Piracy: Is That Still A Thing?

"Pirating introduces me to more books!" "Sam, I haven't even clogged in yet."

“Pirating introduces me to more books!” “Sam, I haven’t even clocked in yet.”

There was a time (which seems like much longer ago than it actually was) when I had an infallible formula for goosing a discussion to life on this site. I would employ this formula whenever I was feeling scrappy or puckish. When you want to finish your roofing, click for more here.
Well. Whenever I was feeling unusually, particularly scrappy or puckish.

The formula was as easy to remember as it was to use:

[anything] + “piracy” = *@#%!&^*!!!!!!!!!!!²

If you’re a relative newcomer to these parts—if you’re the Elusive New Reader who found us after DC launched its New 52 initiative, for example—I’m not sure I can convey how well the topic of piracy chummed the waters even as recently as a couple of years back. iFanboy could essentially do a themed “piracy week” where I’d write something on the topic and get scores of responses, then Mike Romo would post his take on the same topic barely two days later and he’d get even more scores of responses. People were not afraid to repeat themselves. The downloaders were not shy. Pirate talk (yarrr) turned people into partisan evangelists, especially the defensive ones with guilty consciences. It was a subject that everyone seemed to have such a strong opinion about that their opinions came with a complimentary opinion about the stupidity of your opinion. I couldn’t begin to tell you which side had more members, or whether those numbers shifted over time; the din of passion vs. passion used to take over almost immediately.

I get the sense that would not happen today. I say that as someone who recently posted a column saying, “It feels like everyone just has the same five arguments on this topic over and over again,” and readers immediately, helpfully began making my point (and those five arguments) in the comments as if I had blown a dog whistle in a kennel.

Even in that context, I cannot imagine piracy moving the needle in 2013. Mark Waid and others discussed it at a Comic-Con panel, repeating the classic greatest hit “piracy benefits comics” canard in the way Skynyrd repeats “Freebird”, and that was the first time I’d thought about the subject in almost a year. Without even a byte of data to substantiate my claim, it seems like the argument about piracy is over, and it seems like the pirates lost it.

Am I living in a dream world? Hanging out with a better class of people? Aging out of the demo?

Is piracy even still a thing?

I am constantly peppering the manager of my neighborhood comic shop with questions about the State of the Business, and we used to talk about piracy all the time before comiXology ruled the earth. I remember him telling me years ago about a “customer” coming into his store, asking for all kinds of help picking out what was good on the shelves, and then saying, “Thanks for your help! I’ll have to download those when I get home,” and walking out. It fit neatly with the Napster narrative that you’d hear when .mp3s were birthed into the mainstream: oh, my God, there’s a whole generation of lawless vandals who’ve grown up with such easy access to this stuff that it doesn’t even occur to them it’s wrong. Comics are doomed unless we outlaw the internet.

Then, as with Napster and iTunes, the content creators made a legal, straightforward digital option available, and within a year I essentially never heard another word about piracy again.

Oh, they dragged their heels. Even accounting for the fact that iPads and superKindles didn’t exist yet, the amount of time between when popular digital comics could have existed and when they came into existence was like a missed epoch in internet years. Nonetheless, arrive they did, and the din promptly died down. I’m sure there are people who are still saying, “Yeah… but the image quality isn’t good enough, and you don’t really own the files.” Then they hear (from Ron Richards!) that Image started selling DRM-free files to consumers and say, “Yeah… but it’s total bullshit that they cost as much as the print versions. Until they drop the price and iPads inject endorphins into my bloodstream every time I get to the last page, they leave me no choice but to keep liberating content from The Man.”

These are people who have doubled down so many times they forgot how to fold. I believe the Bush administration used the term “dead enders” during Iraq. They’re going down with the pirate ship; I don’t think they’re a fair representation of any group. What about everyone else, though?

Who knows?

Who knows?

I know a woman twelve years my junior who listens to 90% of her music on Spotify, and to my mind comiXology is really more analogous to Spotify than iTunes. No, you don’t “own” the content, but do you really need to carry the hit of this summer around with you everywhere for the next twenty years? The woman in question never gives a second thought to any of this, never feels the need to explain her radical non-owning behavior. The other 10% of her music, she just rips from videos on Youtube. She never gives that a second thought, either. The online casino model looks solid, too. In fact, the best bonuses are here and there hasn’t really been reports of breaches.

Maybe that’s the piracy blind spot. Maybe it goes on constantly, but you never hear about it anymore because it’s been with the pirates for so long that it never even comes up or crosses their minds.

The good news is, whether piracy has been defanged or just gone further underground, it doesn’t seem to be killing comics as overtly as people once fretted. Legitimate digital comics are selling robustly and growing. Better yet, they’re growing without hurting print sales in the slightest. I think I like that ending most of all: what if no one talked about piracy anymore because, in the end, it didn’t matter either way?

Jim Mroczkowski never wants to hear about the smell of the paper again as long as he lives.


  1. That sucks about that comic clerk; “Thanks for wasting your time on someone who is just gonna still everything”. That would have ruined my day.

    I don’t feel strongly either way about piracy; unless it hurts the business in a substanstial way. By which I mean hundreds of thousands, or maybe thousands. Not pennies, never pennies. Sure its wrong, but I’m sure in some way we all break the law somehow (littering, jaywalking, wearing shiny shoes in a small town in the Mid-West). They’re illegal, but I don’t think anyone makes a huge deal about them continuously.

    I have to wonder; is it still a problem if no one is talking about it and we ask “Is it over?” or if we even mention it does that mean its still a thing?

    I hope its over, but I don’t know if it is or not.

    • I´m pretty sure that it´s still out there…


      Hiding in the dark.

      Waiting for us all to let our guard down.

      Anticipating the perfect time to strike.

  2. Everyone who knows me knows that I do not pirate any kind of media and I will not pirate any kind of media. They also know that I don’t preach and try to convert anyone to my side. If asked, I will definitely share my opinion strongly but I’m not making you feel bad for downloading every episode of Breaking Bad. You do whatever you want to do.

    In regards to this article I think that the pirates are a dying breed and the ones still around keep quieter because they are running out of excuses.

    Either way I agree that I hear far less pirate talk then I use to, and as I mentioned above it’s not cause I’ll make you feel bad about it.

  3. I would love this kind of thing to happen to all those useless discussions, where each party is repeating the same few argument over and over. All the time wasted on fighting about Mac vs PC, Coke vc Pepsi, religious belief, sexual orientation, politics… It´s all getting old and tiresome; somewhere in your mind you always think “Didn´t I somehow have this exact conversation with this exact kind of moron before?”. I´d like for all those topics to just fade away and never resurface again.

    • 1. Mac vs. PC: Google.
      2. Coke vs. Pepsi: RC Cola (moon pie optional).
      3. Religious Belief: Different strokes for different folks.
      4. Sexual orientation: See #3.
      5. Politics: Let’s meet half-way.

      Settled! Glad we’re all in agreement.

  4. Piracy seems to hurt creators/authors/artists in at least a small way, but it seems to either encourage or force creative people to diversify their work into different streams, which creates growth for the industry.

    Does Nicki Minaj care if literally almost a billion fans access her music via Youtube, rather than buying the track in iTunes? No, she’s Nicki Minaj. There will always be more money, and she doesn’t make it all off of just her music.

    Her net worth is 45 million. It could be a lot more. But does it matter to her?

    Stan Lee’s net worth is estimated at 200 million. It could be a lot more. But does it matter to him? I’m not sure. It seems he has done what he wanted with life, but other commenters may know more about how he feels.

    In conclusion, just do a makeup line for your comic with M.A.C or a comic book-themed perfume and the pirates will not matter.

  5. I think to a certain degree, especially with music, that there is just an entire generation that gets their music that way, and that behavior has spread to their parents, their siblings, and their kids.

    I love music, but is buying it even still a thing?

    If I don’t download it, is that even piracy?

    It seems like the accepted norm for music is, “As long as I’m just streaming it, that’s Fair Use.”

    If people even stop to consider it at all.

    If I like the band, I’ll flip ’em the ten bucks and buy something: the record, the shirt, a ticket to their show.

    Interestingly, I’ve never felt that way about comics, TV shows, movies, etc.

    I’ll either buy that content or wait until my tax dollars buy a public library copy, and stand in line for three years.

    I’ll even pay to stream it.

    I’ve never Napster’d, Torrent’d or P2P’d huge chunks of music, movies, TV shows, or comics, but mostly because I was too busy using precious HD space for free and open-source FPS game mods.

    I still don’t do my “leisure” reading digitally, mostly because I need a break from a backlit LCD after a long hard day of looking at monitors and projector screens from a dim, poorly lit control booth.

    I imagine that other people have a different ethical filter for content resolution, and it just doesn’t seem like people find it such an interesting topic anymore.

    You like paper comics? Great.

    You like digital comics? Great.

    You steal all your comics? Whatever, dude.

    Arguing with you about that would be so five to ten years ago.

    I guess (?) I’m just happy (?) you like comics too.

    😕 o.0 :o)

  6. I personally do not pirate, but pirating has been, and will always be there. It’s just like hacking. There will always be people who do this, and there’s no way to stop them.

    • the difference with hacking is there are black hat hackers who try to steal and destroy and white hat hackers who hack to find flaws to build better deference’s

  7. For what it’s worth:

    I’ve been more “involved” in piracy lately. I got a tablet, and wanted to be able to read comics on it. But I get print cheaper. But I get my print in one big shipment at the end of the month. So now I download scans to my tablet to read each week, but only the stuff that I’ve paid for and I’m waiting for my print copy. I delete it after I’ve read it.

    It seems like I’m not able to find some of the lower-tier titles (like Threshold) which I don’t remember being that way in the past, so maybe the scanners are being more select about the things they work on.

    • I do exactly the same thing. My LCS offers 20% discount for subscribers, which is how I’ve been getting my comics for 20 years. The is count is roughly the same as the month-later price drop on digital. I’ve been buying all my IDW, Dynamite, and Image books digitally, a month late, for nearly two years now. I was buying all my DC minis, some ongoing, and Vertigo titles the same way til DC changed the drop to two months. Now I’m back to print with all of those, but I download scans or, as it is more often, digital rips from Comixology as thy come out. I visit the shop once a month, hand over my money, then drop all the floppies in a long ox when I get home since I’ve already read them. Most of the Marvel titles I read include digital copies so those are the only ones I really open.

  8. Absolutely agreed that anyone who hasn’t gotten off the illegal download bandwagon will never do so, as they will justify themselves into eternity. With free comic download sites and torrents at this point, you just have to hope that they go the way of free music download sites and torrents: crush the opposition so that the only remaining options are virus laden downloads.

  9. Wow… so many people commenting here seem to have missed the point entirely…
    The question “is it still a thing?” doesn’t matter. The question should be “Why do you care?”
    Like it’s said above, piracy has done little to hurt the industry. Do you agree with it? Who cares? It’s not hurting the comics, and its exposing people too poor, cheap, or geographically challenged to comics they wouldnt otherwise have. So be a grownup, and walk away from the argument altogether. Come back and yell some more when it actually hurts the creators and industry.

    • Maybe the more relevant question for discussion is, “What did comics do right that prevented LCS’s from going the way of Sam Goody and Virgin Megastores when viable digital options became available?” Maybe it’s an apples/oranges thing (music is music regardless of format, while format is more important to book people), or maybe the industry did something right – neither piracy nor comiXology seems to be hurting brick-and-mortar stores. If anything, something is helping them; recorded comics sales (i.e. through Diamond) were on the upswing as of last year. So, what did comics do differently, if anything?

    • @BC1 The fact is comics readers are more entrenched in their ways than even hardcore audiophiles or bibliophiles. Even people who insist on vinyl and printed books have virtually no qualms about using Amazon to get them (a smaller class will still go to good indie record/book stores if the exist nearby, but most don’t really care). Comics fans go to the comic shop. It’s what we do with our Wednesdays.

      Combine with the fact that a) Comixology only JUST introduced a subscription model (making maintaining a pull list at a store the easiest way of keeping track what’s new each week) and b) the comics industry is so small it basically has no where to go but up. Comic shops survive on incomes that would cause any larger industry to weep. Remember, Diamond was once taken to court as a monopoly but it was found that the comics industry was so small, one distributor was legally sufficient.

      Oddly, the comics market crash in the late ’90s probably turned out to be a good thing because it meant the emergence of digital (legal or otherwise) soon thereafter couldn’t really hurt the remaining stores more than they already were. It’s like, we were already firebombed, so there was no point in nuking us.

    • (quote) Wow… so many people commenting here seem to have missed the point entirely… The question “is it still a thing?” doesn’t matter. The question should be “Why do you care?” (/quote)

      Then maybe Jimski shouldn’t’ve titled the article “Is It Still a Thing?”

      I tell ya, sometimes these articles are so all-over-the-place that they just breed total dysfunction and bickering. I guess it gets website hits or whatever.

    • Hey man, don’t hold me responsible for failing to write the other guy’s article.

  10. Most of the comments on here miss the point entirely. It doesn’t matter if piracy hurts individual creators or the industry as a whole. It doesn’t matter if you just do it here and there or all the time. It doesn’t matter if you take the “I buy mine so you can do whatever you want” approach. Piracy is wrong. Not because it is illegal, which it is, but simply because it is morally wrong. When creators spend their time, energy and creativity making something they deserve to be paid for it. You can argue about what you feel is the appropriate price for that thing but that still does not justify piracy. If you partake in piracy that’s your decision, but there is no justification for it. Just accept what you are doing is wrong.

    • I don’t believe in calling it piracy. I mean its the same thing, but to me a pirate has to make his life on the sea; robbing vessals and drinking rum and looking for booty (YOU KNOW?!). Maybe it would advance the discussion if we stopped calling it piracy.

    • We could just call it theft.

    • You’re correct, it is wrong. As is driving 60 in a 55. We do things that are a little wrong all the time. But it’s a matter of perspective. Paid digital hasn’t hurt print, and pirated digital isn’t hurting paid. In most cases, people who read downloaded stuff end up buying something one way or the other OR there is absolutely no scenario in which they would have paid – they simply would have gone on to some other free entertainment.

      Believe me, I’d be very interested in using paid digital. Not only would I be guaranteed of finding the books I want, but I wouldn’t have to have porn ads thrown at me. I’d have someone to complain to if the downloads weren’t working, and I wouldn’t have to worry about an ISP banning me. But I can’t justify paying $2.99 (or even $1.99) for a digital comic when I can pay $1.79 for that same comic in print. And since I could eventually scan that comic myself for my own use, I’m just using the one someone else ready did. Is is morally right? No, but there are worse things in the world.

    • Those are all fair and cogent points. Well thought out and well said. Still, your post is just one long justification.

      Also, what new print comic is $1.79? The cheapest new print comic I am aware of is $2.99.

      And secondly, why can’t you justify paying $1.99 for a digital comic? The real problem with piracy is exactly this. The younger generation, and in increasingly shocking numbers my generation, expect media to be free. It’s not free, or cheap, to create and distribute media (including digitally). So why should it be cheap to purchase and enjoy? Things have a cost and the companies that distribute and print those things expect to make money, as do the creators. If you can’t afford those things you don’t get to consume them. Comics/TV/movies/video games are a luxury, not a right.

    • This is going to sound sanctimonious, I know, but I don’t think it’s correct that “we all do things that are a little wrong all the time.” At least not intentionally. I think a lot of people try really hard to make choices that are moral or ethical, even if those choices cause some personal inconvenience such as not getting your comics on the day of release. I don’t think the speeding comparison is really that apt. There is a history of salutary neglect on the part of law enforcement, an understanding that there is a little bit of buffer that drivers are allowed above the posted limit, and they won’t pull you over for minor speeding. No comparable understanding exists between comic publishers/creators/distributors/retailers and consumers. Their posted pirating limit is 0, and it is regarded in the strictest terms–there is no buffer.

      @USPUNX: that $1.79 is what you pay on DCBS for a pre-ordered $2.99 comic. I pre-order my comics as well and have the once-a-month shipping like @glennsim.

    • @masterdectructo: Gotcha. I wasn’t aware of that. I know a lot of brick and mortar stores are no longer offering discounts even for subscribers, didn’t even know about DCBS until your post.

    • I agree with you USPUNX but I, and I hope I don’t get yelled at, think there is varying degrees of “wrongness” to pirating comics and some forms of pirating I do see more like going 60 in a 55. While all pirating is stealing and wrong for me there is a difference between a person who is downloading the newest books on Wednesday and a person who is downloading old 1960s Batman to find out about Zur-En-Arrh or a college kid who buys 8 volumes of Y the last man and reads two at B&N.

    • @scotte: I think that is fair. Downloading comics from 50 years ago is certainly not the same thing as downloading this months newest books, I can agree with that. But allow me to change the analogy a bit and see if you still agree. Say someone is a big Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke fan. They decide they want to go back and see where this music came from so they go pirate a couple Marvin Gaye albums. Now that music is from the 60’s so is that okay as well? I see the point you’re making but am also a little uncomfortable with the idea that, prior to copyright’s 75 year limit, time somehow erodes the protection granted all creative works. There are other alternatives to pirating that will still gain the college student the same information. Rather than download something why not go to the public library. Or for that matter the campus library at their college? That is still an inexpensive, and for a student free, way to get the same access to the same comics but this way the creator was at least paid for their work. It requires more effort and time and I think that is where a lot of piracy comes from. It’s not blatant disregard for an individual’s hard work or a desire to stick it to big publishers or even so much a matter of money. More than anything I think most piracy comes down to entitlement (the idea that you are somehow entitled to see a piece of media simply because you want to) and laziness.

    • How do you feel about piracy in pursuit of research? I frequently pirate Golden Age books that are still under copyright, but that I know the publisher will never, EVER reprint or make available digitally. DC’s “New Comics” or “More Fun Comics” have no superheroes in them so DC has no real reason to think anyone would want to read them. But from the historical perspective, they’re fascinating. Or sometimes they maybe comics that have been/have a good chance of being reprinted (i.e. are superheroes) but I am merely looking for art samples (say, to compare art styles and try to attribute a known creator to an uncredited work) and piracy is the quickest/only way to get them.

      This may be similar to your Marvin Gaye example, but the way you frame it sounds more like a kid just looking for music to listen to with cursory historical interest. If the same kid wanted to write a thesis on the R&B roots of modern pop male solo artists, and they read a reference to some obscure artist whose albums are only carried in a library on the other side of the country, but they also find a torrent (possibly ripped from that very library’s collection), what should they do?

      By the way, I’m not trying to say that any significant fraction of piracy comes from academia (except the piracy of textbooks, but those things are an unethical racket anyway), but there comes a point where copyright hinders its own purpose– as defined in the US Constitution “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”– the PROMOTION of arts and science. Limited quotation and excerpting (technically, unauthorized copying) from copyrighted works for academic use is protected under Fair Use. Arguably, piracy (i.e. unauthorized copying) could also be justified under Fair Use depending on the context of the piracy.

    • @Alexa: That’s a really interesting point. In that situation I have no problem with pirating. I have actually done something like that myself. If a work (comic, album, whatever) is out of print and unavailable legally I have no problem with pirating. I actually have two albums on my iPod that I pirated for this very reason. Both were out of physical print and neither was on iTunes. The only copies I could find were on ebay and similar sites for over $100 and that just seemed crazy to me, so I found them online and downloaded them. The creators would receive no compensation from me buying a used record so why should I line someone else’s pockets? I love buying used media but not for idiotic “collector” prices. I want to experience the media, no simply hang onto it until I can sell it to someone else for ten times it’s initial worth. So in a situation where there truly are no legal means due to something being out of print I think piracy is fine, because in that situation it’s pirate or never see/hear/experience it.

      The whole piracy for fair use argument is a tricky one. I suppose I’m okay with that as well but less so. I assumption being you would publish something based on this research that would further your career and potentially make you money as well. In that situation, where you are benefiting from the pirated work in someway I feel less comfortable with the idea.

      P.S. – I COMPLETELY agree about pirating textbooks. That wasn’t even a thing I was aware of in my college days but if it is now then I say go ahead. This may sound hypocritical compared to my other comments on this thread but college text books are such an overpriced racket that I have no issue with that. Particularly in the BS case of a professor making you buy his or her OWN BOOK for the freaking class! That happened to me on several occasions and I thought to myself “if I can just read your book why am I bothering to take the damn class!”

  11. I don’t get it. What do the uploaders get from it anyway? They use their electricity scanning and time editing those things and then uploading it on the interwebs. It’s seems very unprofitable unless there must be a reason to what they’re doing.

    • I think one of the staff writers (maybe Jimski himself?) interviewed a scanner a while back (search for it, it was really fascinating).

      If I’m remembering right, the interviewed scanner said they originally saw themselves as performing a service — preserving comic book stories and art in a format that would allow the work to live forever. But at some point scanning got caught up in some kind of hacker-ish competition environment — various scan groups would try to more comics, scanned at greater quality, to downloaders more quickly than other scan groups. So it became a team pride thing, time and money be damned.

    • To get their own digital copies…and in many cases they can profit from donations.

      I also think people underestimate the ease of “scanning” a comic. Which is to say comics are not scanned anymore but pulled digitally which can be scripted and completed in a manner of seconds.

    • Someone in the comments above mentioned having to deal with porn ads when they download, so presumably the uploaders (or owners of the site who compensate the scanner team??) are making money off ads, the same way this and many other websites are based off advertisement revenue.

  12. Not only is piracy alive, but it’s *better* than ever due to digital comics. Pirated comics are available within an hour of digital release, 12 hour before you can get your hands on the print edition. Yet, sales are the highest in a decade, which is why you don’t hear many people lament illegal downloading. The comic-book industry learned quite late what the video game industry learned quite early, and the movie and music industries still haven’t learned; piracy is a supply issue, not an ethical one. Internet will keep getting faster, storage will keep getting cheaper, the copy command is not going anywhere. Markets shift, you shift your business with it, that’s how capitalism works.

    • A beautiful justification but nothing more. Essentially: “It was there and it was easy so I did it.” If you think pirating isn’t an ethical choice you are kidding yourself.

  13. I think piracy is still around but shrinking, I have in the last 6 months or so seen a lot of articles on tech sites about pirate sites shutting down and I don’t see anyone talking about it much anymore.

    I think the Marvel app for their Marvel Unlimited service is really the Spotify of comics it works just like the Spotify app the only difference is I think while your paying for Spotify you can download unlimited albums to a mobile device and Marvel only lets you download 6 comics at a time.

    With Spotify and Marvel Unlimited you loose access to the art if you stop your subscription while Comixology and iTunes you don’t own the art on either one but you make individual purchases for unlimited access.

    Anyway with the strength of Marvel Now books why pirate when you pay basically 5 dollars a month and have access to so much good reading material.

  14. Piracy is absolutely still an issue and there are two main reasons why

    1. Price. You have to wonder, why are digital comics more expensive then physical ones?
    2. DRM. A lot of people still have issue with the fact that comixology owns the comics not you.

    Granted the industry has made major strides but there’s still a long way to go, particularly for DC.

    • Why for DC? They are routinely cheaper on Comixology and their new releases drop in price after 2 months. Marvel stuff from two years ago is still 4 bucks.

    • Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited is probably the most reasonable way to consume older comics, it would be nice however if comics were added more frequently and all things considered I still think the monthly price of the service is a little high. More importantly though if you subscribe to any 3.99 marvel title you will also get a digital code for the same issue effectively making the price of brand new issues just over $2. It would be nice if that was available for all issues not just those $3.99 and up and better yet it would be nice if the digital subscriptions were at a reduced price but for some reason “subscribing” directly to a digital comic comes with no real benefits. Also the twice weekly .99 cent sales are nice.

      DC has a better discount model, though they aren’t as consistent with it as they pretend to be, in all other regards Marvel is ahead.

  15. I keep thinking about piracy and about how back when I was in college I lived with 4 guys and we read a lot of the same books so we would split up who bought what and share. But what if we hadn’t lived together and we spit up our books scanned them and emailed the files just to each other but erased the files once we read the issue. At the end of the day it isn’t much different but seems wrong where letting each other read our books seemed ok. It just is interesting to me how big of a roll the online part has in my views of piracy.

  16. Well, a couple of things drive people to piracy. One is no money. When you’re poor and don’t care, you’ll pirate. Another is access. No shop around you? Pirate. The best way to combat the casual pirates is by providing them with easier ways to buy legally. There’s nothing easier than Comixology. Downloading pirate copies takes way more time and effort. You will still have pirates who just don’t want to pay, but I bet Comixology and day/date have helped curbed a lot of piracy from the people who wanted the books but had no way to get them. Americans in America have it great for comic access. Think about the rest of the world. Legit digital books have helped keep international readers buying the real thing. Why pay shipping and jacked up prices for physical books when the digital copy is right there?

  17. Why are digital comics so expensive?

    • To support a dying business model otherwise known as the local comic book shop.

    • @AoANightcrawler: While I’d love digital comics to be cheaper (and print for that matter), and as much as I’d also love to see the LCS Diamond pre-order model evolve, I believe I’ve read that LCS sales are higher now than they’ve been in a very long time.

      So while I certainly can get behind calling it an outdated business model, I don’t think we can exactly call it dying right now.

    • I think its fair to say LCS should be doing better today than anytime in recent years, considering the boom in so called geek culture and the huge popularity of super hero movies, not to mention televised series. I would argue the sales at LCS are not going up as high as they should. Let’s face facts and acknowledge that the super hero movie bubble will eventually burst, probably soon based on consumer opinions (outside of the comic book community that is). Once Hollywood becomes unwilling to support 4 or more major super hero blockbusters a year I think you’ll see a huge decline in those sales and that will likely be the final blow to the LCS.

      We want LCS to survive because we all love the experience of visiting them, the unfortunate reality is its simply not a sustainable model and unless they find a way to evolve they’ll soon be going to way of Borders and other book warehouses.

  18. I got into downloading stuff because I wanted to read books like master of king fu and deadly hands of king fu. Both of which would be impossible to find in print.

  19. It’s still very easy to find just about any issue of any comic for free, if you know where to look. I guess I don’t have a problem with it if you download one or two issues to see if you like a book and then go back and buy the trades and start paying for that the monthly issues or whatever. But, to just download every book and never pay for one of them definitely takes away from the creators.

    • I love this myth that people steal stuff to see if it’s worth buying. It’s like strippers working to pay for college; doesn’t happen. I don’t steal a car the a week to see if it’s with buying and I wouldn’t dine and dash if the appetizers weren’t great.

  20. Is it still a thing? The vast majority of comic reading people I know, download them free. I’m surprised that’s a question, I thought it was a well known fact that Piracy accounts for a very large element of the comic reading community. Of course, I could be waaaay off, I’m also not in the US where most of that community is and so maybe there’s a difference between there and Europe. My comic reading friends virtually to a man pirate single issue comics but buy absolute editions, hardcovers and different collections. I’ve had this discussion so many times but I guess I can see the point that single issues are SO expensive these days that it just doesn’t seem worth it.

    • Without single monthly issues there will not be “absolute editions, hardcovers and different collections.” Might want to keep that in mind.

    • I also meant to add this but hit submit too quickly.

      Maybe you and your friends are the exception but I have always found the “if I like it I’ll buy it” excuse to be BS. “If I download the album and like it I’ll go out and but it.” “I’ll just watch a couple episodes and if I like it I’ll go buy season one.” “I’ll just read a few issues and if it’s cool I’ll buy the trade.” I’m sure people who say those things think they are actually true at the time. I’m sure they begin pirating with the best intentions of using it simply as a preview tool. But in MY experience that quickly and almost always becomes the primary method of consumption. It is just too cheap and easy once you start to go back to spending real money for something. Even though that’s the right thing to do.

    • I agree, Uspunx. Really good point. Downloading may become addictive. It also hurts local comic shops, which in turns hurts the local economy.

    • USPUNX- I don’t need to keep anything in mind, thanks very much. I don’t illegally download anything.

    • @gallowglass: I didn’t mean to insult you. I just assumed based on these statements that you also pirated comics. “My comic reading friends virtually to a man pirate single issue” and “The vast majority of comic reading people I know, download them free.”

      I made an assumption based on those comments and if it was wrong i apologize.

    • @USPUNX- I meant to put across that I have this discussion with friends a lot because while most of them do, I and one other friend don’t. I probably wasn’t as clear as I could have been. They (my friends who download) buy the stuff that they really love and download the titles that they aren’t super interested in. For example, one of them buys every Batman trade but also downloads Nightwing, Batgirl, Tec and so on. His defense is that he doesn’t like them enough to pay the expensive price. He says if they were cheaper he’d buy them. I don’t believe him though, I think like you said, the addictive quality of downloading is a real issue so it’s a bone of contention between me and some people!

    • @gallowglass: Glad you’re not one of them!

      I too have this discussion often with friends. Most people I know don’t pirate things but my wife’s sister pirates almost everything. She watches everything on Project Free TV (which isn’t technically pirating but is pretty much the same thing) and we argue about it often. Mainly what annoys me is she constantly uses the “if Game of Thrones was cheaper I’d buy the DVD’s” argument. So one time I offered to buy her season 2 for her birthday. She politely declined saying it was easier to just watch them online. She also always uses the “well if I didn’t watch it for free I wouldn’t watch it at all” excuse which I also just don’t believe. If you like something you like it! If you’re barely interested in it why watch in the first place! It just boils down to thin justifications and the fact that she wants all this media but doesn’t feel like she should have to pay for it. Definitely a bone of contention for me and some of my friends and family as well!

    • The case of your wife’s sister aside I do not believe that’s the mentality of most pirates. All of my friends that are into comics, with only 1 partial exception, pirate near exclusively now. The reason for most of them being that comics have become far too expensive. These are friends who used to pirate music and stopped when cheaper digital downloads became available and friends who used to buy comics at local comic shop but gradually stopped as titles steadily increased in price and decreased in page count. If you really break the entertainment down by time to consume over price its clear there is no other form that’s even half as expensive. I do not pirate comics, but I don’t believe my friends are in the wrong to do it. If you look at the history of piracy you will see it is the most effective tool consumers have to fight against price where competition is stagnant. One can always argue we can just stop buying all together but simply put that’s not the way the human mind works. It is more natural to lash out than sacrifice when you feel you are being wronged and that’s what most pirates are doing, fighting back. I have very little doubt if the industry continues in this way it will not still exist in another 30 years. Industry leaders continually talk about how new readers aren’t being drawn in but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The youth of today just find they can’t afford to spend $4 for 10 minutes of entertainment and instead choose to pay something they find more reasonable, nothing.

      In all honesty do you think a digital comic should be closer to $0 or $4, I’d argue the former since I think a new digital comic shouldn’t cost anymore than an mp3 .99 or 1.29 since it provides roughly the same equivalent amount of entertainment.

    • You can’t compare how long it takes you to consume something, you have to compare how long it takes and how expensive it is to produce something. I can consume a MacDonald’s quarter pounder in about 20 minutes. I can also consume a filet mignon in about 20 minutes. Does that mean they should cost the exact some? Of course not. Comparing an mp3 to a digital comic is in no way fair.

      I’m not sure what a digital comic price should cost because I don’t know what it costs to produce a comic minus shipping and printing. But I would say a digital comic should cost the same as a print comic minus printing and shipping costs. Anything less is unfair and unrealistic.

      And to go back to the mp3/consumption time example it really doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at three of my favorite songs. Miles Davis – Bitch’s Brew (26 minutes 59 seconds), Gillian Welch – Revelator (6 minutes 22 seconds), and Kid Dynamite – Wrist Rocket (1 minute, 36 seconds). So I guess those songs should all cost different amounts? If Gillian Welch costs .99 does that mean iTunes should pay me when I download Kid Dynamite? How does the time example make sense when the length of songs are, well, not at all the same.

      And to say pirates are “fighting back” is not something I can agree with. I just recently read an article that chicken prices right now are more than 5% higher right now than this same time last year. Does that mean your friends are stealing chicken too? I can only assume they are since they aren’t just being petulant about prices, they’re actually “fighting back.”

    • Can any of the ifanboys enlighten us as to roughly how much a print comic costs to create, print and ship?

      People always complain about prices but I am actually amazed at how cheap comics are. To think you can print a 32 page Image book in full color, on very high quality paper stock (with no ads for additional revenue), promote it, and ship it across the country for $3.50 amazes me. Image can charge only $3.50 and still manage to pay the writer, artist, inker, colorist, and letterer, plus cover printing and shipping costs AND still turn a profit! It’s actaully pretty hard to imagine.

    • Behind-the-scenes peek: there was an article in our drafts folder on this very topic for years, but I think the prospective author got a migraine researching it.

    • @USPUNX I understand your argument and maybe its not fair to compare how long it takes to consume something but most comics aren’t made to be just works of are they are a consumer product that are made to entertain and therefore have to compete against other forms of entertainment. I often find myself comparing single issues of comic and single episodes of TV shows because they are about the same price and that doesn’t seem fair. I might be wrong but I think if @Gallowglass talked his friends out of illegally download, I think they would keep buying issues of comics for a while but at some point when they would start looking at something like Superior Spider-Man on Comixology that is 3.99 and then click over to iTunes and see an episode of Game of Thrones is 3.49 and think “you know I think with my last 4 bucks I would get a lot more out of a hour of Game of Thrones than 22 pages of Spider-Man. And probably end up sticking with buying one or two comics regularly but use the rest of their entertainment money for other things.

      I’m not saying comics are priced wrong, I think 3.99 or 2.99 is a good price for a new comic even a digital one but, I think that the price of digital comics should drop overtime and not just to 1.99 but to where comics that are five or ten years old should be .99 or even .50.

    • @scotte: As I said above, I’m just not comfortable considering all entertainment media equal simply because they are entertainment but I see what you’re saying with that compassion. I also fully agree that older comic should drastically decrease in price. I’d even go so far as to say comics that are a year old or more should be .99.

      I still just don’t feel like I can say what I think digital comics should cost until I know definitively how much they cost to create. I honestly don’t know how anyone can have an opinion on what a comic should cost without knowing what they cost to create. Without that knowledge you are speaking from ignorance which invalidates your opinion. So all I can still say is I think digital comics should cost the same as print comics minus printing and shipping.

    • New digital comics currently cost me about $2 each since I use the subscription model to obtain them. If you factor in shipping you can take off roughly another .50 and while I don’t know what printing costs are exactly I do know they cost more per comic than shipping does so we’ll just go with knocking off another .50 and say .99 per comic isn’t unreasonable. To be honest $1.50 for new comics and .99 for older ones would even be acceptable to me but anything beyond that is unfair to the consumer.

      I’m not sure what you would compare comics to if not another form of entertainment, but I should note producing the average mp3 comes at a much higher cost than the average comic. Also it should be noted comparing consumer demand to a chicken shortage doesn’t make sense because they are two different things, supply versus demand rather than looking at supply and demand. By that same argument Nintendo should have released the Wii at $600-800 a few years ago because that’s what they were selling for on ebay. The price went up because there was no supply, doesn’t mean that’s a fair market price.

  21. If someone downloads a comic from a torrent site or file sharing app, then the risk of that title being canceled increases. I know I am detouring the topic in this comment, but for lower print run books, piracy could kill it and in turn hurt the fans that spend the time and money enjoying the comic.

    I am not saying that downloading Superior Spider-Man is going to increase the chances of it being canceled, however, maybe some of the new 52 titles that had a sudden drop in the market share were casualties of the ease of downloading comics. For instance, I googled Legions of Super-Hero Torrents and Demon Knights Torrents, and the search returned a good many sites that offered multiple seedings in the thousands at random sites, with active leeching. Those are unreported people enjoying the book which means low ordering, and eventual the title gets canceled. The same for some of Image’s sleep hit titles, not putting the order in at your local shop or on Comixology hurts the market share for that title. The accountants can not add those torrent downloads into the plus column

    The same is true with music, if you don’t buy the CD or download it from iTunes and download it illegally. The bean counters at the label start looking at the sales figures and wondering if it’s worth giving the band studio time, press and eventually the band is dropped.

    Just some food for thought

  22. I think its interesting how some smaller publishers and indie creators are putting their own work out into the torrent/pirate-sphre themselves, sometimes even before street date. Kinda getting ahead of the problem and putting out *official* releases. They’re viewing those people as potential customers instead of “the enemy”. Some creators are very upfront and obvious about it, while some seem to hint at it on twitter and other places. I think they realize that for creator owned and indie stuff, access and awareness are their biggest enemies, so just getting eyeballs on the books is worth it. Hopefully they’ll put in an order for the trade or something.

    I think the argument that every pirated download = one lost sale is misguided and makes giant assumptions. I don’t know if its a thing anymore, but you certainly don’t see much being written about the subject.

    • I think the argument “every pirated download = one lost sale” certainly makes assumptions but no less so than “just getting eyeballs on the books is worth it.”

      The argument of “access and awareness” being the most important thing is exactly what has lead plenty of small labels and bands into signing very bad deals with streaming services like Spotify. I personally don’t come at the argument from the lost sales perspective because of those very same assumptions you mention. To me I don’t pirate because it’s just wrong. Why take the chance it might hurt a creator or publisher? Just do the right thing and buy the book. If creators want to leak their own books that is their business and people can feel free to download those but otherwise I don’t support it.

    • I see your point concerning assumptions and leaking out free previews of books like Comixology does help peak interest, but in your argument you assumed that someone would get a peak and go buy the trade. If you are downloading it free of the cost, then why would you need to spend the money on a trade?

      Maybe my assumption was dramatic however if it’s downloaded, it’s not sold, counted and distributed by Diamond which in turn hurts sales numbers and the percent that local shops get off the listed retail price. Maybe I am still assuming??

  23. College students, traditionally man-sticking sticklers, are still heavy into movie/TV/music/book piracy. I think as people get older (and safer), they turn to safe, legal methods of digital distribution. I’m sure someone did a study on the age ranges of digital “pirates”. Maybe I can download it for free somewhere…

  24. I buy a heavy stack of comic books every week, and every week I download (only) what I buy that week. That way, I’m not stealing anything I haven’t already paid for (paying twice – what is up with that?) and I can put these on my tablet so I can read them on-the-go, without the danger of damage to my actual copies, and the reduced volume is easier to transport.