EXCLUSIVE: Diamond's Dave Bowen explains how they will sell digital comics in stores

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diamond digital 02 EXCLUSIVE: Diamond's Dave Bowen explains how they will sell digital comics in stores

[Yesterday Diamond announced their plan to team with iVerse to offer digital comics downloads for sale in comics shops. Gievn the hot button nature of this discussion, and the big picture nature of the announcement, Dave Bowen, Diamond’s Director of Digital Distribution, was eager to talk to us to explain more about it. This is a long interview, but Bowen goes into welcome detail on the thinking behind and motivation for this plan. Short version: retailers deserve to be brought into the process.]

THE BEAT: Let’s start out, suppose I am looking to buy the new issue of…let’s say Transformers. I walk into my comics shop. What’s going to happen?

BOWEN: If the comic shop has it on the rack, obviously you’ll probably buy it that way. If they don’t have it on the rack and it is one of the books that IDW has chosen to be part of its program – publishers don’t have to put heir entire line in this program. If IDW wants to put Transformers on the Playstation first, they can do that. We’re going to imprint Plexiglas document stands and give them to retailers. They’ll have a sell sheet for the new week’s books inside and in fact the one I’m looking at on right now has Transformers ongoing #16 as an example. That POP display is one of the ways that the conversation might get started about a digital sale. We’ll also do shelf talkers and header cards for books that are available digitally as well.

One of the things that we really want to see happen out of this is to break down what we think is a barrier to discussion of digital comics in physical comics shops. Print comics are not going anywhere anytime soon. I think that’s fairly obvious. But digital comics are becoming an important part of the landscape and the idea that a customer might be uncomfortable disusing their digital buying or reading habits with their comics shop is, I think, commonsense. It would be rude. I think some customers do it and some retailers are comfortable talking about it. But from talking to retailer we don’t get the impression that it’s common. However, we do get the impression from some very smart retailers that maybe between 15 to 20% of their customers are already consuming digital comics in some fashion. That’s not scientific; it’s just kind of gut. That said, we’d love to see that discussion come out in the open and we’d love to stimulate that. The way we do that is to incentivize the retailers appropriately to participate in the sales process, to give them a direct sales incentive that broadens their shelf and have them handle things like stock outages. Ultimately, what we really envision is infinite inventory availability as a backstop for retail shops.

We’re very interested in long format material. The example that I’m bringing to ComicsPRO has a digital graphic novel on the sell sheet. It’s from NBM, The Library of 20th Century Murders: The Terrible Axe Man of New Orleans.

THE BEAT: Ironically I was just thinking about Rick Geary this morning as one of my all time favorite cartoonists. So I’m there with that!

201102100407 EXCLUSIVE: Diamond's Dave Bowen explains how they will sell digital comics in stores

BOWEN: Right, when we talked to Terry Nantier at NBM for an example he thought would be on the horizon this is one he gave me. He said, Okay we’re just discussing this, but if the trade paperback is $9.99 and the digital version would be $6.99. We also have something called the Digital Plus version, which if you buy the print you get digital additionally. He decided on the fly that $2.99 made sense for the Digital Plus version of a full graphic novel.

Essentially an aggressive retailer could make this a significant part of their customer interaction process. They could use the point of purchase materials, they could initiate discussions. We really think that if you take an example like Meltdown Comics that is absolutely innovative in what they do, I could imagine a couple of years from now or sooner, them having a wifi area of their shop that is digitally enabled and localized. We’ve got some really amazing long-term plans for this.

This is a baby step. And what we did was we looked at the technological lowest common denominator which we could use which was code redemption. And we decided on that as a model because any retailer that can get to a secure website and print out exclusive codes once a week can sell with this model.

THE BEAT: When you talk about codes, you said you needed internet and a printer. How does this work?

BOWEN: The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. We have some idea for a card that would allow you to do aggregate purchases and stick a bunch on there. But we’re looking for retailer input before we design that piece of the point of purchase materials. We think something like that would be necessary.

It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.

THE BEAT: Otherwise they could go home and download it?

BOWEN: Correct.

THE BEAT: There will be a Diamond/iVerse run storefront where they could redeem that code?

BOWEN: No, it’s actually application specific. If you’re interested in consuming comics on your computer you would do it through the iVerse website which will be up when this program launches. If you’re an iPad person, it would be your iPad.

THE BEAT: Okay, so when I go to buy my copy of Transformers, or more likely for me, The Terrible Axe-Man, it will go through Hanley’s or Midtown or whichever store I brought it from?201102100415 EXCLUSIVE: Diamond's Dave Bowen explains how they will sell digital comics in stores

BOWEN: Correct. What happens on the backend is this: when the code is redeemed we then invoice the comics shop and that’s Diamond’s true value in this equation and it took us a while to figure this out, because we generate invoices on a weekly basis for all these comics shops, adding digital items is not a terrible stretch for us. And it is very economical. One of the reasons that affiliate programs and others are challenging is that there’s a micropayment expense of some sort in there somewhere. And we couldn’t figure out how to make that work but this we can do. Invoicing, believe me, we can do.

THE BEAT: Let’s talk about the “plus” model here. Will there be extra material with your publishers?

BOWEN: The Digital Plus version that you see in our PR is simply intended to be would you like fries with that. That is a digital version that is a companion to a physical purchase. It’s price pointed lower as a result, but the idea is that is you ring up Transformers in print the retailer would say hey, would you like a digital version that you can read anywhere for 99 cents. We think that will appeal to a certain percentage of people who would like to be participating in a digital world and maybe want to bag and board their comics and just feel uncomfortable with bit torrents and these other methods. We think it’s kind of an anti-piracy step and kind of a bonus.

When you talk about actual additional content one of the ways that publishers can participate in this, instead of 30-day windowing they could do variant content.

We have a logic problem that we have to work through with this. Why would someone come into a comics shop to buy a digital comic? One reason is it’s the only place you can get it for the first 30 days. Another is it contains material that is not available elsewhere. We think a lot of publishers will take advantage of that.

I’m going to tell you about one that I think is just brilliant that we really hope will happen. When we were discussing this with Bluewater they have some books coming that they are doing with Adam West and William Shatner who are closely partnering on these books. We said can you ask them would they be willing to do a voice reading of the comic book as an audio track.

THE BEAT: I have to admit, I would buy that. (Especially if it was a duet.)

BOWEN: I’d listen to them read their laundry list! That’s one example of the kind of extended content and there are so many ideas that we hope publishers will get really creative with what they want to throw into the mix. We have a list of dozens of different promotional ideas we can implement now. Of course who knows what the technology will allow us to do next year. Right now we can include small video clips if we need to.

THE BEAT: That’s the tip of the iceberg. Obviously you have been working on this for a while and there are some big publishers missing from the list you’re working with. DC, Marvel, Image and Boom have their own programs. Is that the major reason they didn’t want to participate?

BOWEN: We’re still in discussion with a lot of them and we’re still hopeful with a lot of them. The overarching reason you don’t see some names on this list now is that their programs are so complex now that their heads are spinning, honestly. It’s a tremendous amount to manage. Marvel is on 11 different platforms. That’s a lot to deal with. To throw this at them additionally, I think most large publishers right now are thinking how can I consolidate what I’m doing rather than how can I expand it. It’s going to be a tug of war. With all the platforms coming out, the amount of energy that a large publisher could expend on digital comics could be enormous. We have to make a really sound case to these publishers as to why out platform is worth participating in. and we think it’s pretty cool what were trying to do sort of magically enable 2700 retail stores to sell digital goods out of thin air.

It seems counter intuitive when you think about it at first but in reality there’s no reason why your local Wal-Mart couldn’t sell you movies while you’re walking down the aisles. Warren Ellis has done some really interesting things talking about media intrusiveness. We think that digital enablement in a physical market place is actually going to become a bit more common as things move forward.

THE BEAT: There are other models for this, such as video game stores that do in-store downloads, correct?

BOWEN: The best example is what Gamestop does. They have a very aggressive program and they sell prepaid digital download card for things like Farmville. They have kiosks in a lot of their shops and you can buy game levels. They are a model we are really keeping our eye on. The selling of game levels especially is something that intrigues us no end because it’s fairly comparable to a comic book in terms of size and price and complexity. Part of our plan for the future is the sort of stored value card approach and we’re working on the economics of that to make it work. It’s very easy to do if your scale is Best Buy. It’s much harder to do if your scale is 2700 comics shops.

THE BEAT: That was my next question. A lot of your retailer accounts must have an opinion. What has been their reaction?

BOWEN: I would say it’s been broken down into thirds. About a third of the retailers we’ve talked to have gotten it immediately and been excited. We have a beta test group that was very easy to assemble. And they are all into it. They understand the appeal and the mechanics of it don’t bother them at all. I would classify them as generally more aggressive retailers who are sharp and focused on anything that can add to their business’s bottom line.

And then there is about a third that are a little more uncertain. They don’t know how I feel about this and what if my customer goes into the digital wonderland and never comes back. We have some answers for those kinds of question but the reality is that comic shops are a relationship business. Any shop that is concerned about digital comics should also be concerned about how they are managing their customer relations. A really good comic shop you are going to go back to it over and over again no matter how you are consuming comics. You are going to find a treasure or have a conversation you aren’t going to have any other place. Those business we think they don’t have anything to worry about. And to quote Warren Ellis, people are kind of panicking about digital comics in some ways. If you are running a good relationship-based business, digital comics can’t affect you in any significant way.

The other third of the market that we’ve talked to is, I wouldn’t say they are necessarily closed, although some are closed to the idea of digital at all. But some of them simply have easier ways to make money. There is a gentleman I spoke with who has a 12,000 sq. ft. store in South Carolina with a massive inventory of Golden and Silver Age and he’s at all the major shows. He makes $6K on a Golden Age book. Picking up what is in relative terms a small amount of money for him is not very motivating. I don’t blame him.

So they kind of break down that way. The middle third is the one we need to work with in terms of encouragement and education. We’re going to have to teach them how to sell these things and teach some how to get the Comics Plus app.

THE BEAT: I think you touched on something that’s a problem in that it’s a pretty tiny pie here. Each digital download is being divided up, creators, publishers, Diamond, store. A lot of middlemen. We are talking about pennies here in some cases. Is there a way to expand the sales for digital comics? If they are moving at small levels this is still going to be a very small amount of income involved. Do you have a way to make it a form of outreach?

201102100412 EXCLUSIVE: Diamond's Dave Bowen explains how they will sell digital comics in stores

BOWEN: We do. We think the outreach is inherent in the model and not our model, but the digital model in general. I do agree with the assessment that digital comics are the new newsstand. I agree largely because I’m hopeful that it’s true because the old newsstand certainly does not work in terms of driving people or creating new readers. It hasn’t worked for a long time.

Where we think we can expand is in longform content and making enormous libraries of that those available. As an example, look at The Treasury of 20th Century Murder. When that book comes out in print I would wager that only a relatively small number of very good shops are going to carry it for the rack. And that’s a shame. And it is because the direct distribution model puts such a burden of risk on the retailer. When we take that out of the equation with the digital version what we hope will happen is that we retailer will successfully sell the digital version and think, hey, I can probably sell this in print too. That wasn’t very hard. Maybe I’ll start stocking that. We think there’s a chance to expand in that fashion and some of the things we’re going to do in the future are more interesting in terms of growing the market. We want to do some thing with localization, along the lines of Foursquare and we think that that might be able to drive some event-based promotion.

One we were discussing with a publisher. Let’s say that there’s an issue of True Blood with exclusive content you can’t get any other way and it’s a preview a new book. The first chapter and it’s the only place it’s available. It’s an add-on to this digital comics. That I can see people coming into a comic shop for out of the blue once the word has spread and there will be people who have never been in there before. It’s up to the retailer to have True Blood trades and other things that can hook them.

The beautiful thing is that every time we engage with a publisher or a retailer there are questions and some of them are really hard. I love those because we learn more from pain than from anything else in life. [laughs] And our program is so much better now than it was 6 months ago because we’ve had retailers and publishers pick away at it. There are going to be ideas that we would never have dreamt of that they are going to want to implement. We are in this and we will do whatever we can do to add value for the retailer. That’s the entire purpose of this exercise. If we had wanted to be the kings of digital comics we could have done it a year ago. That’s not what we want. We want retailers to be empowered to join in the process.

THE BEAT: What is it that iVerse brings to the table that makes them a good partner for this?

BOWEN: Part of it is that they came to us. I’ve spent more than two years paying close attention to the digital comics market and looking for a way to add value for comics shops. The closest we have really come prior to that is the Starbucks card concept, where we print out a bunch of redemptions and presell those to retailers. Which lacked elegance in some ways. iVerse came to us and said we want to do this with you, we want comics shop to be enabled to do this. We love comics shops and want them to be successful through the transition to a percentage of digital comics sales occurring. Their initial model was based on a QR bar code on the outside of a comic. We said we’re not sure publishers are going to be able to do this and then we started to explore other options and came to the code redemption model as the one that’s the most implementable. What we learned along the way is that iVerse is a very good partner. They are patient, they are technically incredibly capable. They are not as flashy as some of their competition but technically they are superb at what they do and we just felt very comfortable knowing that they were the ones powering the solution. We needed a partner for this. I recommended right out of the gate Diamond not try to create this capability in house.

THE BEAT: [laughs] Right!

BOWEN: It is hard to do. iVerse has updated their core OS for their IOS platforms three times in the past month. That’s how fast you have to move in order to keep up with the changing technology. Diamond is a lot of things– we are very good at getting books everywhere and collecting money and getting people paid, but we are not that fast. We needed a fast partner. And they are. They are motivated. The fact that they are probably second in market share is a good motivator.

THE BEAT: This is rolling out in July?

BOWEN: The first books will be available in July for the solicitation cycle.

THE BEAT: And you’ll be discussing it at the ComicsPRO meeting his week?

BOWEN: Absolutely. We have a more extensive presentation we’re giving at ComicsPRO and we’ll of course make that available to retailers after the fact. We’re wide open for input and discussion. We’re at that wonderful point right now that we’re not so far in that we can’t change some things and so we really welcome publishers and retailers to throw ideas and input at us. It’s all helpful in the end. We do not believe that we know even a significant percentage of everything about this space. It’s too complex and too big.

THE BEAT: We’re all moving forward together learning and growing.

BOWEN: One thing I will say: one thing that differentiates our effort is that we don’t have an exit strategy. Diamond is comics. We’re in this for the benefit of the retailers more than for any other reason. Not because we think Diamond is going to make a bazillion dollars. We want retailers to have a way to use this method instead of being innocent bystanders.

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    Wow

    “It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.”

    Or they could just cut out the middle man and buy it on their ipad!

    Gawd who’s coming up with this stuff? There is no need for any economic intermediation in this process, attempt to add one simply for the benefits of LCSs are going to fail.

    The idea that ipad users and others will queue up and wait while the guy behind the counter prints off a voucher…

    it’s like attaching horses to the front of a car…

  2. Avery labels. Wow, we really are living in the 21st century now!

  3. Al™ says:

    I happen to like the logic behind all this, and this interview was a good read. It sounded sincere, and indicated that a lot of dialogue and thought is going into implementing the digital evolution.

    I hope more than 30% of comic shops and retailers get involved, because if they don’t, we WILL be going to a central online warehouse to buy our downloads.The key will be the willingness of the LCS to adapt.

    A couple of caveats about digital comics: since digital versions of comics do not need to be printed, there will be no limit to the number of ads in the file. So, sorry, but look for massive amounts of interactive ads joining the show. Page after page of ads.

    Also, by extension, the publishers can make a digital comic file any number of “pages” that they want: 1 page, 11 pages, 21,111 pages, sky’s the limit.

    Plus, compilation files could be assembled and sold on the fly. How long does it take to assemble a pile of electronic comic pages into one document? Minutes. So trades could be available as of the last issue of an arc, no waiting.

  4. “If the comic shop has it on the rack, obviously you’ll probably buy it that way.”

    The best way to start this interview was possibly not to say that digital is so inferior that if it’s at all possible, you’ll obviously buy the print version.

  5. You should save this article because in twenty years it is going to be an insight into why Diamond and the comic store no longer exist.

    1) Marvel/DC opting out means this program will fail. Period.

    Marvel and DC are 80% of the market.

    2) Nobody is going to travel to a comic store to buy a download code. I don’t have to go to a store to buy a movie, or an album or hell even my groceries but I am going to get on the subway to go buy a digital copy of a comic?

    The future of digital is a Marvel app direct to the consumer. That’s the only way that makes any sense.

    3) That Diamond believes that people will opt for paper first (see his example) is crazy. People with ipads are not going to invest $500 in a device only to buy more paper comics. Either everything is available for download or digital will stall.

  6. There are some BIG elephants in the room, but overall it seems like an interesting idea.

    Why doesn’t Diamond place QR codes in Previews? (And why don’t comics publishers place them in advertisements?) Scan the code using Previews software, it creates a shopping list with a bottom line which can then be turned into an order form for the store. (The online list gets its own QR code which the store scans.) Customers can even shift titles to a “wish list” for stuff they can’t afford but want to buy later.

    What’s the best that can come from this? Comics shops become more electronic and networked, and part of the 21st Century.

  7. Darren says:

    I’m with Alex. The whole point of digital delivery is the convenience of downloading media whenever you want, wherever you may be. Even with Marvel and DC’s participation this is going to fail.

  8. With regard to a refusal to drive to the comic shop and buy a download code… can’t you just call the shop and do the transaction over the phone? I assume the staff at a comic shop would be capable of reading off a code over the phone. It’s not perfect, but it’s an option.

  9. Ralf Haring says:

    Diamond seems not to understand that the entire point of digital distribution is that people don’t want to stand in line at a store.

  10. If the customer is ONLY going to buy digital content, then there’s no reason for the store.

    If they’re going to buy physical product enhanced by digital content, which is what I believe Diamond is after, then there might be merit to this program.

    Either way, it’s an interesting experiment.

    Would the comic store be able to discount the digital content? Sell it at a lower price point, for example, than they would be able to get on the iVerse website?

    I really like Torsten’s idea of barcodes being included in Previews. If my comic app is tied to my comic store, and I scan in this that or the other title, then the comic store knows exactly what to order for me.

  11. LobsterDragon says:

    Rich, sure, you could do that. Phones are capable of relaying that information. But movies, tv, and music are now all available digitally and nigh-instantaneously via the medium you’re going to use to watch them. Why should a fan use his phone to order something he’s gonna watch on his computer or tablet?

  12. For years the comics industry has been trying to figure out how to get more people into stores, how to attract more women and kids. Where are they they wonder? They’re spending their money in droves on Angry Birds and Cut the Rope and Axe in Face.

    I’ve been in a room full of friends where one person pulled out a cool game they just found and within minutes others in the room were pulling out phones and tablets and downloading the game to try. And they weren’t tentative about it all because the games were a buck each.

    Who doesn’t have a niece or nephew or son or daughter begging to play a game on your phone while stuck in a waiting room? I’ve seen toddlers play angry birds and get it instantly.

    This is the market comics should be competing with, iTunes is the store these comics should be sold in for similar price points because people are in there, by the millions, day and night eager, yes, EAGER to find something new and interesting to drop a buck on.

    And when you get those new readers, throw some ads in there for the comic shop finder, let them know these stories can be bought in collected form, on pretty paper and that they make great presents. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know that! I’ve talked to college english classes studying collections of Y and on several occasions I’ve had students not familiar with comics and how they work ask me “Why are there these painted pages between the chapters? Did you do that?” and I’ve had to explain those are *covers* to the floppy comic version released before they were collected.

    Yes, spell it out, make it clear and get that much wanted audience into the stores find related merch.

    This system, as nice an idea as it is, is crazy complicated and only designed to cater to the existing niche, a very small niche at that. Think bigger!

  13. thequestion says:

    I enjoy going to my comic shop to buy print comics. Period. BUT…frequently the store doesn’t stock certain books I may be interested in or didn’t order enough copies. Instead of hunting for back issues, If I could get a digital download instead, I’d do that.
    Something like the Rick Geary book would be something the store I go to would likely not carry, nor would it be a book I’d be aware of. But if I was there to pick up my weekly stack, I could see myself saying, “hey, i’ll try that.”

    it could be a boon to smaller publishers who don’t get any shelf space.

  14. Charles Knight says:

    “With regard to a refusal to drive to the comic shop and buy a download code… can’t you just call the shop and do the transaction over the phone? I assume the staff at a comic shop would be capable of reading off a code over the phone. It’s not perfect, but it’s an option.”

    Or you could…tap a few buttons on your ipad?

    Seriously does this make any more sense like this?

    “Joe hears the newest Rihanna track. He phones apple and after waiting in a queue, he gets through to an operator. The apple operator then takes his card details and after processing it, he is then given a download code. Joe tries it but it doesn’t work, Joe thinks he’s written it down wrong. He phones Apple back and…”

  15. Good lord. This dude doesn’t understand that those Farmville cards of which he speaks are GIFT cards, not the only way you can buy the power-ups. They are available for purchase inside the actual game.

    TERRIBLE analogy.

  16. I still don’t understand why anybody at Diamond thinks this is a good way to do things. Ridiculously complicated.

    If I want a comic on my iPhone or my laptop, I should be able to click and purchase that comic from a website or, possibly, an iTunes-like interface. I mentioned on the last article about this that I have a children’s book in the iPhone app store. Someone wants it? They buy it. Apple takes their cut and I get the rest. No reseller, no standing in line, no printing of codes.

    Let’s all be honest. We love comic shops. Well, a lot of us do. But many people in the early 1900s loved horses and carriages, too. You cannot truly expect to keep comic shops in business by using them as your distribution point for digital files. That’s absurd. And to say the printed comics aren’t going away “anytime soon” is short sighted.

    Diamond is going to go away (I hope) and much simpler ways of distribution will take over. I want to get my content directly to the reader without having to go thru both a distributor and a reseller.

  17. Oh shit.

    The idea was mind-boggling to me, especially since it requires ignoring (for 30 days) the vast market that is not within reasonable travelling distance of those comic shops who adopt this. It makes no business sense at all and offers little benefit to the LCS, while seeming to.

    It seems counter intuitive when you think about it at first but in reality there’s no reason why your local Wal-Mart couldn’t sell you while you’re walking down the aisles.

    Or comics, for that matter.

    Is a big corporation like Diamond trying to do the right thing for the little guy in the comic shop, or just using them to test the concept? Why would they not approach Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Best Buy, Safeway, Walgreens, and other stores where people are already going in to get something else that they can’t get online?

    It’s a digital spinner rack. I mean, Archie?

    I could imagine a couple of years from now or sooner, them having a wifi area of their shop that is digitally enabled and localized.

    How many of the big retailers I listed already do? How many comic shops are likely to?

    We’ve got some really amazing long-term plans for this.

    Oh I’ll bet you do.

  18. Crap, somehow I deleted “movies” from this quote:

    It seems counter intuitive when you think about it at first but in reality there’s no reason why your local Wal-Mart couldn’t sell you movies while you’re walking down the aisles.

  19. CitizenCliff says:

    So now we’ve got the pie split between:

    1. Retailer
    2. Diamond
    3. Iverse
    4. Apple
    5. Publisher
    6. Artist & Writer

    All for $1.99 ? Really? Stop and think about this. Nobody is going to be happy with their share, and Apple, gets 33% off the top.

    Then think about who needs to get tossed off this life raft of the comics industry. When it comes to survival, the retailers and Diamond will be be the first to be thrown overboard. Personally, I have nothing against retailers, and wish there were a way to save them. But this is Darwinism pure and simple. A leaner, more efficient, and ubiquitous competitor has arrived, and it lives on the Internet.

    For the best analysis though, listen to Scott Kurtz and company. They laugh so hard at this business model, it sounds like pixelated comics are coming out their noses.
    http://ww.libsyn.com/webcomics-weekly-77-laugh-track.

  20. John G says:

    ha ha ha

    Thanks Diamond, I needed a good laugh today.

  21. This is like an abusive husband trying to keep his wife by promising her more lawn gnomes.

  22. My friend said it best on our podcast yesterday. Why not just charge me .99 to print a sticker that says “cyber” and slap it on the print comic I just bought?

    Diamond doesn’t realize that we already have a distributor for bits. It’s called the Internet and everyone has already paid for it and has instant access to it. we need them to distribute physical goods. You don’t need a distributor for data.

    The comic industry needs to invent the car and Diamond just suggested a mechanical horse.

  23. “He said, Okay we’re just discussing this, but if the trade paperback is $9.99 and the digital version would be $6.99. We also have something called the Digital Plus version, which if you buy the print you get digital additionally. He decided on the fly that $2.99 made sense for the Digital Plus version of a full graphic novel.”
    So… in that model… you’re bypassing printing, storage, shipping and potential return charges and charging the same price, UNLESS you sell the customer the same thing twice in different formats, in which case the digital copy costs approximately an extra 50%.
    Sounds like the publisher is making out pretty well there. Not so sure about anyone else involved in that transaction.
    I’ve read Marvel comics on others’ iPads and found the experience very satisfying. But I can’t see this proposal as very practical.

  24. hikaru go says:

    Sounds kind of silly but makes a lot of sense since The Boys’ Club are a finicky, esoteric bunch

  25. LobsterDragon said “Why should a fan use his phone to order something he’s gonna watch on his computer or tablet?”

    I’m not arguing that they should. My first impression is that this system is silly, and misses the point of digital delivery. BUT, if someone’s reason for not liking it is that they don’t want to devote an hour to a trip to the comic shop, I don’t agree that trip is actually necessary within the proposed system.

  26. Not related to this Diamond thing specifically, but I’m really starting to miss Pullbox Online.

    No fuss, just 99 cent downloads of comics in CBR or PDF. Unfortunately it was around before most people were ready for paid digital comics. I wish I (and enough others) had supported it at the time, so it was still around now.

    Digital comics don’t have to be this hard to do.

  27. Bill Scurry says:

    What everyone else already said.

    Should I mention that I have bought a good number of books on my iPad that I would have never bought in print? Things like Darwyn Cooke’s “Parker” OGNs, the work of Jeff Parker, etc. These things happened because I did it from the comfort of my desk, with no LCS pressure.

  28. The Beat says:

    Hey peeps, just want to point out one thing — this is not THE digital panacea and isn’t intended to be such. As I think Dave made clear, this is a METHOD for stores to sell digital comics and get involved in that sphere. It is not intended to be the be-all and end-all.

    Not saying that some of the criticisms here are not on target, but the program should be reviewed as one channel in a multi-channel system, not as the only system.

  29. Charles Knight says:

    “this is a METHOD for stores to sell digital comics and get involved in that sphere.”

    But that’s the whole point, they ain’t needed – this add a level of complexity and another economy intermediary that just not required.

  30. The Beat says:

    Charles, yes but why cut out a revenue stream even if it seems silly to you? This and Comixology’s retail initiatives are a DIFFERENT revenue stream.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Diamond wants to sell you paper comics. But they shouldn’t be faulted for trying to diversify even if the program isn’t perfect.

    Niels — GREAT recall of Pullbox! Damn we were all so young and innocent then.

  31. Snikt Snakt says:

    Alex: “You should save this article because in twenty years it is going to be an insight into why Diamond and the comic store no longer exist.”

    20 years?!? You’re being faaaar to generous IMO w/that timetable, I don’t even give them a decade…

  32. DanielT says:

    You are never going to convince me the digital version shouldn’t be free if I buy the physical version.

    Many movies offer digital versions when you buy the disc or you can make one yourself. Same with CDs.

    If I have the physical copy, I would never pay extra for a digital version of a comic or book that has no value-added content (like, say, a commentary track on the work).

  33. Yeah, I think Daniel’s onto something.

    The publishers should really be following suit with that model.

    That way you have others trying out digital for the first time including others that may not “like” digital. It’s an easy way to convert others.

    Why do you think movie studios include dvds and digital copies with their Blurays?

  34. Charles Knight says:

    “Charles, yes but why cut out a revenue stream even if it seems silly to you? This and Comixology’s retail initiatives are a DIFFERENT revenue stream.”

    So you split the pie even further – and this is good for creators?

  35. “I think it’s pretty clear that Diamond wants to sell you paper comics. But they shouldn’t be faulted for trying to diversify even if the program isn’t perfect.”

    They should be faulted a great deal for trying to rig the system so you can only get current product by walking into a physical store to get a download. This screws up the entire digital marketplace if they get a lot of exclusives for that.

  36. Heidi, very interesting interview. I have to say, reading the details only served to exacerbate my skepticism of this announcement though.

  37. Chris Hero says:

    I think using a horse and buggy analogy in 2011 is more antiquated than trashing the organ player at the nickelodeon.

  38. Al™ says:

    Hmm. When physical comics are no more, and therefore no one is worried about their mint condition for bagging, boarding, and writing them into their will: people will just buy a digital download, which goes to their phone or tablet.

    So since it is resident on the device, do people form comic clubs where they sit around and swap tablets and read each others issues there instead of buying them?

    And what about Conventions in, say, 2015? Since it will be all digital, do we show up to a small conference room somewhere with a USB stick or phone, and download back issues and variants?

    No need for tables, booths, just a bunch of guys with Avery labels and wifi. Or maybe it is all done from home. hmmm.
    Cool.

  39. Feels like Diamond is trying to tax people for reading comics. I already bought the book physically. Why would I want to spend 99 cents to read it again in a different way?

    Diamond is trying to leverage it’s relationship with publishers to force readers to drive to their LCS to buy exclusive digital content.

    It’s almost like they’re TRYING to make the process of getting digital comics SEEM unappealing.

    Now why would they want to do that?

  40. Good to see such positive comments.

    It’s shocking how short-sited and ignorant most of these posts are, but it what I usually expect from the vocal minority that post here. You’re all done with comics, I know, we’ve heard it over and over. I’m gonna deal with the real comic book fans that I’ve dealt with for almost 20 years now. Most of the fanboy-run stores are out of business now, most of the ones remaining are real businessmen that are able to change and adapt with a changing market. There’s no doubt in my mind myself, and many other stores, will remain strong in the coming decades. Until they stop printing comics, I’ll be selling them.

    You guys can have your less than 1% market. I’ll take the other 99%.

  41. And a retailer likes the idea! Go figure.

  42. This seems completely asinine. Diamond is clearly trying to insinuate themselves as middlemen where none are necessary. It seems to me that they are coming at this backwards. They clearly have the printed media market cornered, so why not “incentivize” the purchase of printed media through digital means, rather than the other way around? Let’s face the fact that the odds are that no one is going to the comic shop to buy digital content. Why not offer discounts or special offers on the printed media (GN’s, TPB’s, print-only special issues, variant covers, similar products, even action figures, etc.) via digital content? Then also offer exclusive digital content with the purchase of the printed material?

    Now this is all off-the-cuff, but it seems win-win-win, to me. Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc. could potentially boost their print sales and digital sales simultaneously – with the only way to get exclusive printed content offers being through the purchase of digital media, or vice-versa. Diamond boosts print sales and benefits from being the only distributor with the exclusive printed content, and codes – or what-have-you – for the exclusive digital media offered from the publishers. Retailers benefit because they are the only outlets carrying the exclusive print content and printed media with exclusive digital content offers, not to mention that they have the best variety of printed media that’s the counterpart to the digital versions. This would also be an aid to retailers as they could potentially be able to track the sales of digital content (with the aid of Diamond and the publishers), be aware of Diamond special offers, publishers’ offers, and hence be better informed about what to carry, when to carry it, and how much to order.

    It’s worth noting, too, that this still leaves it all in the hands of the consumers. They wouldn’t have to participate in any of this. They could continue to just buy their usual digital downloads, floppy comics, or GN’s without partaking in the special offers, exclusive content, or discounts… but if I know comic fans, I think most would take advantage of them.

    That was quite a mouthful, but I think I explained my concept correctly….

  43. I don’t love it, but I find it interesting. This is aimed at people that already go to comic book stores, or people that have loyalty to a store for some reason or another.

    I’m part of a podcast (www.geekbox.net) with a large out-of-the-area following, and I’ve sold comics to many of the listeners. As the podcast is mostly about video games, there’s a younger crowd listening, and mostly tech-oriented. Some of them are very interested in digital comics, and this will allow me to sell them to listeners. The store is in the Bay Area, so we have a ton of tech people, as well, that are in-store customers. A lot of them have iPads, and a lot of them go on business trips. After talking with some of them yesterday, some are more than happy to get a digital copy when they’re buying the physical.

    If you do not buy physical comics, or buy all your tpbs through Amazon, this is a non-issue. If you go to stores a lot, this is yet another option for you. It’s that simple. In order for comics to survive, we need physical, digital, tpbs, mini-comics, toys, blah blah blah, everything. If you cut physical comics out today, and put 100% up digital, every comic book company would go out of business.

  44. Jake Orion says:

    Perhaps a better idea would be you buy the comic book, and are able to read it online for free. This way, you’re able to read your favorite books while your away on travel.

    While its no question that online viewing is the way of the future, I highly doubt it will kill off the paperback industry altogether.

  45. DanielT says:

    In light of Mr. Higgins comments, I reread the interview keeping in mind how “short-sighted” and “ignorant” I apparently am.

    And I still thinks it’s a ridiculous, unnatural distortion of the market.

    “Why would someone come into a comics shop to buy a digital comic? One reason is it’s the only place you can get it for the first 30 days.”

    If I went on iTunes to buy something and got a message saying “Please visit your local music seller to buy the code to download this album” my next visit wouldn’t be to BestBuy/FYE/local CD store but to demonoid.com.

  46. “One reason is it’s the only place you can get it for the first 30 days.”

    It’s adorable that anyone could say this with a straight face.

  47. DanielT says:

    Hmm. I had a much long post with more comments on Bowen’s quotes but it looks like the Internet ate it.

  48. FrankM says:

    The whole thing seems to care more about the stores than about the customers paying for the product, which seems strange.

    From a customer’s perspective buying a digital comic can ONLY work like this to be attractive:

    1) Go to website
    2) Click “download PDF”
    3) Read comic

    Everything else is punishing the paying customer. Be it a cryptic format or an absolutly stupid thing like having to go to a store to by a code.

    Why can’t stores just sell PDFs via their website, I wonder? But maybe that would be too easy…

  49. DanielT says:

    Y’know, FrankM, when they first announced this idea I assumed selling on the store’s website was the form it was going to take.

  50. Snikt Snakt says:

    Ryan Higgins: “It’s shocking how short-sited and ignorant most of these posts are, but it what I usually expect from the vocal minority that post here. You’re all done with comics, I know, we’ve heard it over and over. I’m gonna deal with the real comic book fans that I’ve dealt with for almost 20 years now. Most of the fanboy-run stores are out of business now, most of the ones remaining are real businessmen that are able to change and adapt with a changing market. There’s no doubt in my mind myself, and many other stores, will remain strong in the coming decades. Until they stop printing comics, I’ll be selling them.”

    You really think most comic book stores will still be around in another 20 years?!? I guess the dropping monthly sales and stady price increases are nothing to worrry about.

    You do realize you’re in same boat as Record/CD stores and Video Rental places were, right? You do remember what happened to them?

  51. FrankM says:

    To me it boils down to this:

    If you want a share of the digital/download market, ENTER THE MARKET and don’t force the market TO ENTER YOUR STORE.

  52. Ian Boothby says:

    Yeah it feels like the industry is trying to keep one foot on the shore and that’s a good way to have the boat go nowhere.

  53. Goodman says:

    I want to like this idea. I buy tons of digital comics. I’d like to support my local stores, and I wouldn’t mind visiting them if it got me day and date digital releases at a decent price.

    But there are problems. For one thing, iVerse’s software isn’t great. Right now the iVerse Archie app has a sale where they’re offering virtually everything for 99 cents, even graphic novels. Great deal. But their iPad app is a big bag of hurt. Interface elements vanish. Comics you bought vanish. It’s slow. It’s sluggish. There’s no easy way to find much of what they offer. I really wish Diamond had partnered up with ComiXology.

    There are other problems. Do the creators benefit from this? Not really. Given all the middle men and the very limited number of people this program will reach, most creators will be lucky if they can earn enough to buy a pizza. Do retailers benefit? I’m not sure that helping their existing customers transition to digital really helps them in any way. Do customers benefit? Well, if it’s the only way to get day and date releases you could say they’re better off, but don’t expect them to be too grateful that you’re asking them to get in a car and go to a store to buy digital downloads.

    I don’t think very many customers are interested in (or can afford) buying a paper copy AND a digital copy. And since the folks who buy at comics shops are basically the people who prefer paper, Diamond is actually asking retailers to try to sell their customers on a transition that will make the comics stores obsolete. Makes no sense.

    Bowen says “in reality there’s no reason why your local Wal-Mart couldn’t sell you movies while you’re walking down the aisles.” But if I want to buy a movie at Wal-Mart, I’ll whip out my iPhone and buy it. Music too. And books. And comics. And I can do this anywhere I want. There’s no real role for Wal-Mart there. That’s why we’ll never go to record stores to buy our MP3s, or bookstores to buy our eBooks. Attempts to persuade people otherwise (automated MP3 kiosks) failed miserably.

  54. I’ve been retailing comics in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 28 years, so I’ll share my opinion on this. I’m sure many will disagree.

    I don’t like the digital format for reading books and comics, but I’m an old guy.

    I realize that things are changing, and more and more people are going to read their books and comics on their computers and ipads.

    Call me a relic or a dinosaur, but I don’t see a profitable future in selling digital comics. Not for Diamond, or for comic book stores.

    You should be able to get your digital content online, without leaving the house. That’s the joy of digital. Instant gratification.

    I’ll keep selling new and vintage comics, and graphic novels, as long as people keep buying them. If too many people switch to digital, then comic book stores and Diamond distribution will be gone.

  55. It’s shocking how short-sited and ignorant most of these posts are, but it what I usually expect from the vocal minority that post here.

    More like “Well aware that this plan does nothing to draw in new readers and is intended to keep sucking money out of the constantly shrinking audience of direct market fanboys”

    It’s a new form of the variant cover and that’s it.

  56. Concerned Comic Citizen says:

    So the RETAILER has to print out the label and then the CUSTOMER has to go to IVERSE who is actually filling the digital sale. … and what exactly is DIAMOND doing in this entire transaction?….. Seems like NOTHING!

  57. Diamond is a joke..this is laughable

  58. I think there is a disconnect here between “comics industry” and “people who create comic books.”

    I guess for digital copies of industry comics, this model works, keeps LCS in the loop, etc. But for those of us indie would-be creators, it makes zero sense. We’d rather just get our stuff directly into the hands of the readers. Pay me a dollar and you get a downloadable .pdf of my comic book. No Diamond, no comic shop guy, nothing but me and you.

    One of my closest, oldest and dearest friends once owned a comic shop. Probably 7 or 8 years ago he flat-out stopped carrying new comics because the profit margins were so small and, frankly, the customers were a bigger pain in the ass than he was willing to deal with. He now deals in rare and antiquarian books and Golden/Silver/Bronze age comics. I think other new comics retailers are going to have to make a similar shift, but quick. Older fans may still relish the thought of goin’ down to the comic shop, but some of us younger types (I’m 31) just want to read the friggin’ comics, we don’t care where they come from.

  59. This is a fail to me. If Diamond and Publishers want to incentivize you to come to the comic book store, the digital download should be free as value-added content with a physical purchase. If you want to buy a digital copy only, you do it at home in your underwear in front of your computer. The only compelling thing about this is the possibility of (good) exclusive content on the digital version.

  60. Al™ says:

    Aaron, I think the comic shops were originally one of the only places in town where you could stand around and talk about comics with another fan.

    Internet forums have replaced that, and with digital comics getting underway, there is less and less reason to go to the local store.

    Plus, of course, my pet peeve about DM, that I need to preorder my comics from the LCS 2 months in advance, sight unseen.

    To heck with the preorder routine: Why not wait until release day and buy a cheaper digital copy somewhere. It will never sell out or need a second printing.

  61. Comic Citizen says:

    So this plays out sort of like this….

    Customer: Hey I’d like to get the digital version of this comic.

    Retailer peals off an Avery label and hands it to the guy.

    Retailer: Here you go.

    Customer: Are you @&$%^ kidding me?

    Diamond is a multi-million dollar company and the best they could come up with is an AVERY LABEL???? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

  62. Jenny Christopher says:

    What I find interesting, is how many people feel entitled to a digital copy of a comic because they bought a hard copy. I don’t get a free kindle edition of a book that I bought at a retailer, why should I with a comic? I have HC and SC editions of some books because I still hold out hope that some of my 1st editions will be worth something someday and I don’t want to so much as break the spine. I also have electronic editions of books on my shelf to read while on the go.
    I am very happy to keep my signed Mouseguard #1 Comixpress edition bagged and boarded on the shelf, and read the story in my very pretty HC edition. It’s nice to have options.

  63. You want a free digital copy?
    Then pay $4.99 for the special bundle.

    Or buy the paper-only edition for $3.99.
    Or the digital copy for $1.99.

    (Do you really believe that extra disc in the DVD box is “free”? Go compare the various Pixar editions and you’ll see it’s $6 – $10 more than just the “regular” edition.)

  64. Jenny Christopher says:

    edit- I meant entitled to a FREE digital copy of a comic because they bought a hard copy.
    sorry for any confusion :)

    btw- I am sincerely curious about why people think this. If someone could explain it to me, I would be very appreciative.

    and Torten is right, when you get a “free” digital copy with your dvd, the studios can pretty it up and say you’re paying for all the special features- but that “free” digital copy isn’t really free

  65. Jenny Christopher says:

    damn i need spell check. sorry Torsten

  66. Al™ says:

    Perhaps TwoMorrows has set the precedent in offering a free digital copy when you subscribe to the Physical copy: (by subscription only, not a LCS offer)

    SUBSCRIPTIONS
    Never miss an issue again by subscribing. Order either the PRINT edition, or save with a DIGITAL ONLY subscription. (PRINT subscribers get the Digital Edition of each issue FREE)!

    http://twomorrows.com/

  67. Torsten- Disney is the exception, not the rule. There are plenty of Blu-Ray releases that come with digital copies and are priced at a standard/base SRP. I think the issue is that with current comic book SRPs, Publishers can not absorb the cost of a digital copy the way movie studios can.

  68. Nabster says:

    This is truly a stupid idea.

  69. It just seems as though Diamond, a cut-throat, inefficient monopoly that is offensive to all free market principles as well as a terrible bane in the life of all true indies, is once again attempting to maintain its sick relationship with the video stores of the 21st century aka comic stores.

    Arcane and silly DRM-esque ways of giving digital content went out with the ark, and the only real motivation any of these schemes ever have is to control and profiteer. It’s got nothing to do with open markets, delivery or reaching new customers.

    Diamond can’t die soon enough for us.

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