move the price on backlist even lower than that).

  13. Kate Willaert says:

    I can’t help but imagine if record labels functioned like comic publishers.

    DC Music: “We know this is controversial, but we’re going to start selling the single on iTunes on the same day as we release it to independent record stores.

    “But don’t worry, for the first month it will be $2.99, just like the physical copy. Then the drop the iTunes version to $1.99. And large chains won’t get the song until it’s released as part of an album, six or seven months after the first single.”

    Meanwhile, the single is still being torrented the day it’s released to the independent record stores, when a large portion of that audience would be completely willing to spend money on it if the price was $0.99 a song.

  14. Gotta agree with Kurt — comic shops are where the comics business is right now. If you look at tablets — there’s only about 20+ million iPads and a few Android tablets in the wild so far. Out of all those sold, how many of those tablet owners are reading comics? The average person doesn’t have a tablet device yet. This will take several years and something like a sub $100 tablet to make them ubiquitous. Perhaps at that point digital comics will overtake physical comics.

    There is a tendency to look at other media like books and music and see comics going in the same direction, but the timeline could be very different. One reason is that music and books can be used on cheap digital devices. The Kindle is around $140, but is only in black and white and does not suport fully illustrated works. Technology has to get a lot cheaper to handle a medium like comics that is graphic dependent. Another problem with digital comics is that most people don’t see them as a bargain compared to physical comics. At $1.99 each for something that I don’t own and can’t move around easily, I’m not compelled to buy them very often. They really need to be priced around a buck to get me to consume them without concern. Much of this pricing is because Apple takes 30% off the top. My guess is once Android tablets start taking more market share, you’ll see comic, newspaper, and magazine prices drop a bit since Google will take less on each transaction than Apple. And once a color Kindle is released, we may see Amazon offering comics, just as they’ve gotten into the digital music space.

    It’s true — comic shops may not be around forever, few things will be, everything has a cycle. But for now, enjoy your local comic shop. The news of their demise is greatly exaggerated.

  15. blacaucasian says:

    “Meanwhile, the single is still being torrented the day it’s released to the independent record stores, when a large portion of that audience would be completely willing to spend money on it if the price was $0.99 a song.”

    So it’s perfectly okay for you to steal something if they don’t offer it for the price you want to pay for it.

    Just because some scumbags are scanning things and putting them up for free doesn’t mean it’s right to download them.

    Writers, artists, editors, and production staff of the comic company be damned (not to mention administration, hr, legal, sales, publicity, marketing, etc…) Rent (of the buildings the offices are housed in), printing costs, server costs (for digital storage), internet access and dedicated data lines to transfer the gigs full of artwork that need to be transferred from all over the world, phones, electricity, etc….be damned. I don’t care how many more people buy books at .99 cents, the reality of the world we live in is that how ever many more people buy the books it’s not going to cover the day to day costs of running this particular business.

    Again, this is a B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S.

  16. I know people have this mindset that digital stuff should be cheaper, but that isn’t really the case in most other media. I have a kindle, but most new books cost about the same on kindle as they do in paperback, and I can often get a physical CD cheaper at my local Newbury Comics on the day of release than if I downloaded it from iTunes. TV Seasons are about the same price to download as they are to buy the DVD sets. I don’t know why people think comics should be any different.

  17. blacaucasian: “Just because some scumbags are scanning things and putting them up for free doesn’t mean it’s right to download them.”

    It’s not right, but it’s just accepting reality of what is happening out in the marketplace. If they want to build a digital audience and not lose people to torrents, then they need to price comics competitively.

    Especially if DC Comics wants to get the average person who isn’t a big comic book fan to start picking up issues. Look at apps that find a huge drop in sales when they try to go up beyond 99 cents.

  18. I’m interested to know how this is going to play out across the international market. Can I, as an Australian, buy digital comics at the US $2.99 price rather than the local hard-copy price, which, due to import costs and the high price of retail space, is around the US $5-6 dollar mark? Or are they going to try to lock us out, or impose region-based pricing? Or will they just keep this US-only for now?

    If they keep international parity, you make the consumers very happy, and deal a blow to retailers (though the smart ones have already moved heavily into manga). If they base pricing on region, however they accomplish it, they’ll make the retailers happy but really, *really* piss off the consumer-base. There’s a lot of hate over here for anyone – from game developers to Apple – that charge Aussies a higher price for digital offerings than can be found in the US or EU, especially now that the aussie dollar’s been at or above parity with the greenback for a while. I think you’d see a big upswing in piracy downunder. Same situation if they make this a US-only deal.

  19. When all is said and done, retailer discounts are more-or-less on par with the costs of digital distribution — so it only stands to reason that retail prices would be more-or-less the same for both formats. It’s not as though the costs of bringing material to market are any different.

  20. Thefreakytiki says:

    The thing that I think everyone is overlooking is this…

    At $1.99 an issue (obviously delayed) will digital actually kill the TPB market?

    The Tiki

  21. Kate Willaert says:

    @BPearce: even if the comic retailer and digital distributor are taking the same cut from each sale, the cost of paper and printing is way more than of preparing a digital file.

  22. @Kevin: As Kurt says, it’s not a question of protecting the feelings of comic store owners. This is Time Warner we’re talking about. Global megacorporation that they are, I’m sure that if they thought they could get away with cutting out the middle man, they’d do it tomorrow.

    What worries DC – rightly – is that they depend on the direct market for much of that income. The direct market may not be the future, but it IS the present. Take too many sales away from the direct market and you put stores out of business and destroy your distribution network. That’s fine if digital is ready to take the slack – but it’s not. This is a transition period. You can’t destroy the present system until the next one is up and running – at least, not without taking a huge gamble on the very existence of your business.

    This is about the bottom line, and the bottom line says there are very good reasons to keep supporting the direct market – at least for now.

    @Bookbuster: That’s a very interesting point. The exchange rate applied for international cover prices has historically been ridiculously unfavourable. If we in the UK can buy the digital comics as their American price, that’s a cost saving in real terms – and bad news for British comic shops and Diamond UK.

  23. blacaucasian says:

    “It’s not right, but it’s just accepting reality of what is happening out in the marketplace. If they want to build a digital audience and not lose people to torrents, then they need to price comics competitively.

    Especially if DC Comics wants to get the average person who isn’t a big comic book fan to start picking up issues. Look at apps that find a huge drop in sales when they try to go up beyond 99 cents.”

    No one can claim to know exactly what the companies production and ancillary costs are for these items. But I can pretty much guarantee that pricing everything from $0.99 to start will not cover the costs it takes for DC to produce these books (from the first pen on paper to the lights that get shut off when the last person leaves the office at night.)

    And as long as we are being realistic, do you really think that people who decided to download these items for free are differentiating between which price points they are going to download it for and at what point their going to go download it for free? I seriously doubt anybody who would download it, excuse me, steal it for free is going to stop when it’s suddenly $0.99.

    Any justification for stealing is wrong. And that’s all these arguments about “competitive pricing’ are. I’m sorry. And that’s what this is. Stealing.

  24. @blacaucasian: I’m not sure this is right. It assumes that the only consideration for illegal downloaders is price. But I think there are several reasons why that’s not correct. First, many downloaders argue (rightly or wrongly) that they’re not stealing because they weren’t going to buy the product anyway. The cheaper the price, the harder that position is to justify. Second, comics are so expensive relative to what you get for your money that many potential customers regard the legitimate channels as literally extortionate and undeserving of moral respect; a similar problem to what befell music and software. Again, lower prices diminish that attitude. And third, price is not the only consideration, but merely one among many; at a low enough price, downloaders are likely to be attracted by, for example, the greater convenience and reliability of a legal service.

    Granted, the whole point of copyright is to artificially increase the price so as to provide a greater reward to creators. But that’s an attempt by the law to create an economic result, and it can’t be completely detached from the economic realities. If it doesn’t work, there’s no point having it. (And that’s before you even get in to the question of whether copyright is in fact achieving its aim of rewarding the creators, as opposed to middle-men whom technology is increasingly rendering redundant – which in turn begs the question, if creators are happy to produce work for negligible reward, as many of them apparently are, why are we bothering to incentivise them with a copyright system at all?)

  25. Thefreakytiki says:

    I know a lot of people wanted a .99 cent price point but if you treat/equate your product like an “impulse buy” that is all it will ever be.

    The Tiki

  26. Al™ says:

    I subscribe to digital versions of $6.99 newsstand magazines for about $10 a YEAR. And no sales tax. So I pay approximately TEN PERCENT of the newsstand price to read them online, in the same way that digital comics are being ‘sold’.

    These are legal, authorized online copies on Zinio, plus I get an email notifying me when the new issue is available.

    No, not day and date, but available within days of newsstand release.

    Cheaper than newsstand, cheaper and faster than postal subscription.

    I understand that the retailer dynamic and politics is different here than in comics, and the distribution system is different. But TEN PERCENT????

  27. The idea that they would try to price digital comics for the same price as physical comics is dumb. More even when you consider that a good many comic buyers buy their comics at a discount because they have a pull list.

    The book industry has already done all the heavy lifting on this. Right now I can go on Amazon and buy the electronic version of a new release for only $12.99 while the physical version retails at $27.99. It’s one of the many reasons I do all my reading electronically. Not only is it more convenient, it’s cheaper.

  28. Al™ says:

    Um, in other words, a direct comparison of the 90% price cut for magazine online copies would mean that a $3.99 comic would cost 40¢ a month.

    Now, how about that 99¢ digital comic price point. Doesn’t it sound more in touch with the rest of the online periodical market now?

  29. @Tiki: Nothing wrong with being an impulse buy. Empires have been built on them.

  30. @AI: The other difference with what you’re describing is that it’s a subscription, so you’re paying in advance. That’s something DC ought to look at – but they’re understandably wary of cutting the legs out from the direct market at too early a stage. (Once they’re confident that they can support themselves with digital sales, look for them to assault the legs of the direct market with a chainsaw.)

  31. blacaucasian says:

    “First, many downloaders argue (rightly or wrongly) that they’re not stealing because they weren’t going to buy the product anyway.”

    Downloaders saying they are going to buy the item anyways and downloaders actually buying the product are two different things. More likely is the justify downloading the item for free because they had no intention of buying it anyway.

    “Second, comics are so expensive relative to what you get for your money that many potential customers regard the legitimate channels as literally extortionate and undeserving of moral respect; a similar problem to what befell music and software.”

    The music and software industries are apples and oranges compared to the comic industry. I guarantee you that from a simple percentage cost to production, finals costs for software and music are much much higher on average than that of your average comic book. As far as the concept that comics are expensive for what you get for your money, this is a subjective opinion. Subjective opinions can’t change the base facts of what the bottom line is to actually make a comic. And whatever your subjective opinion on the price vs value for what your buying a book for, paying nothing for it, which is what this segment of potential buyers represents is not just wrong but unacceptable.

    “And third, price is not the only consideration, but merely one among many; at a low enough price, downloaders are likely to be attracted by, for example, the greater convenience and reliability of a legal service.”

    I still don’t think that pricing something at $.99 versus $1.99 is going to cause someone who is already planning on downloading it for free to suddenly pay for it. It may cause someone who was already buying to buy more, but that’s really not my argument here. Not to mention the fact that you always need to compensate for those who refuse to pay. If I have a retail store and shoplifters come in to steal product, I have to raise prices on everything overall to cover the prices of the things that were stolen. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

    Copyright is a whole other issue that I don’t have the energy to get into right now.

  32. The price point for digital short form entertainment is 99 cents.

    Don’t be stupid, DC Comics. I’m not paying that.

  33. blacaucasian says:

    “The idea that they would try to price digital comics for the same price as physical comics is dumb. More even when you consider that a good many comic buyers buy their comics at a discount because they have a pull list.”

    “Um, in other words, a direct comparison of the 90% price cut for magazine online copies would mean that a $3.99 comic would cost 40¢ a month.”

    This is all arguing that the publishing and magazine industries operate exactly the same as the comic industry, which they do not, nor do they have the same audience or base buying their products. The business models and pay rates for comics are much different than the magazine industry, as is the programming that goes into their digital copies.

    And after 4 weeks, DC is dropping the price on all their digital products by 1/3.

    And not for nothing, but whose to say they won’t develop a program down the line where the do deeper discounts for older material down the line. This is all baby steps.

  34. @blacaucasian: As a consumer, the comic and book industry is the same. They are both selling media for me to read.

  35. Ian Boothby says:

    Pia Guerra did a post a while back about how online is going to become the new 7-11. Used to be comics had to compete with a popsicle for a kid’s money. Soon they’ll have to compete with Angry Birds. They need to be priced accordingly for the market they’re sold in.

  36. I see from the other comments that people are most worried about digital thieves, saying what a person will buy vs steal, is there a breaking point, etc. Who cares.

    I am no thief. I am an avid downloader, a legal one. I’ve got an account on Comixology and I only download stuff that’s .99 or legally offered for free. And I insist, my price is NINETY-NINE CENTS, or go kick rocks.

    I also buy hella music digitally through iTunes. I buy albums for ten, songs for a dollar. You have got to be kidding when you tell me that comics which offer the same relative value per unit need to cost twice or even FOUR TIMES that.

    One dollar. Or tell your story walking.

  37. “…but like the record store, they are dead…done…finished…it’s over…”

    Jersey City’s long-time record store, Iris Records, just recently re-opened. ZOMBIE!

    And now we have a Barcade, where I play a whole mess of Karate Champ and Contra, and the old cockpit Star Wars fighter pilot game.

    And we have FJB comics (Its almost like jersey city is a real place now).

    All these damn, dead things hanging about, littering up the place with their “commerce” and “locally owned” horse-pucky. Damn them, damn their undead asses to hell.

    Aside from JC’s spectral aura of necrotic reanimation, it seems like this is back asswards move. The #1s are all going to see a bump. There are still plenty of speculators and collectors out there, and a #1 is the tide that raises all ships. The #1s are not going to be in danger of going unsold. Hence, one would presume, you be better off taking the chance on the #1s by offering them at $1 digitally, as a lure to potential new readers.

  38. “there’s only about 20+ million iPads and a few Android tablets in the wild so far.”

    So if 0.1% of these paltry 20 million tablet owners purchase a given comic, then…it would sell about as well as a mid tier physical book.

  39. Ralf Haring says:

    Pricing the digital version the same as the physical version is not good enough.

    Lowering the price by 1/3 after four weeks to a price that is still unacceptable is not good enough.

    Anything but $0.99 is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

    You make the legal download method easy to use and cheap enough and people are more than happy to give you their money. The road has been paved by the music, book, and smartphone app industries over the past ten years. $3.99 for a digital comic? DC has blinders on AND their head in the sand.

  40. Comics are not books. I read books on my Android phone. I don’t want to read comics on my phone. There aren’t enough cheap tablet devices around, yet, to make the physical option undesirable.

    Comics are not songs. Music singles cost roughly $2.99 in record stores — for two songs. Complete albums don’t cost that much less to buy digitally than their physical counterparts.

    Comics are not magazines. Large-circ magazines are generally advertising-supported. Our household has gotten sub-$20 subscriptions to physical-copy mags like Real Simple and Wired in recent years, because those magazines’ prime concern is keeping up circulation so they can charge a certain minimum for advertising. Comics are not advertising-supported.

    Comics have unique advantages, unique drawbacks, and unique opportunities to be explored in the digital market. I’ve thought for a long time that we’re going to wind up with a tiered pricing system based on release dates — you’ll pay more if you want the comic the day it comes out. That’s the way books work, too, with harder divisions into hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback publication. It makes sense here, too. You’ve got to pay for the content creation somehow.

  41. @Kate Willaert: Yes, of course, you forego the costs of printing and shipping — but what I should have made more clear (this is what can happen when you post at bedtime, sorry!) is that these are really only a small part of the costs of bringing this product to market. Much smaller than you might think.

    I have some data on DC’s costs (admittedly, it’s a bit out of date, I left the company eight years ago), and when I did back-of-the-envelope math, I arrived at the conclusion that the comparable price to a $2.99 digital product was no better than about $2.50, more or less.

    If digital distribution didn’t remove 30% of the retail price right off the top (plus whatever any other partners are probably taking), the situation might be very different. Probably not so different that you could hit this mythical, ideal, 99-cent price that everyone (who doesn’t make a living with this product) seems to think is such a swell idea — but maybe something closer to it. But as it is, right now a publisher is really trading one set of costs for another (along with all of the other concerns involved).

  42. “tiered pricing system based on release dates”

    This is essentially the model for print books. The hardcover book is released first, for a premium price, then you wait a year (or 2 years for something like Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and The Help) for the cheaper, smaller paperback.

    The difference in actual cost between those two formats is about $2 generally. Hardcover buyers are paying the premium for the immediacy of the content with a small undercurrent of collector and speculative first edition hunting.

    As a general run of the market I’d love to see this model take root, but I’d like to see BobJimDanGeoff WayneDidioLeeJohns take some initiative on making this an actual consumer oriented jumping on-point.

    Thus far this reboot seems to be just another reflection of how far the characters are moving from their previous incarnation.

  43. True Believer says:

    DC should just make the digitalcopies 1.99 out of the gate instead of finagling price to appeal to retailers. In the grand scheme of things it’s not going to affect their bottom line. It’s highly unlikely that all their DC customers will stop buying books. The real way to make retailers happy is to make the books “special” and add a little bonus exclusive material inside the singles you can’t get anywhere else. Even a little 5-8 page backup story would suffice. DUH!

  44. thefreakytiki says:

    @Stuart Moore BRAVO, my Friend. Bravo!

    I couldn’t agree more.

    the Tiki

  45. goofball814 says:

    What a bunch of whiny cheapskates comic fans are!

    You whine that you want digital, so DC starts offering digital.
    You whine that it should be $1.99 digital vs. $2.99 physical, but let’s face it, you cry baby’s would then whine that it should be $0.99. And then if it was offered at $0.99, you’d whine that it should be $0.49. If it was $0.49, you’d whine because it should be $0.29. If it was $0.29, you’d whine that it’s not FREE. And if it was free, you’d then whine that the quality was up to your standards, so you would’t waste your time reading it!

    And your all a bunch of hypocrts! You bitch and complain about “creator’s rights” and how the creators need to be fairly compensated for their work, but you as the whiny, crybaby, fanboy shouldn’t have to pay anything over $0.99 for their work.

  46. Eric H. says:

    I also fully agree with you Stuart.

    And as for magazines, some of them will GIVE them to you just to keep subscription, and in turn advertising rates, up.

  47. >> I understand that the retailer dynamic and politics is different here than in comics, and the distribution system is different. But TEN PERCENT???? >>

    Cover price is simply not as important to a lot of magazines as it is to comics, because they’re not as dependent on it. They make much more money through advertising revenue.

    There are some magazines that could simply give the issues away for free, but they charge a price in order to limit the audience to those who want it enough — and who are thus those the advertisers want to reach. The advertisers wouldn’t pay that much to be in a free magazine, but they’ll pay to be in a magazine that reaches their targeted demo.

    [And there are magazines that are given away free, on college campuses, because the advertisers (car companies and credit card companies, largely) are targeting that specific demo, so a cover price isn’t needed to winnow down the audience.]

    If digital comics find a large audience, it’ll affect advertising revenue, and that in turn might change the dynamics of the industry. But until it does, there isn’t the kind of direct comparison you’re drawing. Those magazines offering cheap subscriptions are selling you to the advertisers, and the gateway of cover price is what makes the audience the right demo on newsstands, while the gateway of choosing to subscribe does it in subscriptions.

    Comics don’t currently make enough from advertising for that to be a factor. They’d certainly like to get there, though. But not by putting the cart in front of the horse and cutting prices in hopes that a large enough audience will instantly appear.

  48. I will preface my comments by saying I have a Kindle, an iPhone and a laptop, so I am not an anti-tech curmudgeon. But my concern about digital comics is the lack of permanence. What happens if your comics reader crashes. Will DC?Marvel comp you all the comics you’ve bought? What about digital reader format changes–will you have to re-buy your comics? I have dozens of floppy discs w/data I can’t access because there are no more disc drives.

    Yes, I have a Kindle, and these questions pertain there, but w/e-books I only buy those that I would not be upset if the memory of the device got wiped.

    Formats and devices change all the time. I’ve bought the same album on tape, CD, and MP3. I don’t want to replace my comic collection every ten years.

  49. Hi goofball. My name is Darryl.

    Short-form digital entertainment costs 99 cents. That is reality. Do you have any experience in the digital market at all? Do you purchase songs in iTunes? Do you buy smartphone games? If not, sit back and listen while the actual customers explain how the market really works.

    Man, chill.

  50. >> I have a Kindle, and these questions pertain there, but w/e-books I only buy those that I would not be upset if the memory of the device got wiped.>>

    I buy e-books and back them up. If my Kindle got wiped, I could re-load every book I’ve bought, whether they came from Amazon, another service that will reload my purchases for free, or even those that don’t.

    That’s one of the strengths of digital, in fact. You can back it up. If my JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD omnibuses go up in a fire, I’d have to re-buy them. If my Kindle goes up in a fire, all the files I read on it are backed up and easily restorable.

    And if the media on which I have my Kindle library backed up starts to go out of fashion, I’ll upgrade the backup media. I could have that stuff backed up 7 different places, if I wanted to.

  51. Maclaine says:

    I don’t think this pricing policy is exclusive to DC. I buy a title from Image using comiXology on my iPad. It’s the only monthly I still buy, and I was thrilled that all the back issues I had missed for the last year and a half were priced at $1.99. I bought 15 or so issues in one sitting and ripped through them all to get caught up. Then the most current issued jumped up to cover price for the physical copy, $3.99. I bought it because it wrapped up the storyline, but I have not bought an issue since.

    I honestly can not see a reason to make a digital copy the same price as a physical copy. The most successful digital store model, iTunes, doesn’t do it. The most successful digital game store model, Steam, does not do it. Why would comics do it? Is the overhead for getting a digital version just as high as getting a print version into the hands (or screens) of readers? I have a hard time believing that.

    Comic books are an industry that is strangely resistant to change, and while I like going to a store as much as anyone else, for a quick fix on a monthly, digital is vastly superior. This seems like a half-hearted step towards progress.

  52. I’d like to know what percentage of the cover price on an average comic is split by the printer, the distributer, and the retailer. That percentage is the discount I expect on a digital comic. When that happens I might give them a shot, but otherwise piracy is the new comic book store.

    I’m willing to pay 99 cents for a digital comics story, if it’s well drawn and well written, if it has a beginning middle and end, and I feel like I’m not just borrowing an “authorized reading experience” in the preferred DMR format of a multi-national corporation.

    If it’s what most superhero comics are now: the equivalent of seven minutes of a soap opera, I say how about free with ads, like a TV show? Actually, no, free is too expensive. Pay me to read it to keep your trademark alive?

    Better yet, lets have a Paypal button that gives the money directly to the creators, bypassing publishers all together. And let anyone who wants to do a Batman comic post it online and get paid according to the quality of the story. That way readers get to pay what they feel something is worth, rather than being strong-armed into paying for the janitor who cleans some editor’s office at night.

    This isn’t just comics. Most business is heading this way. In ten years I’ll be printing a coffee maker at home and getting the beans sent to me direct from the farmer.

    These corporations are intent on making innovation illegal through copyright and trademark control. And a without innovation all profits eventually contract to zero. They’re putting themselves out of business by suing their customers, and I’ll be waving goodbye to them as they sink into the muck under the weight of their own legal fees.

  53. @Stuart well put
    DC is operating under the model that what they are pricing is the content, not the format. So if the margin between physical book and digital version is small (that was very interesting), then of course DC has to start with the price point already in place. Obviously, it will go down, but to start at a low price would have completely alienated the last fans of floppies. They are trying to strike a balance though retailer know it is just a matter of time before the first digital-only issue tests the waters (Multiversity?).

    Personally, I don’t think the fans they are looking for care about “day and date” at all. For a new comics reader, that kind of concern comes much later (usually).

    @Kurt I agree that backing up makes sense (esp. with comics) but it also brings up differences in production values. An iPad couldn’t recreate that glorious faux-70s paper in the Fourth World omnibii. Maybe iPad 11.

  54. >> I’d like to know what percentage of the cover price on an average comic is split by the printer, the distributer, and the retailer. That percentage is the discount I expect on a digital comic.>>

    Because you don’t think there’s a distributor or retailer involved? The cuts taken before any money gets to the publisher isn’t actually smaller than it is for print, as I understand it.

    >> That way readers get to pay what they feel something is worth, rather than being strong-armed into paying for the janitor who cleans some editor’s office at night.>>

    Nobody’s strong-arming anyone into buying comics. If you don’t like Batman comics, don’t buy them. But expecting that you should be able to buy things without it paying for overhead is silly. Even if you bought stuff from Joe Creator directly, you’d be thus indirectly paying for the guy who pumps his gas, the new vacuum cleaner, the barber who cuts the family’s hair, and so on. If that creator had a janitor, the money would help pay the janitor, too.

    >> In ten years I’ll be printing a coffee maker at home and getting the beans sent to me direct from the farmer.>>

    And what you pay the farmer will be paying the farmer’s employees. Including the guy who sweeps up.

    Meanwhile, if you want to read comics where you can contribute what you like via a Paypal button, they’re already out there. Seek ‘em out. Maybe they’ll flourish and help bring about the utopia you’re looking forward to, where janitors don’t get paid.

  55. >> An iPad couldn’t recreate that glorious faux-70s paper in the Fourth World omnibii. Maybe iPad 11. >>

    Yep.

    And so far, the Kindle can’t duplicate the product design of printed books. But it’ll come.

  56. Synsidar says:

    The people complaining about price parity seem to have some valid points.

    DC evidently wants to reach new readers with its digital comics, but its and Marvel’s editorial systems, and their method of promoting new releases, work against attracting new and casual readers. Events and event tie-ins; discussing new releases online; blogging about new comics — those are all tied to buying new comics as soon as they’re released.

    If people don’t care about the “physical” reading experience, buyers of new digital comics are paying a penalty for buying them upon release. DC’s desire to sustain its DM distribution network is the company’s problem, not the readers’.

    Is there a substantial market for casual readers, who will buy issues singly? DC almost certainly would reach more first-time and casual readers with reduced prices for the digital comics. If existing and potential customers are put off by the high initial price of digital comics, then the response to the content will be distorted.

    If DC has a major concern about reaching new and casual readers, it might be better to market OGNs to them, instead of trying to sell monthly comics to them. That would raise other pricing issues, but book publishers have strategies to emulate.

    SRS

  57. One point that I’m wondering about – in discussing the discrepancy between print and digital, everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that digital should be paid for by the print end, no? I mean, it’s not like Jonah Hex, which sells around 10,000 copies isn’t making enough to pay for the printing and creative team, is it? Don’t books that don’t make money get cancelled? Wouldn’t that make any money gleaned from selling digital copies essentially gravy?

    Further, I think a lot of people are hung up with the concern of cannibalizing the DM. I can’t see how that would happen, as we’re already down to our core. I don’t think there will be a switch… Comics fans as a whole are too entrenched in the collectability, the tangibility and the community that the LCS affords. I think the main market for the digital experience will end up being new or lapsed readers, and many of them are not reading comics now due to a number of factors – prices, accessibility, storage issues, what have you. Shouldn’t we be lowering as many barriers as possible to entice these new/returning readers into becoming fans again?

  58. Kate Willaert says:

    @Shawn: I was just thinking that, too. I’m not positive, but I’d hypothesize that if comic stores polled their regular customers, they would discover that about 95% of them wouldn’t ditch physical copies for digital, even if it was cheaper. The majority of people who still bother buying single issues are typically people for whom having the physical copy is important. If they ditched that for digital, it’d leave a hole in their physical collection.

    So, theoretically, $0.99 digital copies wouldn’t really be taking away from the small number of people who still buy single issues — instead it would be adding money on top of that.

    DC could’ve even done a poll themselves if they’d wanted, sending little poll cards to retailers with a Diamond shipment, and any retailer who wanted to participate could email the results to DC. It would’ve doubled as a way to assure retailers that digital comics aren’t going to immediately kill them off. It will keep new readers from coming into the stores, but the majority of those new people probably were never going to become store regulars anyways.

    But not only did DC not have the foresight to poll, they also messed up as far as the idea of digital bringing in extra money on top of the established base…because they’d decided to alienate that established base by promoting it as a giant universe-wide relaunch. They could have easily launched the new books as a separate universe, and quietly began slowly cancelling the old books starting with lower sellers. Release one new #1 a month, while using the other books from that month as a “loss leader” until the digital comics develop their own following of people checking out the relaunched books. But it’s too late now, I guess.

  59. @ Kurt:

    >>Because you don’t think there’s a distributor or retailer involved? >>

    You mean people to pack the digital copies into boxes and store them in a warehouse? Drivers to deliver my digital comic to my house? A digital distributor is a computer program. Would I be willing to pay an extra penny to use a reading interface superior to the choices available now? Sure.

    If the quality of the comic is good, and it’s a complete story, and it’s easily available through a quality interface, it can be priced according to how many copies are sold in order for the creators to make a living. The more people who buy it, the cheaper it becomes. How about that as an incentive for word of mouth marketing?

    If that sounds ridiculous, remember that one reason print comics are overpriced is because not enough people are reading them to bring the price down.

    >>And what you pay the farmer will be paying the farmer’s employees. Including the guy who sweeps up. >>

    I don’t think I’m being an idealist when I say that the age of workers is coming to an end. When China and India unionize, the sweatshops will move to Africa, when Africa unionizes, it’ll be the robots or nothing.

    A smart coffee farmer won’t have employees any more than she’ll have a cow pulling her plow. A smart farmer will belong to a coalition of independent contractors who provide unique creative services and products.

    >>If you don’t like Batman comics, don’t buy them.>>

    Like most people in the world, I don’t. Besides I already bought all the good ones 25 years ago.

    I think good comics are underpriced and bad comics are overpriced. I’m not alone in this. I don’t begrudge creators making a living off their art, but I don’t believe that making a living off art is a Right, or even necessarily the best thing for art. I do think a service has value, and art can be inserted into a service, but it’s up to the customer to determine its value.

    The average American has determined that most comics published today aren’t worth their time or money. In response the comic industry has chosen to ignore them. With a new change in the delivery system there’s an opportunity to reconnect with 99% of potential readers being ignored. DC’s response to this opportunity seems to be to ignore any potential new customers and piss of the few they have left. Most people will not read incomplete stories, let alone pay to read them.

  60. >> You mean people to pack the digital copies into boxes and store them in a warehouse? >>

    I don’t, and I suspect you know that, but are playing stupid because your argument falls apart if you can’t insist that the fact that there are still middlemen involved should be irrelevant.

    Even if there were drivers, you wouldn’t want to be “strong-armed”into paying a price that would get them a salary, any more than you want any of your dollar to go to janitors, because…robots in the future.

    >> I don’t think I’m being an idealist when I say that the age of workers is coming to an end. When China and India unionize, the sweatshops will move to Africa, when Africa unionizes, it’ll be the robots or nothing.>>

    Until it comes to and end, someone’ll still be sweeping the floors, though. The fact that you don’t want to pay that guy now because you imagine robots doing it in the future isn’t something I’d call idealistic.

    >>>If you don’t like Batman comics, don’t buy them.>>

    >> Like most people in the world, I don’t.>>

    And yet, you’re demanding that companies behave as if they’re in a robot-based economy in response to an article about how Batman comics are priced.

    kdb

  61. >> But not only did DC not have the foresight to poll…>>

    Wait, wait. You’re deciding that DC didn’t do any research because you didn’t see it happen, and they didn’t go with the strategy that you imagine would be the answer they’d have gotten, even though you’re simply hypothesizing it rather than doing any research yourself. This basically amounts to a statement that DC should have gone with your guess rather than whatever data they used to make their decision.

    I suspect your guess is wrong, though. But I’d bet DC’s done more research than both of us put together.

  62. >> I mean, it’s not like Jonah Hex, which sells around 10,000 copies isn’t making enough to pay for the printing and creative team, is it? >>

    Yes, it probably is like that. JONAH HEX is most likely unprofitable in periodical form, and eventually makes its money back through other revenue streams, including TPBs. And now (or soon) including digital.

    >> Wouldn’t that make any money gleaned from selling digital copies essentially gravy?>>

    No more so than saying the book might be paid for by TPB and digital revenues, so periodical revenues are gravy. It all goes into the same pile. Gravy (profit) is everything left over after you take the costs out, but whether a dollar that comes in on a digital sale or a periodical sale or a foreign license fee or whatever is profit isn’t based on what format it comes in from. Those digital dollars can count just as much toward costs as the other revenue streams.

    Assuming that one stream will never change, so you can price the other streams as if they’re pure profit probably isn’t a good idea. And even if the in-store buyers were subsidizing production for digital buyers, allowing them to get lower prices, that pendulum could swing. Enough digital buyers, and maybe the in-store buyers (or TPB buyers, or whatever) could get lower prices.

  63. Kate Willaert says:

    >> Wait, wait. You’re deciding that DC didn’t do any research because you didn’t see it happen,

    You’re right, I suppose it’s possible they could’ve polled customers at just a select handful of major retailers, and none of the customers polled ever talked about it online. But other than polling actual comic store regulars about whether or not they’d trade physical for digital, I’m not sure what other form of research would be capable of accurately answering that million dollar question.

  64. Kate Willaert says:

    And while I’d love to try and research that question myself, in a smaller setting, it’d be a lot easier to do if I didn’t have to drive 90 miles to get to the nearest comic store.

  65. Stephen says:

    A couple of questions for people that seem to think digital comics should immediately start out at $.99.

    1. Do you believe price is a greater barrier to sales than lack of easily available access or mass market advertising?

    2. If price is the only major factor affecting sales than why would fans get most of their comics at the LCS if they had the option to enjoy major savings, on the same date, online?

    3. Could you guarantee that an immediate $.99 digital price point would give immediate and consistent profits equal to those derived from the current distribution system?

    I can see the point how people have been conditioned to see $.99 as disposable, however, I can’t follow the argument that people won’t buy a product that isn’t $.99. In my mind, this initiative is aiming more for people who are predisposed to liking comics but whether due to location, time, or atmosphere, do not have access to a good LCS.

    If the comics were priced at $.99 on the same day they’re released at $2.99 at the LCS, than I think you’d have a significant portion of current fan’s orders switch to digital. Granted most current fans would probably want select purchases on paper but I’d expect them to switch more provisional items to digital for the cost savings. I’d suspect that’d be the nail in a lot of LCS’s coffins. Further, the bad blood this would create would mean the remaining LCSs would probably not encourage customers to stick with the DC brand.

    I don’t think DC has a choice on the initial day pricing, not if they want to preserve the direct market and at the present time, DC still needs the direct market.

  66. OtisTFirefly says:

    Another point that seems to be glossed over is that many, if not MOST buyers now want to collect COMICS… actual COMICS that can be read, bagged, stored, smelled, put in a box and proudly cataloged. Or some variation of this.

    It’s like with trades and hardcovers. Listen to Chris Marshall on the CCL podcast. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard him talk about how “good that will look on the shelf” as opposed to how good a book actually is. Or, again, some variation of that. There are lots like him… I know many myself. I’m not that bad, but I do like collected editions.

    I know they’re hoping to pick up thousands or tens of thousands of NEW readers that don’t buy comics. Don’t want them in a box bagged and boarded. And that’s great… but to me that’s where the danger lies: the comics market has (obviously) been shrinking and nothing but shrinking for many years now, and eventually it WILL get to that point it’s not financially viable to even publish floppies. As I said in another post, I don’t believe all this “trash the old stale white guy fanboy” attitude is going to solve DC or Marvel’s problems – that viewpoint (which is ridiculous by the way – I know lots of African-American comics readers/buyers that actually *gasp!* will buy Spiderman or Batman regardless of race) will not change the fact that kids increasingly view comics as ungodly boring. Why read a comic when you play video games or be entertained by a million other digital diversions that make comics the equivalent of watching paint dry? Do these people at DC not have any kids? They probably will pick up several thousand new readers, but it won’t be anything near what they envision, regardless of DD playing DC God and finally getting to make the DCU over as HE wants it to be.

  67. I am writing on an iPhone. The same iPhone that would be buying these comics if they were priced like similar entertainments.

    Anybody saying that research was done is WRONG. I keep telling people; I am the customer. ME. I am TELLING you exactly what my price is.

    Songs are cheaper when you buy digital.
    Games are cheaper when you buy digital.

    Comics are the same price. That is ABSURD and I’m not paying that price. My desire to follow what happens to comic characters ends COLD, the second that DC and Marvel try to tell me that immaterial goods are exactly the same monetary value as physical goods. Nobody in the world thinks it’s true, why does DC think that digital customers are the only stupid people in the world.

    I like comics but I live in NYC. I am OUT OF SPACE, but conveniently not out of money or desire. But that doesn’t mean that I’m out of my wits either.

    Comics can’t be–and simply aren’t–the sole exception to the culturally established digital price point for short-form entertainment. No way.

  68. what’s the difference between reboot and relaunch? :

  69. Soon they’ll have to compete with Angry Birds

    The main difference is that Rovio knows how to create for the general public. DC and Marvel only know how to create for themselves and people like themselves.

    Same old junker, new coat of paint.

  70. >> I keep telling people; I am the customer. ME. I am TELLING you exactly what my price is. >>

    There you have it. The only market research anyone ever needs to do is to ask Darryl. Because he’s the customer. And all other customers agree with him.

    He’s TELLING you.

  71. You can mock me Kurt; but you WON’T be “laughing all the way to the bank.”

  72. Ralf Haring says:

    “1. Do you believe price is a greater barrier to sales than lack of easily available access or mass market advertising?”

    Price is exceptionally important in selling ephemeral digital goods. Look through the top apps and see how many you can find that are more than $1. http://www.apple.com/itunes/charts/paid-apps

    This reminds me of the much more ludicrous example of Wolfram Alpha’s iPhone app. They thought they could price it at an absolutely insane $50. Six months later they dropped the price to $2. http://techcrunch.com/2009/10/18/wolfram-alpha-miscalculates-what-its-iphone-app-should-cost Some relevant quotes from the article:

    >>It’s no secret that most apps that sell well tend to be cheaper — as in, free or $0.99. Apple has recently tried to de-emphasize this by adding a “Top Grossing” section to the App Store. That’s fine, but with the exception of the $90 Navigon GPS turn-by-turn app, all of the top grossing apps are under $10. And most are under $3.<>And that’s too bad for the team. As I said, the app is a solid one, but this is the reality of the App Store. Games that sell on systems like the Nintendo DS for $30, are $3 on the iPhone. Hell, there are even some games that sell on the bigger consoles for $60 that are less than $10 on the iPhone. They’re not quite as good graphics-wise, but I would argue that they’re every bit as fun. And don’t think for a second that studios like EA wouldn’t sell them for $30 if they could, but they realize that they can’t.<<

    "I can see the point how people have been conditioned to see $.99 as disposable, however, I can’t follow the argument that people won’t buy a product that isn’t $.99. In my mind, this initiative is aiming more for people who are predisposed to liking comics but whether due to location, time, or atmosphere, do not have access to a good LCS."

    People without access to a comics store are one constituency well-served by digital comics. A more important demographic to target are the people who are completely oblivious as to whether they are near a comics store or not and for whom that potential phsyical proximity is completely irrelevant. There are digital-only customers out there. It's DC's choice whether they will generate sales or mocking laughter after they find DC's digital offerings.

  73. What I mean to say: my reply which you seemed to think was so funny was aimed at a specific argument above questioning the validity of 99 cent pricing and whether or not it would stimulate sales.

    Just based on myself, a comic reader who would like to read more, YES. A resounding YES.

    Again: damn the experts, I’m the type of person who will or won’t buy this product. I have the interest, I have the technology, I have the money–but I’m not going to pay any dang price, it’s got to be reasonable. 99 cents is reasonable. As the markets for every other comparable industry indicate. But keep mocking me for putting it out there. You won’t be laughing long.

  74. Richard Adler says:

    To say (as, for example, I did above) that .99 cents will probably be the eventual price doesn’t necessarily mean one is advocating that that *should* be the price. It’s only to say that it seems likely to be where the market will force the price to go.

    Were this 1995, DC would have more leeway to determinate what an appropriate price should be. But it’s 2011, and we’ve had several years now of iTunes and Amazon reinforcing in peoples’ minds the idea of .99 cents for content.

    You might argue that comparing a song to a comic is an apples and oranges situation. So would I. You might argue that Apple and Amazon weren’t thinking about comics when they set that price on music. So would I. But that doesn’t make me any less expectant that .99 cents will be the price that most customers will insist on.

    You might also argue that a price of .99 cents is unsustainable to support DC and Marvel as the companies they are today. I suspect that’s true, and would be inclined to agree with you. You might go on to argue that a comparable downward pressure on digital book prices might leave publishing houses in a similarly unsustainable situation, at least in terms of how publishing houses are run today. I suspect that’s also true, and would be inclined to agree with you about that as well. And as a former buyer for Borders (including the buyer of graphic novels for the chain from 1993-2001), I fully understand that the consequences here could be serious for the livelihoods of people I know and care about, and who I very much want to see continue to have careers devoted to their art and to creating, writing, editing, and illustrating books and comics no matter what form they take.

    But, as we all know, the market doesn’t care whether the price it demands happens to conform to existing business models. It wants the price it wants, and if it doesn’t get it, then the transaction doesn’t get made, and that makes for an unsustainable situation as well. Which is precisely why this period in the history of the book trade is as unsettling and worrisome as it is, especially for those of who would very much like to see publishing houses make it through without the need for any layoffs, major office relocations, or the like.

    And that’s why I sincerely wish DC the best and have to admire the daring of this move. There are no guarantees here of success, and I can’t help but worry what results may come from this plan. But any transition to digital was bound to involve a very real if (hopefully) calculated risk, and I hope this decision to go ‘all in’ pays off in a big way for them.

  75. Kate Willaert says:

    “The main difference is that Rovio knows how to create for the general public. DC and Marvel only know how to create for themselves and people like themselves.”

    I agree with you if by “like themselves” you mean people who are already familiar with most/all of the characters and know the history. What’s the #1 difference between the way stories are told in movies like Iron Man and The Dark Knight and the way they’re told in the respective comics? Accessibility.

    The movies are written with newbs in mind, to try and explain concepts and characters that viewers might be unfamiliar with, in an entertaining way. Whereas a lot of comics are focusing too much on big events that require knowledge of previous events to even understand…big crossover storylines in particular are the least accessible comics around. But they make more money with the established base, so who needs accessibility?

    I’m kind of disappointed that this reboot/relaunch/whatever is starting off with JLA #1, since it would’ve been more accessible to start out with the #1s of each of the characters on the team, explaining what their individual things are, before explaining how they met and then decided to team up. Kind of like how Marvel has been setting things up for the Avengers movie.

  76. @Kurt:

    If I’ve come across like a prophet for the robo-apocalypse then I apologize for misrepresenting myself. I’ll try to do better.

    Chosen professions and unskilled labor have slowly been replaced by machines for centuries, and I don’t see much evidence of this slowing just because we’re in the internet age. And since we’re talking about Digital Comics aren’t we talking about This Very Thing: new technology replacing a slightly less automated paradigm?

    I agree it’s in a publisher’s best interest to employ as many different avenues as possible to furnish their customers with a product in their preferred (digital or otherwise) reading format. And some of those ways, via Amazon, iTunes, or (shudder) Netflix Motion Comics require various distributers and retailers. (Although outside of the Redbox kiosk set-up aren’t distributors and retailers synonymous?)

    But it is POSSIBLE, even relatively easy, for DC or Marvel to be their own retailer and distributer through their websites. Even with other digital distribution methods, the savings over the traditional route must be large, and that saving should be passed on to their customers IF they want to keep from alienating them.

    I wish DC and Marvel and Dark Horse and Fantagraphics and all the other publishers – beyond obvious predators like Tekno and Virgin – as much success as they can muster. And I would love to see local comics shops flourish (but in the age of Amazon even I am not going to patronize them for TPBs and graphic novels).

    I’m a lifelong comics fan, reader, and creator who is saddened and annoyed by what must only be decisions made by a hung committee (if you get my term). There are very smart people at both Marvel and DC and all over comics, some I know personally and some by reputation, but collectively the choices made by their respective companies is inexcusably stupid.

    (see below, if you care to hear why)

  77. Darryl:
    >> You can mock me Kurt; but you WON’T be “laughing all the way to the bank.”>>

    I’m sure I won’t be, but I doubt I would be either way.

    What makes me laugh is that you seem obsessed with declaring your own tastes as if they’re the only ones that matter. You’re not THE customer, you’re A customer. So am I, so are lots and lots of other people.

    There may come a day when your tastes are met. Right now, DC seems to be factoring in other things. While they do, comics companies are watching digital sales rise strongly at prices you say the audience won’t pay. But someone’s paying them, and those people are customers too.

    >> Just based on myself, a comic reader who would like to read more, YES. A resounding YES.>>

    Sure. But the guy who gets to make decisions just based on yourself is you. DC’s got more to think about.

    Leif:
    >>Chosen professions and unskilled labor have slowly been replaced by machines for centuries, and I don’t see much evidence of this slowing just because we’re in the internet age.>>

    And if we get to robotopia, maybe businesses will factor that in to their decisions. But it’ll happen then, not now, because we’re not there yet.

    >> And since we’re talking about Digital Comics aren’t we talking about This Very Thing: new technology replacing a slightly less automated paradigm? >>

    Right now, we seem to be talking about a new technology growing alongside the existing paradigm. As I and others have pointed out, it’s not going to replace it soon.

    It may replace it eventually, but in the meantime, they’re going to balance their markets as well as they can rather than embrace a currently small on at the cost of their main source of income.

    >> But it is POSSIBLE, even relatively easy, for DC or Marvel to be their own retailer and distributer through their websites.>>

    It’s not, really. For one thing, if they want the product to be directly downloadable on the iPad (the main technology driving e-comics at present), they have to jump through Apple’s hoops, as Dark Horse discovered on the eve of launching their e-store. It’s possible to work around that, but not in a way that leaves it as easy for the customer to buy and read on the iPad, and customer ease is important at this stage.

    There are other reasons Marvel and DC don’t want to get into direct retailing that have to do with existing contracts, tax status, maintaining good relations with their retail base and more. The day you’re imagining may come, but it’s not here yet. And Marvel and DC aren’t going to risk damaging what they have on a hope. They’re going to let the digital market build slowly for a while.

    DC did much the same thing when building the book-publishing side of their business. They built it slowly and steadily, keeping it at a level where it could sustain itself as it grew, rather than going so fast it ate up capital it couldn’t pay back easily. And they built it into a large profit center. Marvel had lots of false starts and retrenchings as they tried to build too fast, and couldn’t sustain it. Eventually they slowed down and started building steadily too.

    This is a very big step and a gamble for DC. But it needs to be a step, not one gigantic leap to the finish line all at once. It took about 20 years before the book program was going full-bore. It’ll take a lot less for digital. But it will take time.

    kdb

  78. Great discussion — and, as usual, I agree with just about everything Kurt says. A couple more thoughts:

    – This discussion is eerily reminiscent of the furor last year in the book industry, when Apple took on Amazon’s monopoly pricing policy by launching the Apple iBookstore (or whatever it’s called). People screamed and yelled that nobody would ever buy ebooks that cost more than $9.99. Apple broke the monopoly; publishers now set the prices of ebooks; many of those books are priced higher than $9.99. And people are still buying them.

    (I’m not taking Apple’s side in general, by the way. I use the Kindle app on both my iMac and, mostly, my Android phone. But Amazon was really trying to strongarm publishers here, and somebody had to break that up.)

    – The one end of the business that I don’t expect to go digital — possibly ever — is the beautifully printed hardcover edition. I had a discussion with an older book editor friend recently, who told me something I’d never heard: During the Great Depression, one of the most successful book categories was art books. People will always want books that are pretty objects, and comics now have plenty of items (Archives, Absolute editions, some strip reprints) that fit into that category.

  79. “The one end of the business that I don’t expect to go digital — possibly ever — is the beautifully printed hardcover edition.”

    I agree, and I wouldn’t necessarily limit it to hardcover books.

    As we’re going forward with more digital offers and reading devices, I expect the perceived quality of a book to be the crucial factor in whether it’s going to be sold on paper.

    Very simply put, the best way to cultivate a print audience is to publish work that lasts, and that people will want to read more than once, in attractive physical editions.

  80. Synsidar says:

    what’s the difference between reboot and relaunch? :

    A reboot is a revision of a title’s core concept. Changes might be major and minor, but the stories in the series will be noticeably different from those in the preceding version. Examples would be a re-shot version of a TV pilot, or the recent STAR TREK movie, which rebooted the franchise. The new series is set in an alternate universe, not the original STAR TREK universe.

    A relaunch is nothing more than a renaming and/or renumbering of a series. The series’ core concept remains the same.

    SRS

  81. Richard Adler says:

    “Very simply put, the best way to cultivate a print audience is to publish work that lasts, and that people will want to read more than once, in attractive physical editions.”

    Yes, no doubt. People do, after all, still make and buy vinyl records. Bruce Sterling may have been correct to say that delivery mechanisms (books) get replaced, even though old media themselves (text, recorded sound) do not, but some delivery mechanisms do hang on. But they do so as boutique items, predominantly for more wealthy customers (“beautifully printed hardcover edition”).

    A small number of people can make a living at that. But you’re not going to keep an industry going that way.

    It seems like some in the book trade had been assuming a slow rate of adoption of ebooks based on the example of the music industry, where mp3s were accepted by younger customers and then progressed only gradually to those older. But that missed the point that an ebook reader can turn every book you buy into a large print edition, and now we’re seeing a ‘surprisingly strong’ rate of adoption of ebooks by seniors.

    The change is coming. Fast. And, no, the print book won’t be disappearing completely, but, yes, it *will* become the exception within the foreseeable future.

    So DC has to do this, and the consequences will be what they are. But at this point, a continued fixation on sustaining a print book market would not be helpful toward preparing for the future. I’m not saying you kill the print market before it’s time. Never do that. But right now all eyes need to be on finding the models that will make an ebook-dominated book trade work. (Which seems to be exactly where most eyes are finally going, thank the gods.)

  82. Synsidar says:

    I suppose that one factor which places a lower limit on the price of an issue is the artwork. The various production artists can’t speed up what they do on demand, and having several pencil artists for one story would be undesirable. The artists wouldn’t want to lower their page rates, either. The cost of the artwork might also constrain an effort to do color OGNs. How much money would be lost if a color OGN sold poorly?

    There is the question of the elasticity of demand. Comic book readers who love Superman, Batman, Iron Man, or Captain America have nowhere else to go for stories about the heroes. Without talking to DC executives, there’s just no knowing how much risk they think there is of the relaunch alienating customers to the point that they stop buying DC comics. And how much advertising will they do to attract new customers? No amount of promotion done through comics Web sites will reach as many non-readers as (costly?) ads on TV, radio, and general-interest Web sites will.

    The line-wide relaunch and such recent moves as taking JMS off high-profile projects so that he could do another one — they can reasonably be seen as signs of panic in management. What will happen if sales of digital and/or paper issues don’t increase over the next several months? I doubt that the publication of Superman and other titles would ever stop completely; at worst, the characters might be licensed to another publisher. It’s hard to think, though, that if business was good, that the relaunch would have even been considered.

    SRS

  83. Kurt.

    What is it, my phrasing? I’m not a fan of mincing words. Should I have said “In my opinion, I think I would rather have maybe had it another way,” is that more meek?

    I don’t have time for that. For print comics, DC drew the line at 2.99. For digital, THIS CUSTOMER has drawn the line at 0.99.

    It’s digital. Intangible. For heaven sakes, you don’t even own the file when you “buy” it! Digital comics are actually a worse deal than iTunes. But I am not in a huff about THAT, I’m willing to play along if I get to read comics in a convenient, space-saving, lightweight manner…that is appropriately priced.

    Despite any drawbacks to digital versions, I’m all in. I’ve got an iPhone, I’ve got the Comixology “Comics” app and the DC Comics app. I’ve got money in the bank that I can spare on entertainment. I’m all ready to go

    And for the sake of community, I have left out some personal details. Because despite how you read my words, this is not about ME–I just happen to have a first person perspective on the matter.

    I don’t like the adage “the customer’s always right,” but when it comes to this–when a customer is explaining exactly what his parameters, prices and terms of doing business are…yeah, I’m definitely right.

  84. “I’d like to know what percentage of the cover price on an average comic is split by the printer, the distributer, and the retailer. That percentage is the discount I expect on a digital comic.”

    From the data I have, those costs were in the range of 30-40% of cover price for the standard format 32-page comic book. (Note that this doesn’t include marketing, or costs of creating the content, or overhead, or any of the fixed costs.) So take them out of the cover price.

    Now, add back in the costs of distributing a digital version through the iTunes Store — Apple takes 30% of all purchases. Right there, you’re back up into a range of 0-10% off your cover price. (Well set aside whatever DC might pay ComiXology for it’s involvement. I don’t know how that works.)

    So the difference on a standard format 32-page comic book at $2.99 work out to — all of 30 cents, more or less.

    Even assuming that’s all completely, totally screwy — and that publishers are secretly sitting on huge Scrooge McDuck Money Bins of cash they’ve been making from publishing comics at $2.99 (how did you think DC could “Hold the Line”?) — let’s quickly look at this idea of 99-cent comics.

    Remember, Apple takes 30% of all purchases. For a 99-cent purchase, a publisher might net as much as 66 cents!

    Do you *really* think that’s a viable business for publishing anything but reprints?

  85. Synsidar says:

    I don’t like the adage “the customer’s always right,” but when it comes to this–when a customer is explaining exactly what his parameters, prices and terms of doing business are…yeah, I’m definitely right.

    If you have a leisure budget, what would you spend the money on instead of DC comics? How many people are there who buy only two to four Marvel and DC series a month and spend much more money on other forms of entertainment? I’m guessing that for a substantial number of people, given how the editorial systems at DC and Marvel are set up, buying only two or three mainstream DCU or MU series a month doesn’t provide enough satisfaction to be worth the money.

    SRS

  86. OtisTFirefly says:

    Can one of you digital lovers tell me how it is you enjoy reading comics on an iPHONE????

    I love my iPhone. I’ve looked at comics pages on it. So am I the only one that doesn’t like either a) reading a comic at 3″ size or b) constantly zooming and panning to read a page of a comic?

    Please…. anyone…??

  87. OtisTFirefly says:

    Oh, and yes… on an iPad? Absolutely!

  88. Kate Willaert says:

    @BPearce: “Do you *really* think that’s a viable business for publishing anything but reprints?”

    It depends entirely on how many people end up buying it at $0.99.

    Since I have no idea how much it costs to produce a comic, I’m going to make up some “funny numbers” to illustrate what I mean. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say a comic costs only $100 to produce (paying artists, writers, etc.), minus printing and paper costs. And let’s say comics only sell an average of around 40 copies each. If priced at $2.99, that $100 is only made back after the first 34 copies are sold.

    If they sold 80 copies on average instead, they could lower the price of the comic…if priced at $1.99, they’d make that $100 back after selling 50 copies. The reason comics are priced at $2.99 isn’t just the rise in paper costs, but also the shrinking audience…it needs to be priced higher in order to pay the people doing the book.

    If priced at $0.99, this fictional book would need to sell 100 copies to make that $100 back. Clearly this isn’t viable with an audience of only 40 people. But once upon a time, even before the 90s speculator boom, the audience was much larger than 40 people.

    Reaching out to people who don’t have a comic store anywhere nearby, or don’t even realize comic specialty stores still exist, or who just don’t have much interest in spending $2.99 for so few pages of story, it’s entirely possible that there’s an audience of 200-500 people who’d be willing to buy that $0.99 digital comic at the push of a button. Then they’d be making even more profit than they are right now on physical copies, on a comic that costs $0.99.

    So it’s completely possible for it to be a viable price point. The only problem is that no one knows the exact number of people who could be converted into new readers at that price point. We’ll find out eventually how large that potential digital audience really is, but at $1.99-3.99, DC is only going to discover a fraction of that total audience.

    I can understand their nervousness about jumping right in (especially while launching an event that’s already shaking up that established base of “40 people”), but my biggest worry is that they’ll get such a small number of people biting on digital purchases at this price, that they’ll decide its an experiment that failed and digital comics aren’t something to be explored further. Maybe they *should* try $0.99 out with some back-issues first, like a few key mini-series?

    I apologize if that was a little long-winded, but some people seem mystified on how $0.99 comics could be viable. I’m pretty sure it costs about as much (if not a bit more, depending on how many musicians are involved) to professionally record a song as to produce a comic.

  89. Omar Karindu says:

    If comics are not profitable to companies at 99 cents, it really doesn’t matter if consumers have decided that’s the only price point they’ll accept.

    I realize that people have said — and mean — that they won’t buy digital comics above that price. If enough people feel that way, the short-term result won’t be digital comics at 99 cents, it’ll be no digital comics, at least not from the major publishers. Fair enough: that’s how markets work.

    Part of the problem comics have is that comics creators really don’t have the kinds of alternate revenue streams that musicians have. (Since songs are the apparent price-setter people look to, I’ll continue the analogy.) The shift to digital music and its lower price point does seem to have lowered some musicians’ personal revenue from album sales. The response has been an increase in touring.

  90. Darryl:
    >> What is it, my phrasing? >>

    Could be. At one point, you seemed to be saying that the only acceptable price to “the audience” was the one you prefer. Now, you seem to be saying that you personally won’t buy comics at a higher price, not that the audience as a whole won’t.

    Since that’s the distinction I was making, we seem to be in agreement now. No one’s forcing you to buy comics that cost more than you want to pay, but DC’s working from more data than just one customer’s choice.

    Kate:
    >> my biggest worry is that they’ll get such a small number of people biting on digital purchases at this price, that they’ll decide its an experiment that failed and digital comics aren’t something to be explored further.>>

    That won’t be an issue. The industry is already seeing digital sales on a strong upswing. Just not so large yet that they can risk their main profit source (print). The question isn’t whether they’ll attract enough readers, but how quickly. They’ll probably go slower than some readers would like (just as they did in building the book program), but caution is not the same as inaction.

  91. Omar Karindu says:

    Bah. Cut off by hotkeys. (Who decided “delete” should be “back” in a browser? No one who ever typed in a comments box, that’s who.)

    As I was going to state, pencillers and writers of comics don’t really have anything analogous to live performance or touring as a revenue stream. Unlike prose writers and poets, they can’t really even perform their work that way even when it’s creator-owned. On top of that, work done on properties owned by publishers is not their own in the way that musicians and novelists own their work.

    As to games, it’s worth noting that the HD version of Angry Birds prices at $4.99 on the iPad, and that on Nokia phones anyone wanting more than the first batch of levels has to pay $1.99. Moreover, the 99 cent price on iPhones is somewhat anomalous; the majority of games on that platform are $2-3.

    There is much, much more to pricing and revenue than consumer acclimation to a 99-cent price point on iTunes suggests. That’s why not even everything on iTunes is 99 cents; TV shows, for example, are $1.99 at minimum, and most popular movies are between $4.99 and $6.99 to “rent”. To own a digital movie is typically over $10, a price point justified by HD. Is a comic comparable to a TV show or a movie? If so, DC’s using a similar price point to these primarily visual media.

    Why the price hike? Unlike magazines, TV shows lose their advertising revenue in digital format, and movies lose the theater surcharge revenue stream. Consider what digital comics lose in terms of revenue when compared to print comics, consider the cost of nonmusical color visual media on most digital platforms, and factor in the 20-20% distribution charged mandated by companies like Apple, and suddenly it’s much harder to justify consumer intransigence in response to DC’s planned price model.

  92. Yes, for purposes of promotion and sampling, 99 cents is a very attractive price point — the problem, though, is having been tried, it tends to lead people to believe that it isn’t some sort of loss-leader, and that this is the way things can, ought to be, and inevitably will be going forward.

    (That’s not to say it isn’t well worth the risk, it’s just an unintended consequence.)

    In terms of selling more copies at 99 cents to make it all balances out somehow — well, let’s assume that whatever rate this stuff is selling at in a digital format works for publishers, just for the sake of argument. My (admittedly) back-of-the-envelope math is that a publisher would have to sell three to four times as many copies at 99 cents to bring in the same revenue at $2.99. That’d be great, but it seems a bit optimistic. (I can’t recall the last time a promotion that didn’t involve several different variant covers managed to increase sales at that rate, much less sustain them at that rate.)

    And it certainly wouldn’t be something you’d want to take a flyer on with your entire line.

  93. Okay. If a comic was something that I would buy ONCE, then 1.99 digital isn’t bad.

    But DC wants me to buy a lot, yes? Throwing down 5.94 on six issues (the general length of superhero stories if I’m right) is one thing, but making it to just about twelve dollars (1.99 per issue) that’s where the pause” comes in.

    And since I’m interested in more than a single title for six issues, all of a sudden the ease with which I can download is halted by my rational brain saying “that’s actually a lot of money.”

    DC and Marvel’s overal business and marketing plan depends on customers loyally buying several series simultaneously.

    ————-

    Also one thing that wrenches my gut: this is found money. Unless something has changed, Comixology is doing all the programming for the publishers, and the app is theirs to maintain. The comics themselves are sustaining in the direct market–WHAT FINANCIAL HARDSHIP.

    The reason Comixology even gets a significant cut rather than a minor one is that they program the files FOR publishers. Smaller publishers like mine do that work in-house–it’s easy.

    But I need to put the kabosh on this idea that DC is hurting. Digital sales are practically found money anyway. Don’t let those guys trick you.

  94. Synsidar says:

    But I need to put the kabosh on this idea that DC is hurting.

    Whether DC is hurting financially is open to question. In the absence of financial analysis and knowing what the break-even point is on any given title — who knows, except for the people at DC?

    Editorially? The relaunch is essentially an admission of failure by the current editorial regime. As marketing gimmicks go, the relaunch is as transparent as an over-publicized death. It’s aimed at new and former customers, and takes the current customers for granted, assuming that their love for characters will outweigh objections to the relaunch. Having to explain to retailers that the relaunch was that, not a reboot, after all the references to continuity, suggests that even some people at DC weren’t clear on the details of the relaunch.

    Simply switching creative teams on titles isn’t a long-term solution to anything. Unless the creative choices are remarkably successful, after several months, n percent of readers will tire of a title and drop it, or creators might ask to leave for the usual reasons. And there will be short-term damage to sales. I looked at the cover of the new issue of WW, which continues JMS’s abandoned storyline, and wondered why anybody would want to buy that now.

    I wonder if anyone has counted the total number of times that DC’s titles have been rebooted and relaunched. Would it be less than 100?

    SRS

  95. Kate Willaert says:

    BPearce: “I can’t recall the last time a promotion that didn’t involve several different variant covers managed to increase sales at that rate, much less sustain them at that rate.”

    That’s the thing: the group of potential new readers we’re talking about are people that gimmicks like variant covers wouldn’t work on anyways. They’re the more casual fans, not the hardcore. If you look at any entertainment medium, you’ve got the casual fans, the hardcore fans, and the people in between. While casual fans aren’t as dedicated, there are way more of them. Right now, the audience for single issues has been mostly whittled down to just the hardcore, and it’s just not that big an audience.

    How big *could* the potential audience be? Looking at the circulation numbers collected at Comics Chronicle (http://www.comichron.com/titlespotlights.html) can be pretty fascinating:

    SUPERMAN
    1960 – 810,000
    1970 – 446,678
    1980 – 178,946
    1990 – ?
    2000 – 40,000-ish (estimated from Diamond Top 300)
    2010 – 43,000-ish (estimated from Diamond Top 300)

    BATMAN
    1960 – 502,000
    1970 – 293,897
    1980 – 129,299
    1990 – ?
    2000 – 50,000-ish (est. average from Diamond Top 300)
    2010 – 63,000-ish (est. average from Diamond Top 300)

    AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
    1970 – 322,195
    1980 – 296,712
    1990 – 334,893
    2000 – 113,685
    2010 – 55,000-ish x3 (est. average from Diamond Top 300)

  96. Yeah, DC wants you to buy their products at the price they’re offering and they want to make money so they can continue to make comics. They’re trying to ease into the digital marketplace without garroting the people who sell the paper comics. And you think that’s wrong because it’s more than you’re willing to pay. I think we’re all thoroughly convinced now you only want to pay .99 cents for a digital comic.

    Wow, there are a lot of things I wish were cheaper so I could afford to splurge on them and indulge myself, but they’re not so I’ve trained myself to do without them. For now. But I don’t go around arguing those companies are somehow wrong for not meeting my personal price point for say, a Ferrari (I’ll pay no more than 6 bucks and I’m always right about what I’ll pay so don’t try to argue with me) or a professional baseball team (22.53). These things are out of our hands– and in the hands of the marketplace.

    Perversely, if DC succeeds, there’s a chance you’ll end up getting your 99 cent digital comic.

  97. Richard:

    “And, no, the print book won’t be disappearing completely, but, yes, it *will* become the exception within the foreseeable future.”

    I don’t think it’s that foreseeable, and I also think it’s going to depend on the type of work how foreseeable it’s going to be.

    Publishers are sticking to print because there’s no alternative. Publishers are delving into digital because there’s no alternative. Marvel and DC are sticking to the comic-book format because there’s no alternative. Marvel and DC are collecting their comic books as paperbacks and hardbacks because there’s no alternative. Marvel and DC are delving into digital because there’s no alternative. It’s going to be years before the market has shifted to such a degree that one of those statements will no longer be true.

    If I had to speculate on what we’ll have 30 years from now, it’d be 75.0% digital, 25.0% paperbacks and hardbacks, and 0.0% comic books. But for the time being, I think it’s fair to say that it’s going to be a while before any existing format is going to go out of style. Print isn’t vinyl. It’s been around for much longer, and it’s going to stick around for some time to come.

  98. >> Comixology is doing all the programming for the publishers,>>

    No, they’re not. DC Digital (formerly Wildstorm) is doing a great deal of it. They’ve been extremely busy with it.

  99. How many people are there who buy only two to four Marvel and DC series a month and spend much more money on other forms of entertainment? I’m guessing that for a substantial number of people, given how the editorial systems at DC and Marvel are set up, buying only two or three mainstream DCU or MU series a month doesn’t provide enough satisfaction to be worth the money.

    Synsidar- I am one of those people. I buy 3-4 Marvel and DC comics a month. I’m satisfied enough, I do enjoy the hobby. And I am not necessarily a casual fan, I spend a lot of time on comic websites, I listen to comics podcasts, and I go to conventions. I can’t say how many people there are like me… you could ask a retailer, maybe?

  100. OtisTFirefly says:

    >>>Editorially? The relaunch is essentially an admission of failure by the current editorial regime. As marketing gimmicks go, the relaunch is as transparent as an over-publicized death. It’s aimed at new and former customers, and takes the current customers for granted, assuming that their love for characters will outweigh objections to the relaunch. >>>

    I wouldn’t take it as “failure” on the current “regime”… they’ve actually done a pretty good job with what they’ve got to work with in an industry that is rapidly dying off. As I’ve said before, i don’t think there’s anything you can do about the fact that you are trying to market to “today’s audience” (to quote DD… which, in my opinion, is just plain stupid – today’s AUDIENCE for comics is BUYING comics… you’re NOT going to get many kids into today) – translation: young people. HEAR ME DAN DIDIO – THE VAST MAJORITY OF KIDS DO NOT FIND COMICS WORTH THEIR ENTERTAINMENT TIME… TODAY! You’re trying to market a format that pre-dates “Pong” by decades to a “CAll of Duty” generation. You might as well try to SELL THEM PONG!!

    @Kate
    I get the point, but let’s face it, you had 800,000 readers 50 years ago, a quarter million 20 years ago. Which, I think, is partly attributable to the point I keep making, which I guess no one seems to agree with given the lack of response. See above.

  101. stealthwise says:

    So is it just me, or is this latest strategy completely ineffective when it comes to combating digital piracy? I have no idea why anyone would want to pay that much money for a digital copy of something. The digital comics should be $0.99 a piece if they want to move them at all.

  102. I can’t think of any example where stealing has made things cheaper as a result. Unless you’re the person doing the stealing.

  103. Synsidar says:

    The digital comics should be $0.99 a piece if they want to move them at all.

    There’s some support for the 99 cents price here:

    But after initial success, iPad magazines are suddenly taking a dive. WIRED sales of subsequent editions have tanked to 22,000 and 23,000 for October and November, respectively. Other magazines have seen approximate 20% drops. Specifically, Vanity Fair dropped from 10,500 to 8,700 downloads; GQ from 13,000 to 11,000; Glamour from 4,301 to 2,775. [. . .]

    As it stands, most magazines are charging more for the electronic version than for the print. WIRED, for example, costs $3.99 for every iPad issue, but if you get a subscription to the print version each costs about one dollar.

    Other magazines are similarly priced.

    The problem with this model is that it’s not “human compatible.” People understand intuitively that a print issue involves the chopping down, trucking and processing of trees, the use of expensive ink and heavy, labor-intensive manufacturing, packaging and distribution. They also understand that none of these costs are necessary for an electronic edition distributed over the Internet.

    So to charge more for an electronic version than for a paper version will never succeed. The larger magazine-buying public will feel taken advantage of, suckered, tricked and abused.

    The only model that will work is for electronic versions to be significantly cheaper than paper.

    People have already brought up reasons why the 99 cent price point isn’t doable: production costs, lack of advertising, the need to maintain the DM distribution network. However, from the reader’s standpoint, each of those problems should be solved by the publisher without affecting the price. Advertising, especially — if the publisher wants to sell advertising but can’t, the readers can’t be blamed for that failure.

    If the columnist’s attitude toward pricing is typical of e-magazine readers, DC’s pricing strategy is doomed to failure.

    SRS

  104. I’d bet DC would be happy with those numbers on top of whatever they sell in physical copies.

  105. Synsidar says:

    I wouldn’t take it as “failure” on the current “regime”… they’ve actually done a pretty good job with what they’ve got to work with in an industry that is rapidly dying off.

    That’s a definition of failure, actually. Investors avoid dying markets. If one assumes that you’re correct that the (superhero comics) market is dying, what is the primary reason: The characters? The way the characters are handled? Or the comics format?

    The success of superhero movies indicates that mass audiences don’t reject the superhero concept. However, they’re watching standalone stories, told with much greater visual impact than printed comics can deliver.

    My guess is that the lack of growth in the market can be blamed primarily on the endless serial approach (how the characters are handled).

    SRS

  106. Synsidar says:

    I’d bet DC would be happy with those numbers on top of whatever they sell in physical copies.

    Perhaps they would. However, those numbers are fractions of the circulation figures for the print versions. Glamour’s circulation, for example, is 500,591. Wired’s circulation is over 700,000.

    SRS

  107. Robert says:

    My opinion on digital pricing is that I would be willing to pay a price more in line with what comics would be priced if they followed standard inflation rates.

    I would be very interested to know exactly how much it costs Marvel and DC to produce and distribute a digital comic as opposed to a standard physical copy.

  108. Al™ says:

    @Robert: me too. I keep hearing about how much work goes into posting digital comics online, and I don’t follow. What kind of coding is involved in posting png images or jpegs on a website, so we can view them on a reader?

    I can see how the art might need to be tweaked a bit for viewing on a monitor rather than on a sheet of white paper.

    But guys, give me a break. Look at what is NOT being expensed with digital: No hardcopy epson printer proofs, no printing and finishing, no shipping by diesel truck, no brokers and inventory storage, no boxes, no packing, and on and on. It’s GOT to be easier and cheaper in digital. Got to.

    Please, someone, explain to me the arduous process in taking digital comic art files and preparing them for viewing online. What am I missing here?

  109. True, true. But I don’t see DC ever climbing back up to Glamour’s circulation numbers even if this whole thing goes over like gangbusters. I was looking at those Comics Chronicles sales figures for March 2011 and that the top-selling book– Fantastic Four #1– sold over 114k was a pleasant surprise. Green Lantern #64 sold almost 77k in the number 2 spot. It may be conservative or even pessimistic, but doubling those kinds of numbers is about all I see them doing. I don’t think Wired or Vogue have a lot of readers interested in what Superman or Batman are doing in any given month at any given price point.

    And yeah, I’d love to know how much it costs to produce a digital comic versus its printed counterpart because I’d imagine it’s somewhat cheaper, too, but the people selling the printed version wouldn’t be too happy with DC potentially undercutting those sales by lowballing on the digital version. I’d love to have cheaper comics, but for now a 1 dollar price cut a month later is all DC feels the retailers can bear. And they have to do business with these people.

    I was hoping to pay 99 cents or less for digital comics, too. And I probably would’ve at least given a few DC digital titles a shot that I might not have otherwise, despite not generally enjoying the direction of their storytelling and no longer being in their monthly book reader demographic. I find my comic reading need met by other companies– or by DC’s reprint books, like those Jack Kirby Fourth World beauties. So maybe I’m one of those elusive Casual Readers. I just don’t think there are that many of us left in the wild.

    But I could very well be wrong. I even hope I am. So I’m not arguing this is a good strategy, just that it’s the one we’re stuck with at least for nwo, comics being what they are.

  110. “For nwo?” Yikes!

  111. Synsidar says:

    Please, someone, explain to me the arduous process in taking digital comic art files and preparing them for viewing online. What am I missing here?

    I don’t believe you’re missing anything; the primary concern for DC, almost certainly, is preserving sales of their paper copies. Even if the line-wide relaunch hints at desperation, apparently the executives aren’t desperate enough to bet everything on attracting new digital readers.

    One unfortunate aspect of wanting to maintain sales through comic shops is that it eliminates the option of bundling a subscription to paper and/or digital issues with, say, unlimited access to digital issues more than a year old. The subscriptions would take some business away from the stores as well.

    SRS

  112. Synsidar says:

    I was hoping to pay 99 cents or less for digital comics, too.

    That price, or even a somewhat lower price, should be what they charge for access to comics older than n years. The promotional value would probably outweigh possible lost sales of book-form collections.

    SRS

  113. Nick Jones says:

    “HEAR ME DAN DIDIO – THE VAST MAJORITY OF KIDS DO NOT FIND COMICS WORTH THEIR ENTERTAINMENT TIME… TODAY!”

    Kids will read whatever comics they find appealing, as evidenced by the fact that Scholastic’s Bone collections, Naruto, One Piece, and the Twilight graphic novel all sold like gangbusters. People also frequently say that kids won’t read prose books anymore, until something like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games come along to prove them wrong. If a product is written with a young person’s sensibilities in mind and marketed well enough for them to know that it exists, the youth of America will buy it. The problem comics currently have is not children rejecting the format, but that the books are being written and advertized exclusively with an eye toward the tastes of middle aged comic book geeks.

  114. >>That price, or even a somewhat lower price, should be what they charge for access to comics older than n years. The promotional value would probably outweigh possible lost sales of book-form collections.<<

    Oh yeah! That's similar to Dark Horse (and I think Marvel and DC does this, too) and their 1.00 first issue reprints. I've been all over those.

  115. At one point, you could buy these massive cd collections of hundreds of issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-Men. They themselves are incredibly expensive now, being out of print but they contained 40 years of books for a fraction of what it’d cost you to buy complete runs even at cover price.

    And then there’s this: http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Complete-Comic-Collection/dp/B001B5KYR2/ref=dp_cp_ob_sw_title_3

  116. “Incredibly expensive” but still cheaper than two fat omnibus books and holding more issues, that is.

  117. Synsidar says:

    I bpught the AVENGERS DVD a few years ago for $50. Terrific deal.

    I don’t have an entertainment budget; I buy what I want. At 99 cents or so apiece, I’d be willing to buy a number of acclaimed DC comics, just to see if they are as good as they’re reputed to be.

    SRS

  118. I don’t have one, either. I buy for my own reasons. You’d have to put Mike Allred, Mike Mignola, Michael Golden or Steve Rude on art duties– to name just 4– to get me to commit to a superhero book. Otherwise, I’m more than fine with Yazawa Ai’s “Nana,” or “Love and Rockets,” “Walking Dead,” “Hellboy” and the “Conan” books, plus assorted Japanese titles like “20th Century Boys.” I really love the “Creepy” and “Eerie” archives and things like “Skim” by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.

    My biggest gripe is, I’m really not at all a fan of the company-wide storytelling that goes on with the Big Two. I prefer storylines contained to a single title, not spread out over several months of a company’s entire output. Marvel brought back the New Mutants but it didn’t take long for them to make the characters I wanted to read about bit players in their own book, so I’ve bought that title only sporadically. Kind of a let-down, really. I’m a veteran of the whole Cassandra Cain Fan War from a few years back, so I’ve picked up a few new DC monthlies because she’s made a reappearance and see what they’re doing to her now, but the thrill is gone.

    It may be a selfish POV, but right now I’ve “got mine,” so I don’t feel the need to get angry because I can’t have even more. If the audience embraces event storytelling, then that’s cool. I’m not sure even 99 cents for digital or print is cheap enough to make me read a single-issue fragment of something I’m just not that into anymore. Yet I really hope there’s a huge audience out there for what DC’s doing.

  119. OtisTFirefly says:

    @Synsidar

    >>>That’s a definition of failure, actually. Investors avoid dying markets. If one assumes that you’re correct that the (superhero comics) market is dying, what is the primary reason: The characters? The way the characters are handled? Or the comics format?

    The success of superhero movies indicates that mass audiences don’t reject the superhero concept. However, they’re watching standalone stories, told with much greater visual impact than printed comics can deliver.>>>

    The primary reason? Actually, it was in the next sentence or two after the quote from my post: “i don’t think there’s anything you can do about the fact that you are trying to market to “today’s audience” (to quote DD… which, in my opinion, is just plain stupid – today’s AUDIENCE for comics is BUYING comics… you’re NOT going to get many kids into today) – translation: young people. HEAR ME DAN DIDIO – THE VAST MAJORITY OF KIDS DO NOT FIND COMICS WORTH THEIR ENTERTAINMENT TIME… TODAY! You’re trying to market a format that pre-dates “Pong” by decades to a “CAll of Duty” generation. You might as well try to SELL THEM PONG!!”>>>>>>

    (all caps from original post – not yelling here!)

    So… not the characters – as you say, people love those characters when they’re in a viably entertaining format for “today’s audience (DD)”… and movies are certainly that. I stand by the statement that they’ve done a fairly good job in that dying market – meaning DC, actually coming back a little in terms of popular comics, dominating the top 10 lists for quite a while now. This WITHOUT the Marvel method of selling comics/maintaining share, which is publish as much content as humanly possible.

  120. Is a comic equivalent to a song or to an episode of a serial TV show? Because the latter are $2.99 on iTunes. These demands for $1 or else a resort to stealing sound like greed.

  121. Synsidar says:

    Is a comic equivalent to a song or to an episode of a serial TV show?

    A comic which had narration and thought balloons was comparable, IMO, to a short story or multiple chapters of a novel. That comparison doesn’t work for the comics without narration and thoughts, because too much content is missing that the artwork can’t compensate for. I’d compare current superhero comics to trailers or story outlines.

    While the producers of entertainment might set pricing floors for the purpose of ensuring profits, the consumer doesn’t have to care about that. He opts for the entertainment which provides the most value for the money. If the loss of a comic’s physicality impacts a collector’s enjoyment of a comic, that factor alone eliminates the justification for price parity.

    SRS

  122. George says:

    @BPearce: Actually, I owned a comic shop a long time ago. The 30% Apple charges is MUCH lower than the 50% to 72% discount for most retailers. Then there is the cost of materials (paper and ink), printing, distribution, shipping, etc.; The fact is that there is a HUGE difference in the cost of delivering a file to an online retailer, vs. delivering a physical product to shops nationwide. With the average discount of 60% off the retail price, and materials, printing, shipping and returns costs of over 30% of the retail price of a comic book, the comic book company has to sell about 7 to 8 comics through retail outlets to equal the profit from just one online sale. In the case of some “Loss Leaders” that have discounts of 72% or more, the company will just break even, or have a small loss on the issue, in hopes of generating interest in future issues. Comics are often not returnable. In that case, the back issues that can’t be sold are often bundled together into long boxes and sold for a few cents per copy wholesale. They end up in the “4 for a dollar” boxes at comic shows or flea markets. I think that the online versions of comics should sell for full retail for 2 months, then half retail, then 25% of retail. After 6 months, the archives all the way back to 1939 should be available free or deeply discounted; comics are something that knowing the back story is often essential to knowing the current storylines, and reading back issues is a good way to get a new generation of kids interested in buying the current ones.

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