UPDATED: Dark Horse Comics Goes Day and Date Digital; Prices Cheaper Than Print? (No.)

UPDATE: Not so fast there, Slim!

It appears there’s been some confusion, and Dark Horse has released a statement from Mike Richardson, the company’s founder. In said statement, Richardson confirms that the digital pricing for their day-and-date issues will be $2.99, dropping down to $1.99 a month later.

There followed a couple lines to smooth over the ruffled feathers of any miffed retailers.

Dark Horse values our retail partners and is grateful for the twenty-five years of business we’ve done together. We have considered the retail community in all of our digital decisions and look at direct-market shops as crucial to our continued success. With that in mind, Dark Horse will make every effort to keep our comics retailers strong in a changing market.

That certainly changes the tone of the discussion below, as Dark Horse have moved to what is essentially the DC Comics model of digital pricing and distribution.


Last week, Dark Horse Comics announced that beginning on December 14, their comics would be released digitally on the same day that they would be available in stores. Ho-hum, another comic book company announces that they are going day and date digital, right?

Wrong.

Certain retailers spent a good portion of the weekend freaking out on Twitter and threatening to stop carrying Dark Horse books because Dark Horse usually prices their digital comics at around $1.99, which is a dollar or more cheaper than their print books. All indications are that this pricing scheme will remain in place for the day and date digital releases. Dark Horse Comics can most likely afford to price their digital releases lower because, unlike the other major comic book companies, they handle digital conversion and distribution internally and do not rely on a third party like ComiXology or Graphicly. (Full disclosure: Graphicly is the parent company of iFanboy.)

So what we have now is a major comic book publisher offering their digital wares on the same day they are available at comic book stores and at an appreciably lower price, which is something that many people have said they wanted in order to start buying digitally. The questions are now: will this lead to increased digital sales? And how will retailers react?

The brief time that we’ve seen the major comic book companies move into the digital realm has been marked by audacious moves that have forced the other major comic book companies to follow suit (DC Comics going day and date being the most audacious move so far). Selling their day and date digital book at a lower price than print is certainly another audacious move by Dark Horse Comics.

(It should be noted that Archie Comics has already priced their new digital releases lower than their print releases, but they don’t have the direct market impact that a Dark Horse has.)

Comments

  1. I’m not sure what affect this will have on other publishers but I do know that I’ll be picking up more Dark Horse books going forward.

  2. I just bought a tablet and have bought a few books but am waiting for the price to drop on digital books. I will defiantly now take a closer look at Dark Horse books via the app and most likely will buy a few “on the fence” books I wanted to try. I wish the big two would drop the digital price, even if you only subscribe to them I would do it to save a buck a book.

  3. This is great news. Shops are really boycotting? Thats just silly and shortsighted. Print customers and Digital customers are two completely different sets of people. Sure some customers might migrate because of the price, but honestly, if they were anything like me, they already had one foot out the door in the first place…They were already annoyed with the pre-order road blocks and the price points.

    • I wouldn’t say that Print and digital customers are two different sets of customers. I was a hardcore print guy, but as the prices and convenience of digital gets better (plus I’m not stuck with an actual paper product I have to figure out what do with when I’ve read it), I’ve dropped a lot of print titles, but I still buy a few. I think that there are a lot of us out there who do buy both and a move like this on Dark Horse’s part could have a strong effect swaying people more towards digital.

      I do think this will have a negative impact on retailers, and I do feel bad for them, as most are just out to make an honest business but they are chained to the Diamond system and that is really what is turning people off. A lot of retailers try hard to be great for their customers with price and availability, but it’s hard to beat this.

    • You both definitely have valid points. There is a segment of the print buying world who already has a foot out the door and will very quickly migrate to digital (a lot already have), but there is also a segment who wants to physically own a product and will be sticking with print always. The retailers are only going to shoot themselves in the foot, by telling the segment that wants print that they cant get it at their stores. Who suffers by their boycott on orders? Certainly not Dark Horse, just the consumer and thereby the stores themselves as they push customers to either other stores or the same digital avenues they were upset about in the first place.

    • well i was a print guy (heck i design print stuff for a living…albeit less and less and more digital now) but i switched over to digital comics now and i’m all about it. Actually my switch was mostly because of how my local shops do business. Keeping 10-5 hours which are impossible for me with a full time job, never carrying enough stock to last beyond lunchtime on wednesdays, and insisting i pre-order everything. That combined with the storage issues of print books i really didn’t want to keep, i just saw no reason as a consumer to participate in that old fashioned system anymore.

      It might have a negative effect on retailers…but really, its not my problem to worry about, or my business to run. There are a lot of people who love print books still. Thats cooI, but i see it as an even more specialized niche going forward. Its just doesn’t go along with how media is consumed by the masses right now. I hope this new competition makes retailers figure out some new ways to stay relevant, and diversify their offerings.

    • “I do feel bad for them”

      I don’t. If boycotting is their answer to something like this, maybe some of these shops just need to close down entirely.

    • Since one of the shops boycotting is the racist asshole run “Larry’s Comics” I can definitely get behind them shutting down.

    • I don’t feel bad for the retailers who boycott, or the ones who are racist, or the ones who just run a horrible shop, but the ones who are trying to run a successful comic business. Just using me as an example, who 2 years ago routinely bought 20-35 titles a month, and am now down to 8 print titles, with the rest either digital, or just plain dropped, there is a shift in the business that may never recover.

      For those who are good shop owners, there may just not be enough buyers around to keep a shop open, and the publishers do what they have to keep THEIR business going. Those are the ones I feel for.

    • @Wally: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We’re talking about two discrete and unique audiences and markets … with some overlap, of course. This DC model of going day/date digital with the same pricing scheme as hard copies, followed monthly by incremental decreases in the price of the digital edition, may be a good option for digital customers. The only catch I understand is that many LCSs earn decent revenue on back issue sales (which many mark up in order to compensate for the cost of carrying the inventory). Theoretically, the rise of the digital market shouldn’t have much of an impact on current or back issue sales of retailers. The real problem with the industry is the failure to bring new readers into the existing market of retail LCSs. Customer-friendly LCSs that maintain relevant inventory and open online storefronts ought to be successful in the long run, regardless the emergence of the digital market.

  4. I am now an ever larger Dark Horse fan. I may start picking up their Star Wars titles again.

  5. Parri (@pazzatron) says:

    An interesting move from Dark Horse. One can only assume that they’ve been listening to the fans’ arguments for and against digital — same price for no physical product being high up the list — and have acted accordingly.

    @worf77bb’s idea of a price drop for a digital subscription service is a good idea. Tags on nicely to a point made in the podcast a couple of weeks back about pre-ordering being the only forecasting tool and how digital could hurt that.

  6. Would be nice if their app was supported on android, I wonder how much money they are leaving on the table with only an iOS and web apps.

    • Apparently not yet enough to convince them to splash out on the development of Android apps. Provided the iOS stuff does well enough, they’ll probably invest further. Comic publishers are not typically flush with cash reserves for expensive development, especially in this case, where DH is doing it all on their lonesome.

      This is all speculation mind you.

    • I’m sure this is what their pennies are being saved for right now!

    • As big as Android is, it lacks the “sexiness” and marketing attention of being on IOS. A hit app for IOS can do A LOT exposure wise. Since its two different development projects, the norm that i’ve seen in professional practice is if money is tight (always is) go for IOS first, and use that money to subsidize Android and other platforms.

    • @rjspring Have you tried going through the web for Dark Horse on your Android? It’s just HTML/Javascript so it might be usable on your phone/tablet (I know it works fine on my iPad, even though I prefer to use the iOS app)

    • The kindle fire may change that. now there is a very viable android tablet with a huge built in market that likes to read.

    • @abstractgeek – I hope you’re right. I’m currently reading my comics on the Kindle Fire, and it’s been great! Since I don’t have an iPad, for now I’ll have to read any Dark Horse comics I pick up on my iPhone. It works, but the screen just feels so tiny in comparison now that I’m used to the Fire.

    • i really think it will. i already have an ipad and the kindle doesnt do anything that the ipad doesnt (except allow me to read watchmen legally) and i still want one just for the smaller size. i know two people who have tried comics on the kindle and have sworn off paper comics forever. dark horse wont miss out on that forever. This is why marvel and dc partnered with 3rd party apps. they make less money but they dont have to absorb the development costs themselves.

  7. this is exciting news, Dark Horse is really being smart about this, i will prob now switch from trades of B.P.R.D. to digital now that they’re so much cheaper. And the special bundles they have are great.

    • I’m totally loving the bundles as well. Now that I’m caught up on BPRD/Hellboy I’m torn about going monthly or still waiting on bundle savings.

  8. The cost of talent at Dark Horse isn’t NEARLY as high as Marvel or DC. That’s like comparing artists at Capitol Records to ones at Matador. One is the big time, where they get paid more.

  9. Aaaand the drive for me to get an iPad has now increased tenfold.

  10. A couple of weeks ago, I bought Empowered Vol 1 digitally for about $8, which is a great deal. The list price is $15 (though you can get it on Amazon for about $13). Yeah, their bundles are great. I’m going to look more into their books. I feel like I can’t really get into the Hellboy/BPRD books since so much of the story has already been told. I loved Umbrella Academy, but that comes out only every few years. Anyway, great news for Darkhorse. I just wish they would release their Android app already.

  11. as my comic pickings have slimmed since my personal move to digital I imagine this to be a good thing as that leaves a few dollars unspent in my comics fund that I can now put on bprd and hellboy as they come out.

    Now if only boom would move to day and date and just make darkwing duck digital I could probably get everything I want in a month digitally.

  12. Dont most publishers sell their books at $1.99? the $2.99 digital day and date always seemed like an appeasement for retailers which is smart on the part of DC as they needed and got retailer support for the new 52. I dont recall publishers using the cost argument against 1.99 comics, mostly just 99 cent comics, which would not be profitable enough without a huge increase in sales.

    i dont know many stores that stock dark horse single issues in any large qty, and none that carry the full line. All the stores i see boycotting are still going to buy pullbox copies, just no shelf copies. The retailers will lose a small amount of money, dark horse will lose a small amount of money that is more that countered by an increase in sales. the only real losers are shelf buyers at those stores.

    Digital doesnt have to kill the comic shop, but im afraid ongoing stupidity on the part of retail will.

  13. I’ve loved the digital comics market. I’ve bought soooo many more books than I would have in hardcopy (the 99 cent specials Comixology has really help!). I applaud Dark Horse for doing this and will intentionally buy more. I’ve been wanting to try the Goon for a looooong time.

  14. I remember a local appliance store around here called Nobody Beats The Wiz, which honored competitor’s coupons whenever a product was cheaper elsewhere. This method seems alot smarter than guys like Larry’s Comics outright boycotting Dark Horse because it’s cheaper elsewhere.

  15. @abstractgeek – Yeah, most of the comics I see on the Comixology and Graphicly apps run $1.99 if they’re past a certain age. However, I think even that is too high once you start talking about comics more than five years old. I tend to wait for the sales and buy them when they’re $0.99.

    If they’re not part of a big event (and heck, even if they are), $1.99 still feels high for a comic that came out before comics even cost $1.99 in print (which I know was way more than five years ago, but you get the idea).

  16. that may be true, but you know what happens when a company’s overhead starts to kill its profits? Especially when competitors have figured out better ways to squeeze more nickels out of the same rock? The Big 2 could probabally cut their page rates in half and the most talented creators would fight tooth and nail to still work there. Its a buyers industry….or they’ll just start outsourcing everything again. If push comes to shove and this really works as a business model, the big 2 will copy it.

  17. For a guy like me, I don’t know if I would want to see a Hellboy/BPRD title in digital.

    When I read a book with Mignola art, or Corben’s, or anyone else who draws these books….It just feels right on paper, ya know? Like it’s one of the few titles that I can say that print ultimately helps it because of how beautiful each page is. Dave Stewart colors might look great in HD, but you can’t beat your own eyes when you see his magnificent colors in your hands.

    The drop in price is a good sign though. What it should have been ages ago when this whole ‘revolution’ started.

    • “Dave Stewart colors might look great in HD, but you canโ€™t beat your own eyes when you see his magnificent colors in your hands.”

      You look at digital with your own eyes as well.

    • my plan is to check out single issues digitally, and then if i absolutely love the work, i’ll pick up a trade or HC for my shelf. A Library edition of Hellboy is better for me than a longbox full of issues.

    • @Paul: True, should have phrased that better…

      What I mean, is that when you go digital there is a process of scanning and digitizing the paper. So the quality, in theory and not saying it happens all the time, degrades a bit. Sometimes when you ‘blow up’ an image quality can sometimes go down. While there can be problems in printing a comic, you don’t have the same problems as digital.

      So when I see a two page spread of London getting destroyed in The Fury #3; it looks gorgeous when I see it right in front of me. But when you do digital, unless your using a iPad/Android Tablet thingy, it’s a bit cumbersome to look at the image and sometimes you have to mess around with the size in order to read it just right.

      At least that’s how I have always felt with digital and hence why I don’t normally go to it.

    • Who needs paper OR screens to view art? Just inject sensory data directly into your brain, bypassing the eyes altogether, and let your mind process however it wants. I’m sure there’s some way to do that…

    • @TNC: There is no scanning and digitizing of paper for modern digital comics. The books are put together on a computer. Almost all books are colored on a computer. All the art files are digital already. The art is more pure and vibrant on the screen than it is on the paper.

    • While scale can certainly be an issue depending on your reading device vs. paper, artists I’ve talked to prefer color work in digital. At least in terms of original intent.

    • more and more comics are being drawn on computer thanks to the cintiq. lettering and coloring are nearly all digital now, most writing is done on a computer. for many comics, the first time paper is involved is when its printed.

    • @TNC…in terms of the quality. The digital books really are the closest thing to what the creators intended for the reasons Conor outlined. The printing process for comics…is not high quality fine printing. 4c Process, web press on magazine grade paper..its optimized for efficiency and volume, not for fine high end quality.

      Now the viewing thing you mentioned. Really it takes a little while to get the hang of it, but after a while, you just get used to it.

    • @everyone: Well we’ll have to agree to disagree. Because it’s a subjective thing with me not seeing the ‘improved’ or ‘better’ quality in digital. The colors, I think, are better on print and there have been a lot of problems for me when trying to read anything digital. When I have to zoom in, expand, or anything else just to get the full experience in digital then that’s a problem for me. Cause when I hold a book in my hand, I can see and read everything without using a magnifying glass to see everything.

      @Blargo: I wouldn’t mind that now that you suggest it…

    • @TNC I’m surprised you think colours look better in print. The colouring process is possibly my most favourite element in comic book art these days and I truly believe digital is showing them in their true light. I even recall Ed Brubaker tweeting recently about how he is reticent when it comes to digital but loves the fact colour is now being seen the way creators intend it to be.

  18. if you are a fan of art digital is also a great way to zoom in. just a pinch of my fingers and i can count every line in jim lee and scott williams gorgeous crosshatching. id have to put it right in front of my face (or use a magnifying glass which then makes the dots really big) to get that kind of detail.

  19. Glad to see a company is getting it right. DC and Marvel could learn a few things from Dark Horse.

  20. Are most of you digital comics fans using the ipad? I was checking out some digital comics on my gf’s kindle fire and I felt if I want to look @ a full page then it’s kinda too small on the kindle or the other option is to read one panel @ a time which kinda doesn’t always feel right for instance I can’t imagine reading the flash using guided view or whatever it’s called. Thou I spose if you own an ipad it’s a much better reading experience bc it has a larger screen.

    • When I was playing with the Kindle Fire, I was actually impressed with how well a full page read on its screen, and its spurred me to go get one at the earliest convenience. Unfortunately, its Android based, and I head the Dark Horse App doesn’t have Android support yet.

    • I know I was searching for dark horse on my android phone bc comixology don’t have shit for dark horse an I wouldn’t mind downloading some mignola stuff esp for only 2 bucks

  21. Good. I’m glad someone out there getting aggressive with Digital instead of babysitting retailers.

  22. The reduced price will definitely encourage me to check out or regularly buy some Dark Horse titles that I would have otherwise been on the fence about.

  23. I wanna say: hell yea Dark Horse. I will definitely buy more of your books now.

  24. If their manga prices are offered at a lower price digitally then I’m all for it.

  25. Looks like it was too good too be true. Prices follow the $2.99 for one month DC model.

    http://www.darkhorse.com/Blog/756/dark-horse-same-day-digital-release-update

  26. Geez…bunch of wussies. The only mistake here was that they had the right idea initially, but then they got scared out of it.

  27. The DC style pricing plan is reasonable. Even if you take the retailers out of the equation it makes sense. The people who want the product ASAP can pay the premium. People who can wait (a relatively short amount of time) will get the better price. Wait longer and you’ll get even better prices. Pretty much all entertainment products are like this.

    Dark Horse’s solicitations rarely contain much that interests me so this news doesn’t do much for me before or after the price clarification.

  28. weak!!! Comics are the most bizarre industry ever. These companies bending over backwards for comic book retailers when they could be opening up a near-virgin vein of revenue with .99 digital books. This isn’t me being heartless towards shop owners either. Like it or not business is business, and it’s a “dog eat dog world” Wether it’s a comic shop or a home improvement store, stores must continue to evolve and create new ways to be profitable. It’s borderline psychotic to think that a business model that has remained relatively unchanged since the late 80’s will keep a comic shop afloat.

  29. Why does everyone insist on being so damn cheap ? The idea that because you’re not purchasing an actual print copy of a comic means it should be cheaper is bogus. Labor (I prefer “man-hours”- ooo!) in this country is usually the highest priced component when pricing a manufactured item. It doesn’t go away when your product is digital. Perhaps you could just have your next door neighbors’ kids draw you a weekly and a pitcher of lemonade for a quarter.

    • But man hours for producing a digital comic and a physical comic are different that’s the point. Sure the creation of the idea and art is the same but physical comics envolve printing and shipping, digital comic require nether once you have it made you upload it to your app store and you can make infinite copies for $0 you can’t do that with physical comics.

      The real reason digital comics are the same price as physical is A) There are no advertisements in digital comics so they publishers loose that money and B) When a publisher sells a digital comic through apps on Apple’s iOS devices Apple gets a 30% chunk of the sale price.

    • the business expenses of comics publishers are not the fans/consumers problem to worry about. Our job is enjoy and support the stories, not be made to feel guilty about the business mistakes of a backwards thinking industry who is so hesitant to change a 20+ year old business model.

      Comics need more, new readers. Current pricepoints and models dont’ really encourage that growth.

    • I’m not going to apologize for wanting cheaper comics. Do you go to the grocery store and buy the most expensive priced food every week? Do you walk into Best Buy or Target and happily pay $34.99 for a blu ray, or get it when it goes on sale?

    • No, and I don’t vow never to buy bread again until it’s twelve cents, either.

      And I do want cheaper bread.

      So much.

    • @ Joshua- No, but I buy the highest quality item that I LIKE, that purchase being considered beforehand. If you’re really shopping around for the best price on $2.99 items, you might want to find a different interest, that doesn’t require paying creative types to produce it. Have you met my hula hoop?

  30. Everyone talks about $0.99 as a dream price point, and it might be for the consumer, but after the Apple/Android cut, that leaves something like $0.66 cents, which is not enough to sustain the overhead of talent, editorial, administrative, design, or technical to make comics profitable given the size of the current market. Maybe if it was 3-4 times larger, then yes, but as of now? Not even close. I think $1.99 is cutting it pretty razor thin, from what I understand.

    • @josh: Well Mark Millar, once again a man who has some of the best selling digital comics, admitted that the money you get from digital comics now is not good enough to sustain a living. Considering he’s just referring to regular, $2.99-3.99 prices that can’t be a good thing either.

    • @Josh going off your $.66 cent profit even the horrible Justice League of America #56 (sold 47,179) that makes DC $31,138.14…………….. now lets look at something that is actually a good book Aquaman #1 (sold 72,272) that gives DC a modest $47,699.52……….. These companies make money, and they are making a lot more than they WOULD ever disclose.

    • That’s not profit, that’s revenue. All of the costs need to be taken out of that, and $47K in light of a giant media corporation is less than peanuts. In terms of overhead, they’re probably barely breaking even in that scenario. You don’t need to feel bad for them, but it’s a business, and if that business isn’t worth the effort put into it, then it won’t continue. Because there’s no benefit for the stakeholders to do so. If comics still sold a million, or even half a million copies, it wouldn’t be an issue, but even at $0.99, that’s not going to happen in today’s world, digital or otherwise.

    • Dude, $47K is a NYC admin asst. yearly salary (at a shitty company). You think that’s OK for a mainline book from a large publisher? That’s cancelapocalypse!

    • It’s also pre-taxes.

    • @TNC:

      Mark Millar also calls digital comics a fad, and that companies should just abandon it and go back to supporting the direct market completely. Personally, I don’t put much stock in what he has to say on the matter.

    • @Maty. DC publishes something like 700 issues a year… That figure also only includes North American sales.

    • Which is the vast majority of American comic book sales.

    • Didn’t say it wasn’t. Last I heard the UK added around 10% to the total. The main point was the 700 issues thing. Marvel was making something like $10 million profit a quarter from its publishing division alone a couple of years ago. Not sure what the state of play is today.

    • @MPJB: That math assumes that every book sells like AQUAMAN, which they don’t. And again, that number is the gross revenue, not the net revenue.

    • It’s also not factoring whatever cut Comixology or Graphicly take (for non-Dark Horse publishers)

    • @Conor. You’re right. Some DC books sell more than double that of Aquaman. Some sell less than half. I know it’s the gross revenue in that example where Joshua mistakenly said profit… Do you think it costs the DC machine more than the hypothetical $47k to make a single issue of Aquaman?

    • No, if it cost more then the book wouldn’t get published. How much more is the question.

  31. Call me old fashioned (I wear a bearskin for smart casual Fridays) but I like getting my fortnightly envelope full of comics in the post and coming home from work to find my kids sprawled around on the couch and bean bags reading them, then kicking of my shoes, grabbing an issue and joining them. The whole ritual is too enjoyable and I’m not ready to let that go yet.

    I don’t mind having a hallway cupboard stacked full of long boxes and honestly, if saving money was my goal I wouldn’t even be buying comics.

    I know one day I’ll have every comic, book, song, movie and game I own accessible from a device in my pocket. But I’m not ready to go there yet.

  32. I know it’s not a magic bullet but a subscription model for digital comics seems like the next, obvious step.

    Quick math: It’s less than $48 for 12-issues of a $3.99 comic. (<$36 for 12-issues at $2.99; <$24 for 12-issues at $1.99)

    Now the "problem" with today's comic book industry (DC/Marvel) is with the rampant cross-overs, event books, and reboots it would be difficult to subscribe to those things as they come about without spoiling some of the stories.

    A "solution" would be to put more control in the editors hands (or hire more/new editors) and have them decide what a, for example, every fan of Spider-Man in 2012 should read that year and price that into the subscription.

    Another "solution" (easier in my opinion, though less exciting) would be to have tier-ed subscriptions so you add-on in the extra stuff and price it out accordingly.

    It'll take some time (hurry up!) but I think the subscription model is the way to go.

    • I agree, you catch a break on the print subscriptions of about $0.99 an issue from DC, as they know that’s a guaranteed sale for that series for 12 months.

      I could see digital doing the same thing. If you agree to buy the next year’s worth of Batman, I don’t see why they couldn’t give you a break in pricing. That would also allow some “preorder” estimates, which is someting that isn’t readily available in the digital market.

  33. Tom,

    1) I’m talking about what the label pays the artists, not…whatever the hell you’re talking about. I can assure you that U2 is getting paid more than Ted Leo (obvious quality differences aside). The little guys can undercut A TINY BIT MORE than the big boys since the big leagues pay more…hence why they are the big leagues.

    2) This is all moot anyway, since Dark Horse came out and said that they’re not drastically undercutting.

  34. You can pry my LCS from my cold, dead, well-manicured fingers !

    • @Maty do you run/work at/married to someone who owns a comic shop?

    • She has well-manicured fingers, so of course not. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • @Blargo well she(or he) said “my” I can’t decipher the context. I get that people like the routine of going to a physical place to get their fix, and that a few (and by few like 1%) comic shops offer a good comic buying experience. That being said, money talks and will eventually win out 9 out of 10 times. For me personally, convenience and cost are the only decision factors.

    • By the way, love the swipe, questioning my gender. You’re a classy guy, Joshua!

  35. There is an old saying, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten”. Words to live by. PS-I don’t work at a comic shop (I’m in the garment biz).

    • Here’s another one, ‘A fool and his money are soon parted.’

      Instead of asking why others are so cheap, (during a recession where unemployment has just gone under 10%, and when discussing a hobby) maybe you should question why you are so frivolous with your money?

    • lest we forget the immortal words of the Meineke Man… “I’m not going to pay a lot for this muffler!”

      =)