Diamond’s Digital Previews – Could It Make Any Less Sense?

previewsI just don’t think Diamond gets digital.  They’re trying, but they keep throwing some really odd things out there.  This latest bit has me somewhere between scratching my head and insulted.  It was recently pointed out that Diamond was going to start selling digital copies of its Previews catalog.  I went for a look, sure enough, there it was.  $3.99 for a digital copy of a catalog.  This is utterly absurd.

The need to actually purchase a catalog has been a sore spot in certain circles for a number of years.  I’m the customer.  Why should I have to pay $4.50 to discover what’s coming out and what I want to buy?  Some retailers take the high road and provide copies of the catalog to their customers.  Diamond’s only defense is talking about how expensive it is to print that catalog.  In theory, the advertising they sell to publishers might not cover the cost printing.  Still, I have a hard time picturing a world where a $4.50 cover price and lots of paid advertising don’t add up to Diamond making a tidy profit off their catalog.

Personally, I’d call that catalog price a tax on either the shop who provides it or the consumer who pays for it.  Still, this practice has been accepted.

Now we have the digital version.  The price is down to $3.99.  So Diamond would like you to spend $4 to decide what you want to buy/pre-order.  They have a print + digital bundle, too:

Customers who choose to purchase a print version of PREVIEWS for $4.50 can get a digital “Print-Plus” version for an additional 99 cents, while customers who want a digital-only copy will pay $3.99 for the monthly issue.

I’m not entirely sure how large the market is for people who need a dual bundle, but it’s available.

The thing is, when you start charging $3.99 for the digital copy of the catalog, you can’t claim printing costs to justify the price.  You can’t pretend you’re not trying to make money off the distribution of product information.  Comics have always been an odd place, in that things that are normally business-to-business publications, like a a product catalog, will have consumer demand.  The strangeness enters the equation when the sales tool becomes a secondary purpose to a revenue stream.

As a consumer, I’m highly insulted I should be asked to pay $3.99 for a digital copy of a catalog that should just be provided.

But that’s not the funniest part.  The funniest part is how increasingly irrelevant the Diamond catalog is for the digital consumer.

Why do you need to get a Diamond catalog?  For pre-orders.  So you can add something to your in-store subscription that you don’t think the store will order enough of to stay on the shelf (or in some cases, that you don’t think the store will order at all if you don’t make a special request).  Mind you, putting a barrier between pre-order information and the consumer isn’t exactly doing the publishers any favors.

The thing is, if you’re buying digital comics, you don’t care about pre-ordering.  The whole point of digital comics is they’re available on demand and you don’t have to worry about them selling out at the shop.  You browse the digital comic store(s) of your choice and just buy what you want.

The only people who need a digital copy of Previews are people buying print copies who want to save 51 cents for the privilege of knowing what to order.

Should there be a digital copy of Previews?  Absolutely.  Should it cost $3.99?  Absolutely not.  It also probably shouldn’t be tied to Diamond’s digital comic service, since it’s really pushing print customer to the digital side and DC and Marvel aren’t on Diamond’s digital offerings list yet.

Comments

  1. I won’t say much else but just agree with you. It’s highly absurd and insulting.

  2. Is it a PDF? How big would that file be? Full-color art, a few hundred pages — probably a few hundred MB, to be sure. To their defense, they’d probably be paying pretty steep fees for their customers to download that much data.

  3. Sadly, I’ve been buying the Previews catalogue for decades now and I have always found it absurd that I needed to pay for something so I can order comics. Although, without purchasing the catalogue I would miss out on many awesome comics. As somone that likes a lot of indy titles that most shops don’t carry I have to get the catalogue so I know what’s out there. Simply for Blank Slate, Self Made Hero and Cinebook it’s worth me getting so I can see their output. I would have missed out on BOne back in the day without it as well. All said, it doesn’t make it any less absurd to have to buy. Something my wife still doesn’t understand. haha: “You have to buy a book so that you know what comics you can buy?! WOT?!” :-)
    peace,
    Herc

  4. jonboy says:

    I have never purchased a Previews, and I never will. In any format.

    My last Store had a copy that I could review page by page. I ordered a LOT of books that way. I have since switched stores (due to a move), and as such my ordering has gone down significantly.

    Am I missing out on some good books? Yes
    But at the same time my spending has gone down by 1/3rd (>400 a month to <100 a month).

    If the catalog was 99c, then I'd consider it.

  5. Erik Missio says:

    I genuinely don’t understand ANYONE paying for it, given the entire listing is made available free by Diamond itself as a text or pdf at http://www.previewsworld.com/Home/1/1/71/947.

    Every month, I copy and paste the listing into Word and skim through it all to write down what I’m interested. If there’s any interesting title (or, more frequently, an unknown title from an interesting publisher), I quickly Google it and decide whether I want to pre-order that book or not. Then, I cut and paste the comics I want in an e-mail to my localish amazing store and nicely ask them to pre-order.

    Why would I pay money? For Previews’ short interviews and thumbnail cover images that are already available online? Or for the three-page comic previews already posted everywhere at sites like this?
    I’m not so much insulted as completely confused.

  6. Jeremy Last says:

    The fact that Previews is not available in its entirety online says it all. Diamond have a monopoly and have been using it to slowly strangle the goose that lays their golden egg for decades. When print comics become a thing of the past it’ll be Diamond’s greed and mismanagement that did it.

  7. one of the main reasons why i became so anti-preorder and went digital is because all of my local shops require you to buy the catalog if you want to look anything up that’s not super easy for them to find. (aka most anything not A- list big 2 titles)

    Sometimes i just get so fed up with the hoops you have to jump through just to discover and buy new comics. So frustrating.

  8. James T says:

    I buy my comics via a mail order site and they charge around a buck for Previews. I wouldn’t pay much more, though.

  9. Al™ says:

    Okay, I get to be the one who admits that I buy Previews. Yup. The hard copy. Big, burly, fun to browse. Hundreds of pages of comics, lunchpails and action figures. Do I order much? Nope. I Just browse through an occasional issue, then throw it out. I like to stay in touch with what’s coming out. Or being thrown out.

    Yes, I could stand around in an aisle in the comic shop and browse through their store copy during my visit. But I never seem to have the time to do that.

    Okay, is the digital version worth $4? No. And if I purchase the print version, I can have the digital version for another $1? Hellooo? So the digital version is really worth $1 then. Or less.

    It’s a catalog. That you have to pay for. I get it. But fun to browse.
    Short on story but has lots of characters.

  10. Carmichael says:

    I collect Previews since 1995. I don’t have them all (I only had 4 of the last 3 years), but I have a lot. I live in Mèxico and that was the only way to know comics that will never be purchased by the only store in town.

    But then again, I love comics and catalogs. It was only natural.

  11. Torsten Adair says:

    I buy copies for reference.
    Years from now, they will be a great source for tracking what titles shipped when, who the smaller pubs were, and what stuff was available.

    Working in the world of retail, I get the PDFs every month.
    The March 2013 pdf shows up as 124,180 KB on my computer.

    If the digital edition was truly digital and interactive, then I could see a use for it. Click on a title and add it to your order sheet. Share an item online via social networks. Copy the content to a blog.

    But you know what? http://pulllist.comixology.com/ already does that.

  12. BTW, advertized to the right of this column when I reading this about the Diamond Catalog was ACES WEEKLY. 126 pages for $9.99. “Ya gots to get paid” (talking like the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing would I assume).

    $9.99. 126 pages. Digital. I’m just saying….

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