Digital Comic Book Pricing

I am not going to be making a few of my friends happy today. This blog will annoy them to no end. I truly understand their pain but it doesn’t change how I feel. Comic book stores are dead. Some of them just don’t know it yet. DC could have and should have delivered the blow to the heart this last week but they didn’t. If they know what’s good for them they will very soon.

You see digital comic book prices need to come down. They haven’t for a lot of reasons but one is the fear of killing the direct market. It is a fear I don’t get. There was a time a comic book would sell a million copies routinely and I am not talking about the bloated 90’s either. Marv Wolfman has been quoted saying it used to be they would cancel a book which didn’t move 175,000 copies. Now comic book companies do a victory dance.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The digital market is there for the taking. Someone just has to be brave enough to make the move. DC should have done it with the release of the New 52. They have never had more free publicity than they are getting now. If they had combined this with a reasonable price on comics they could have blown the digital market up.

I am no business genius but I used to order the comics for the bookstore I managed. It was a wonderful time then. Everything was selling. It isn’t that way anymore. Comic book shops are closing everywhere. There is no comic store in my town. The comic store in the college town next to me is awful (they are a good hobby store). It seems to me part of the success of your business is bringing new fans in. Bringing back old fans. A comic book publisher’s business decisions should not be based on other people’s business model, like say comic shops.

The digital age is on us but if you think you are going to be bringing in people with a price point of $2.99 to $3.99, you’re nuts. There was a time in this country when comics were the way most boys I knew got hooked on reading. When comics were everywhere. Every town had a newsstand with a spinning rack full of the lovely joys. Those days are gone.

Along with those days being gone is an increase in entertainment competition. I asked my classroom full of sixth graders last week how many of them liked comics. They all raised their hands. I asked them how many owned comics, none of them raised their hands. I asked them how many would buy comics digitally and all but three raised their hands. I asked how many would pay $2.99 and only one raised his hand. Why? Because they said they could buy a couple of apps or three songs or rent a movie.

I know it isn’t scientific but I think there is truth in it. It isn’t that kids don’t want to buy comics, it’s that they don’t see the entertainment value in the comics. Again back when I was a kid and comics were giant sellers I could buy several comics a week with my limited income.

Comic book companies keep groaning about not being able to bring new fans in. About having trouble getting kids reading again. Well here is your chance. Don’t blow it. I don’t know what the price point is. Although, if you can make a profit selling them at $0.99 like a song on iTunes, do it. They will buy. My students were dying to read the DC books. Last year I brought some of my comics in to sell for a fund raiser at school and sold over 300 in a couple of days.

I want this industry to survive and thrive. I love comic book stores. They were my favorite places to hang out as a kid. A safe haven from the chaos around me but I love the product more. It’s time to make them accessible and affordable to young readers again. Not just in big cities either but in every small town USA with an internet connection. Maybe I am crazy but I think the market is ready to be tapped. Someone just needs to jump in.

About csdaley

C.S. Daley was born in California but has spent most of his life in his imagination. His first short story written in third grade, the now classic "Close Encounters of the Turd Kind," was sold to his next door neighbor for a quarter. The neighbor promptly demanded a refund. An unhealthy obsession with the writings of Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, and Terry Pratchett have left his mind warped and broken. He spends most of his evening swilling down coffee while tapping at a keyboard under the watchful eyes of his kittens. They are there to make sure he doesn't snap. He likes to write fantasy for adults and teens.

2 Responses to “Digital Comic Book Pricing”

  1. Well, I can only go on what my local shop guys says and the conversation we had on Saturday. But I don’t know if all comic shops will be dead. Comics are a different audience and market that traditional books. For a good many people, I think they see books as disposable. Not sure if there was ever a study or poll done, but I doubt the average reader of all books wants to keep books to re read them. Comics, on the other hand are re-read quite a bit.

    There is also the fact that physical comics keep their value as a form of commerce. There are a lot of people that will get a whole run of comics and then bring it into their store and sell them for either money and credit towards other comics. You won’t be able to do any of that, especially since I think I read somewhere that Comixology only grants you licensing fees to read the comic, you don’t actually own it. And if they ever do, they are going to put some kind of lock on it to keep pirating down.

    The shop I go to thought they were playing it safe ordering an extra 100 of all comics for last week and sold out completely by last Friday. Granted, this is also Issue #1 Fever, so we can only know come issues #2-5 how it will really affect the physical comic. I think it’s good they are doing electronic versions, because it will bring in more people, especially those not used to the Wednesday release rushes every week. And they should be at least a dollar cheaper than the physical. But I think comics have a more stalwart and stubborn audience when it comes to physical vs. electronic than book publishing does.

    • I do think comic book stores will survive but how many is the question. I have seen the numbers and stores are closing before digital gets into the market. Comics do retain some of their value but as someone who buys and sells a lot of comics not enough to keep even more stores from closing. Think about how big back issue bins used to be. Trade books were already killing the back issue market. Once again it won’t go away but only the strong are going to survive (in my opinion). As for digital, there is a lot that still needs to be done. Pricing for sure and the whole license issue. I don’t think you can concern yourself about piracy. Hours after comic books come out they are available everywhere on torrents. Instead make it easy and affordable to do it legal. Then go after the big pirate sites.

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