Why $1.99 Digital Comics May Be Priced Right, Just Not For You

I’m guessing before you decide whether my column is worth reading, you’re going to want to know a little about me, and what makes me qualified to contribute to one of the best comic-book related hubs in the world.  So here goes…

Hi, my name is Jason Wood, and I'm a Suit. For the uninitiated, the Urban Dictionary defines "Suit" as:

Slang for a businessman or any authority figure that wears a suit, e.g. manager, boss, supervisor.

Creative Commons Image, A cartoon of the stock marketThat's me.  I make my living as a portfolio manager, one of those guys you read about in the Wall Street Journal or see on CNBC talking about the stock market.  I’ve been with my firm for 10 years and before that, I was a research analyst covering enterprise software technology. Although I invest in just about every industry imaginable these days, my roots are in tech and that remains a core passion. I'm also actively involved in the technology and web startup world, serving as an advisor and occasional investor. Like I said, I'm a Suit.

But I'm also a full-fledged comic geek. I've been reading comics for as long as I can remember, and started my first pull list when I was 11 years old (almost 25 years ago, sigh). I preferred reading dog-eared copies of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and DC's Who's Who to the shiny, leather-bound volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica my parents bought me on one of those 10-year payment plans. I'm proud (in a strange way) to say my collection runs more than 16,000 books, and my collectors bug ranges from current comics to old back issues to original comic art to collected editions. As my wife likes to say, comics are my mistress. Every week, in addition to reading this column, you can hear me talk for a few hours about comics with my buddies (Vince, Chris and David) on the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast.

This column will be my chance to combine my passion for comics with my inoperable focus on business process, industry trends and financial metrics. Hopefully I'll have enough corny one-liners thrown in that you won't completely tune out when you see my name in the byline.


 

For my first column I thought I would touch on a subject that's been criminally undercovered — the iPad. OK, the fact is the iPad is getting more than its fair share of coverage, including a number of fantastic articles on iFanboy:

 

I want to zero in on the recent Marvel news and more specifically the decision to charge $1.99 per comic. I'm generally in agreement with Josh's perspective:

I see no problem with the $1.99 price point.  Would I like them cheaper?  Of course, but since new comics cost $3.99, I can't argue with a 50% price reduction.  Granted, it will be interesting to see what the average consumer actually does with this option.  Until Marvel offers new comics on the same day as comic shop release, I think we'll be seeing a lot of resistance from vocal people on the internet.

In the few days since Josh posited this viewpoint, we've certainly seen plenty of resistance from vocal people on the internet. It's pretty hard to visit a message forum or listen to a podcast about comics and the iPad without hearing someone decry the $1.99 price point. The most common argument I've heard is that the $1.99 price point is not a material enough discount for the lack of a physical copy. Others argue that the $3.99 retail price point isn't the legitimate comparison as many people get their comics for a substantial discount either through a mail-order service or via an agreed upon loyalty discount at their local comic store. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, I think the complaints miss a central point. IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE THE $1.99 PRICE POINT ISN'T DESIGNED FOR YOU! If you're worrying about whether $1.99 is a low enough price to get you to switch from buying physical copies, you probably aren't Marvel's concern at this juncture. They already have you. You're already paying $3.99 (give or take) for disposable entertainment. Marvel (and the other publishers), if they're smart, are approaching digital comics as a way of rapidly EXPANDING THE ADDRESSABLE MARKET. Do they want you, the guy with the pull list at his local shop, to buy some digital comics? Sure. But they would be much happier if someone new tries out the medium because they see the Marvel iPad app in the Apple Store.

Lost amidst all the Sturm und Drang is a lesson in consumption dynamics. Even if you think you're a conservative, rational person who maintains a tight budget and always evaluates the cost/benefit of any purchase beforehand, I'm willing to bet you consume things each day that are — by nature — not optimally priced.

Don't believe me? Consider:

MOVIES — Think of all the different ways we choose to consume movies, and how different the cost structures are. We can see a new release in the theater and pay $9-$10 for the rights to experience the film just once. We can pay a few dollars more to see the film on a larger IMAX screen. Or we can wait and buy the DVD (usually $15-$30) or the Blu-Ray (add a few more bucks), which affords us limitless viewing. Or we could opt to rent the film for a few dollars, or as part of a monthly subscription. Or we could wait for the film to become available on a television network we get as part of a cable package. Or if we don't care about shrink wrap, we can buy a used copy from Blockbuster for $5. And we haven't even gotten to OnDemand/Pay-per-view. Do we want to watch it for free on Hulu? Or Instantly on our PC or XBox or Roku through Netflix' Watch Instantly? When we're sitting comfortably at home, a price of $4 or $5 seems reasonable for a new release. Yet many of us won't bat an eyelash to spend $12.99 on the exact same film while in a hotel room on vacation or traveling for business. The honest truth is most of us consume movies in most of these manners; and they all seem rational and justifiable given the circumstance. We're willing to pay different prices for convenience, accessibility, immediacy and form factor.

Not a movie fan? OK, how about:

PROSE BOOKS — For all the commotion surrounding the price of digital comics, there's far more consternation about the pricing of electronic books, as Amazon and Apple jockey for position with the publishers. Yet as consumers there's no set path to acceptance. Some people buy the hardcovers for full price, while others insist on waiting for the softcover versions. For all the people who argue about whether an ebook is worth $9.99 or $14.99, consider that a good many of us have those same books available to us FOR FREE, if we're just willing to saunter down to our town library. Yet the broad existence of libraries doesn't stop us all from spending billions of dollars on physical copies of books at retailers. Again, the decision isn't simply about price. It's about convenience, accessibility, immediacy and form factor.

Let's look at something more far-reaching than other types of entertainment:

SOFT DRINKS — Chances are, you or someone in your household drinks some form of carbonated beverage. The most cost effective way to drink soda would be to buy the syrup from a food distributor and make your own, but how many of us bother with that? Far more people may buy soft drinks in bulk at bulk retailers like Sam's Club or Costco. Not quite as cheap as syrup, but still pretty cost effective. But most people buy 2-liter bottles at their grocery stores. I know my wife refuses to buy me Diet Dr. Pepper 2-liters unless they're on sale for $1.39. She's being frugal, right? Yet I don't hesitate, on a daily basis, to buy 20-ounce bottles of the same drink for $1.89 at the bodega near my office. Spending $1.89 on 20 ounces of something I could pay 50 cents less for 2 liters is illogical, if my only deciding factor was price. But I buy those 20-ounce bottles for convenience, immediacy and form factor. Sound familiar?

One last example, this time focusing on something literally no human being can do without:

Creative Commons Image Bottled WaterDRINKING WATER — In many developed areas, tap water (particularly if you use an inexpensive filter) is as safe as bottled water. Yet, we still find reason to spend more than $11 billion in bottled water in the United States alone each year (global sales exceed $70 billion). $11 billion (and growing) in sales despite the fact that bottled water is 240x to 1000x more expensive than drinkable tap water, according to the NRDC. If that's not an irrational pricing decision, I don't know what is. But again, most of us justify the purchase of bottled water for reasons beyond the cost per gallon. It's convenient, it's immediate, and we appreciate the form factor.

Pricing is an imperfect science. As consumers, we like to think we're a lot more price sensitive than we are, but in truth it's only one of myriad factors that go into our purchase decisions. So while $1.99 Marvel digital comics might not be right for you, they may be exactly the combination of form factor, accessibility, convenience and, yes, price for someone else. And that's exactly what the comic book publishers are counting on.

 


Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Nice artcle and welcome to the site. Not sure if anyone else saw this or not but the $1.99 is actually an Apple limitation and Marvel and the app developer (comiXology?) both said that if they had the choice they’d do it at $1.49. Sadly Apple only allows, .99 or 1.99. They did mention that there was a 1,000 limit on how many things can be sold from within an app as well and as soon as they hit that they contact Apple and it was immediately raised. 

  2. So if they can only post 1000 sale items at a time it could be while for they release the same day as comic shops.

    I have an Ipod touch, with a few comics on it, but I just haven’t gotten used to the medium yet. I still like hard copies.

    Maybe by the time I’m used to it same day sales will be happening. (I’m 25, so not usually a technopobe. I just like to turn all my tech off and read a comic book sometimes)

  3. Awright! I like suits!

    Thanks fo yo take! Some need to be reminded that not everything is aimed specifically at "them". Some things, are actually aimed for the genpub.  Yep, we do not live in a bubble and comics, is really a very small "hood". A great hood, but small nonetheless.

    As I like to tell my whiny friends sometimes… "nothing is expensive; its just that we do not earn enough to afford it". Dude, some things are for other people to buy. Things don’t need to be cheaper,  its "us" that should get a better job!

    All in good fun my friends, just trying to provide a diffrent’ angle here! Times are hard, and way harder for others! Sometimes, Im just happy I can pay for all the stuff I like so creators/ musicians can keep being creative! Nice to have you Wood! Wait, that sounds weird… Love U on 11, and love you here too! Cool knowing a bit more bout you… seems interesting! Keep it cool!

  4. But I’m much more comfortable thinking I am the deciding factor for all the decisions the Big Two makes though, Jason.

    Joking. Excellent article, great starter to your new gig at iFanboy. I’m just discovering 11 O’Clock Comics and really loving it so keep up the great work there too

  5. Great stuff Wood – I think the pricing right now works fine though the IPad itself is well above my ability to own right now.

     

    1.99 seems to be a magic ITunes # as well. I wonder how much that influenced the end price. 

    I’d like to see some new releases – am hoping that some of the indier companies tackle that – Marvel/DC will probably need to see someone else do it first so they can point at the viability to Disney/TW shareholders, no?

  6. This was a good read. I see nothing to argue with in the article at all.

    Although, all this ipad talk lately. . .the 1.99 pricing point among all else, makes me wonder if Marvel and the rest of the industry genuinely understands exactly to what extent their product is already being digitally pirated. As it stands now, every single comic that Diamond ships every week is on the internet the day it hits shelves(sometimes the day before) or within 5 days. For free. People who want digital comics but do not buy print comics are already obtaining them in this manner. I’m not sure someone interested in getting comics but not buying print copies is going to want to invest in an expensive gadget and then the price of comics themselves as well. Unless the ipad becomes so ubiquitious that the distribution system taps into consumers who aren’t already savvy enough on the net to find the free copies, I’m not holding my breath that the ipad will make a difference in the long run.

    At the moment I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment that comics will sell more ipads than ipads will sell comics. 🙁

  7. $1.99 is a great price for new comics but for older comics the price is not right. Its cheaper to buy the issues in trades from Amazon or Instocktrades so digital purchases don’t make sense. Non comic readers who don’t know any better will probably accept this price, which will likely expand the industry, but not benefit current comic readers directly. 

  8. Thanks for the feedback guys! It was a fun first start, but it’s admittedly daunting to think that the clock is now ticking again for next week. 🙂 I have to say my timing for the article was JUST GREAT…what with the Eisner noms coming out at the same time. Talk about being a footnote. 😉

  9. Duuude! This just hit me! Wanna hear how cool this thing is?!?!? And maybe how much the 1.99 price isn’t for you?!

    Take this random dude, like I was bout 5 yrs ago, not reading comics. Well I got into it but there was LCS a 5 minute walk from where I worked.  I had some co-workers readers but I quickly got a foothold and went into my own thanks to this new thing called podcasts and ifanboy. So I perused some websites and gained some knowledge on what I would kinda liked and the sort. You follow me?

    If I found something I may like, I had to order thru my LCS and wait for a few weeks to get it. I later learned of DCBS, etc. Still, you hear or chat w/ your online buddies bout cool stuff to buy and you have to get home, go to the other website (which is kinda slow btw), pull your credit cardand fill blanks etc. Not to whine but, its kinda a lot of steps!

    Now, all random new guy has (or will be able to do) to do if he gets a buying urge of something he just heard is go to itunes or whatever app has his newly desired book/ old run, et al. and punch it! Bang! No pulling of credit card, no waiting for UPS, no nothing. He has it right there and now! iPad, iPhone or home computer, he can read it wherever he feels like, no waiting! Now that is something awesome that will entice new readers! No need to bashfuly walk into "that geeky store" at the mall, as my teen age neice once called it. Yep, thee is a bit o’shame in that if you are not a comic reader! 

    Anyways, gots things to do! Just threw out there, see if yous all can put yoselfs in the shoes of non-readers and see how cool this will be for newbies to come onboard as well as for the publishers to gain some new market.  Ahoy mates!

  10. @Wood excellent article and welcome to iFanboy.  Can’t wait to read more of this kind of thing.

     

    @Muady First things first, I welcome same day availability of digital comics and would gladly switch from my old physical pull list to a digital pull list. That said, maybe I’m old fashioned. If I can’t find a physical copy of the comic I want…. I hope, pray that it sells well enough for a 2nd printing so I can buy one. Or I wait for one to pop up in the long boxes at my LCS.  I have no interest in stealing something that I should pay for. But I suppose, people like me are excluded from the folks who want digital comics and don’t want to buy physical comics crowd. 

  11. The discussion of other irrational pricing decisions still doesn’t address this particular issue.  Especially the issue that putting comics on the iPhone/iPad is essentially printing money for Marvel.  They have little to no production cost(since many of these are already available in one form or another digitally) and little to no distribution cost(at least compared to the cost of distributing new comics).  Their largest cost may very well be the royalties they have to pay, if any, to creators.  

    What digital comics are, essentially, are print on demand.  You don’t pay(much) for what you don’t sell.  It means that older comics, where the production work is done, could be sold for a song and still turn a profit for Marvel. It also serves, as the iFanboys have mentioned, as a gateway drug.  You buy Captain America #1-5 online, you’re likely to be hooked into paying for the omnibus or the trades.  

    The problem with this is that it locks all comics, from those printed yesterday to those printed 60 years ago, into a time-warp where everything costs the same.  I think Marvel is missing a key opportunity to hit the magic 99¢ price point, where you can justify buying almost anything because it’s not even a dollar.  Anything older than 3 years, 99¢,  Anything newer, maybe $1.99.  New, $2.99.  Hell, I’d be wiling to get cheaper comics if they want to serve ads with them, as Apple is now implementing.  

    The point of this article seems to be that Marvel can charge whatever they want for their comics, and as long as people buy it why should they charge less.  True.  But this is also the early adopter tax.  When digital comics are more prevalent, I believe that these prices will not stand.  Older comics will drop to nearly nothing, or even free with ads, as a way to draw you in to new comics.    

  12. Here’s the quote from the arstechnica review of the iPad:

    ""We truly believe that there is a distribution issue in comics. We no longer have the newsstand—comics used to be everywhere and you could discover them… the digital stuff is the new feeder system into print," he told Ars. Comics are locked into Apple’s pricing structure: the cheapest you can sell something is $0.99, the next tier up is $1.99. "Otherwise, you would probably see $1.49," we’re told." ( source: http://bit.ly/d5WTDT

    That article is also where it talks about the 1,000 unit limit but as I said before, Apple already removed it. 

  13. You’re not a suit, you’re Jason Woooodddd!! 

    Anyway, great article.  Another example I see at work everyday.  Coworkers spend about $7 a day for lunch.  I bring in my lunch 4 out of the 5 days, so that saves me money to spend on $3.99 comics (about $3.19 w/ my LCS’s discount).  I would love to pay only $1.99 for a digital copy.  And if it was just $0.99, even better.  What would really be cool is if a subscription service like Netflix came out for comics, where you pay for a membership and read all you want…but I’m probably dreaming.

  14. @jonnyflash Thanks for reading, I appreciate any and all feedback. Just to clarify something you said:

    *******************

    The point of this article seems to be that Marvel can charge whatever they want for their comics, and as long as people buy it why should they charge less. 

    ********************

    That’s not the point of the article (although I do think it’s factual in its own right), but rather that just because the $1.99 price point doesn’t work for a current comics buyer, necessarily, doesn’t mean it’s a poor pricing strategy. Price is but one factor among many that we all use to decide what and how we consume.

    I personally think paying $20 for a variant cover is nonsensical, I also think paying $50 to have your picture taken with the actor who played C-3PO makes no sense, but I don’t begrudge other fans from doing it. Presumably they put the value of the memory above the monetary cost. And while those particular niches of our geekdom seem crazy to me, I’ve paid thousands of dollars for a singular back issue proudly, and covet original art pages from my favorites. I know plenty of others would think that’s wasteful. 

    Ultimately the message I wanted to convey is, your milesage may vary. Marvel and DC are very astute, financially disciplined companies. They haven’t gotten digital figured out yet, this pricing model on the iPad is just one of dozens of things they’re likely to throw against the wall in digital and see what sticks.

     

  15. I’ve got a lot of problems with this article but due to me getting of oral surgery mere hours ago and being high on vicodin, I’ll reply maybe tomorrow. 
  16. If the main point is to expand the comics industry, then you want as low a price point as you can get away with economically. You are right, digital comics is not for me yet. It is for the vast majority of people that don’t read comics. Comparisons to movies, soft drinks, and books do not work that well because those markets are much more saturated. Everyone watches movies, drinks soft drinks, and reads books of some type. OK, maybe not everybody, but compared to comics readership (half a million people getting floppies, as a generous maybe?) it is everybody. The comics industry could grow tenfold and still only tap a tiny part of the available public. And let us not forget that in the case of the big Two, comics are more or less being treated as R&D and promotion for their movies. You would think Warner and Disney would want to come as close to giving away comics as they could in order to help create a better market and buzz for their movies. Now of course the iPad is a totally niche device at the moment, so no one is increasing their market tenfold going digital in the near future (or even by 5% probably), but in general I think it would make better comic book business sense to make comics cheaper and grow your readership than working to maximize your profits now, but not grow much at all. 

  17. @JimBilly4: Disney and Warner Bros. don’t need to use comics to sell movies. They sell them fine on their own. They want the movies to sell more comic books. DC and Marvel might serve primarily as license generators, but they still have to make money.

  18. $2.25 was a price I remember picking up last decade in store.  $1.99 digital is not worth it, for me.  I get $1.66 comics through subscription.  I could see how $1.99 is a good price for someone else.

    $1.49 would have been nice.  $0.99 would have been real nice.  Of course they do offer $0.01 comics when you subscribe to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited which has every comic for sale on the Marvel App, plus 5,000+ more, so that wins the price war for me.

  19. @KickAss If Marvel sold comics in their app so that you could buy your pull list on wednesdays, the 1.99 price wouldn’t be hard to justify.  What is the cost of shipping or storing comics? I know it’s a hidden cost and depends on how much room you have to store things.  Conor pays for a storage unit in NYC to store what won’t/shouldn’t fit in his apartment. I have plenty of space in my basement. But, long boxes cost money. Bags/Boards? 

  20. Awwwe shiiite! Look who’s got a cute little Deadpool avatar?!?!

    He’s not Gordon Gekko… He’s Jason Woooood!

    I likes how this suit is thinking! Actually, I’m just happy he thinks!!!! All kidding aside, I like u all fo’ being smart and snappy. I were as smart as you, I would also manage portfolios an shit! So I just stick to my guns, being creative and stuff, and making fool o myself for others people’s affection.. : )

    So… when is Neeseman and Hunter going on date and gang up on you and Ron? make shure you tape that one, and be all drunken an shit, for our entertainment! 

     

    Just hit me! I don’t want no Omnibus! I wanna read Bru’s run on Cap on my big plasma! Well, I don’t own one, but planning on getting one eventually… but that’s my dream, and its mine so you all can’t undream it from me! Yep, all my comics in the hard drive. How it should be! Eventually, we will all just pay for the rights to see content, regardless of format. And those licenses will exist in the cloud, so you just watch, read or listen to them, wherever you are. I saw recently on the future.

     

    Love y’all!

  21. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’d rather spend 2 bucks on a digital comic than 3 bucks on a single issue that takes up space. It’s as simple as that for me. 

  22. Alright, hopefully this come out intelligible:

    Point 1: If $1.99 comics aren’t for me, who is it for?

    The public? They feel things are a waste of money (like those cheap iPhone games) for 99 cents when they get 30 minutes of enjoyment out of them. You are telling me they are going to consistently pay double that for a product that they’ll read in 10 minutes? I can see a Spidey fan doing it but then after a bad issue or two I’m sure they’d stop. Only people this satisfies are those without a LCS at all.

    Point 2: Your comparisons

    Movies- The overpriced method you chose was the hotel viewing experience. But that’s just hotel pricing. Are we having comics at hotel prices? 

    Prose- You don’t anything in libraries. Similarly you don’t really own those digital comics either. Another case for the comics needing to be cheaper.

    Soft Drinks- This is actually an interesting example. My counterpoint is that we don’t example buy SKUs of comics though. It’s the same product and to the consumer, the iPad version is only going to be viewed as lesser in terms of worth.

    Drinking Water- This where I may start to hate you Jason Wood for being a suit because the bottled water industry is one of greatest scams ever pulled. Ever.

    I hope you respond but if not, I look forward to your next article. 

  23. Great Article.  1.99 is not the worst starting point and I am sure it can be move on a sliding scale after a few years to take in account for older stuff.  I would love option or run packages where you could buy all of Blackest Night for 4.99 or 5.99.  I would dig digital trades even more than singles.

     BTW that NRDC thing blew my mind!  1000x?!

  24. I’m with Senior Montgomery on this one. I would gladly pay $1.99 for a digital comic instead of $2.99 for physical copy, just not going to buy in iPad to view them on.

  25. @drakedangerz I think that’s the point. If you have other reasons/desires to have an iPad, comic reading is just another thing to do. If you wanted to read digital comics and that’s it, the iPad may not be the device for you. 🙂

  26. @Wood – That has got to be the most well thought out and understandable article, I’ve read on this particular subject matter on any website.

     

    Also, I’m Cajun on the 11 o’clock forums.

  27. Welcome to the site, Mr. Woods.  I expected to enjoy your articles and I’m not disappointed. 

    I’m ready and willing to pay $1.99 for digital comics, but only if they’re new releases.  I’m addicted (as are most of the people on this site in my opinion) to the community aspect of comics.  Therefore, I’m not generally interested in back issues.  (I mentioned some of this on Twitter and apologize if you feel I’m repeating myself here.)  That makes my demand for comics highly inelastic meaning that I won’t change my buying habits in response to a price change.  Marvel knows that.  DC knows that. 

    If you know your customers’ demand is inelastic you can raise revenues by raising prices (Marvel @ $4).  Marvel can charge us $4 for our current releases (because we’re hooked) and sell back issues for $2 to try to hook new readers (just as Mr. Woods mentioned).  Heroin dealers figured this out a long time ago.

    If you want the situation to change you’re going to have to change your buying habits to send the publishers a signal.  Angrily posting that the price is outrageous changes NOTHING if you turn around and buy the books at $4 (or $2).  

    Sorry for rambling.  I get excited.

  28. Thanks SO MUCH for all the comments everyone. I have also gotten some emails so I’m just going to touch on a few things I want to make sure are clear in the intent of this article. I’m not arguing that $1.99 SHOULD be a price you are happy with, it’s a personal choice. I also fully realize that my examples are only four of what could literally be 1000. I just tried to pick two other types of entertainment and then get into two broader ideas. What I’m ultimately saying though is that I’ve seen a lot of people make a dismissive comment that the $1.99 price point all but guarantees we won’t grow the market; and I just don’t believe that. If people will pay $2-$3 for a random time waster game, or download a ringtone for $0.99, plenty of folks will try out a few comics for $1.99. Will those testers become permanent readers? I have no idea. Time will tell. But in a world where the Iron Man movie sold 8 million copies in its first few weeks of release, there HAS to be a distribution issue as it relates to comics. 1% of those people who bought the DVD decide to buy the comic and the sales more than double.

    Thanks again. Now it’s time for next week.

  29. Nice article, I agree with all points, gotta love a logical  frame of mind. Still sucks that convenience is a more powerful motivator than cost effectiveness, especially in a financial environment that we find ourselves living in no matter where in the world you are. I still can’t get over the fact that there are people willing to drive through the McDonald’s drive-thru for a NZD$2.90 Large Coke (NZ’s lge coke is the size of the US Medium) when they could spend just as long (less time if there is a queue of cars) to get a 2.5-3L for the same price if not cheaper (usually 1.5L for $1.90 or 2×1.5L for $3 approx.) at the supermarket across the road (literally across the road in Whakatane)

    Also, nice work on the changing of colours/style for subjects you wanted to emphasis , really made the piece feel more conversational and helped stay focused on the subject matter 🙂

  30. I don’t want to "collect" digital comics, I want access to Marvel & DC’s libraries to read what I want, when I want. Even @ 99¢, it’s too much to pay for each issue digitally. What about an "all-can-eat" plan? I’d pay $15 or $20 per month to have access to all of their stuff. Heck, I’d even be willing to wait a month or two for the new stuff to go up on a service like that. The only reason I don’t sign up for Marvel’s digital plan is due to their weird release schedule and sporadic access to newer books. 

  31. @Wood good clarification, although I still feel that was a subtext in your piece.  

    I also disagree that there shouldn’t be any customer who is happy with this price.   The whole problem is the issue(heh) of timeliness and length of arcs.  I can actually see paying $1.99 for Amazing Fantasy $15 or Uncanny X-Men #1(or Action Comics #1 or whatever).  These aren’t things that you’ll often find reprints of(at least in individual issues) and for many fans having a single historic issue is more interesting than owning the entire Stan Lee run of Fantastic Four(not that anyone is likely to do that digitally).  

    The problem is that this pricing makes no sense for anything beyond the individual issue.  When the price of 6 issues digitally is EQUAL to the usual retailer discount of the trade it’s just an insult to customers(even if it does make some kind of twisted sense in terms of equivalence of price for content between digital and print).  I can see it making some kind of twisted sense in terms of thinking that some people will think, I already paid $1.99 for issue, I’ll pay $10 for the rest of the arc instead of $12 for the print trade.  But it’s an insult for consumers.  

    I don’t see how this can be anything other than a cash grab by Marvel.  They get to charge you digitally the same price you would pay for a trade on Amazon, but instead of paying for printing and shipping costs, and instead of giving Amazon or other retailers a cut, they keep it all themselves.  In a sense, you could even see this as a big eff you from Marvel to the retailers.  They’re trying to intimate that the digital comics have the same "value" as printed comics, but Marvel gets to keep without having to share the pie.  

    I can’t wait to see what the other major publishers do with digital distribution.  I’m hoping for a price war with DC, but that might be a pie in the sky.  What I’d really like to see is what the major independents do with this sort of thing.  

    Of course I could be the biggest hypocrite ever since I bought the Red Star iPhone apps because I was curious enough to try the series but not enough to buy the trade(although the Red Star trade is more expensive).  I just wish they’d finish releasing the series as apps.

  32. @Xoman-You try Marvel’s Digital Comics, you won’t look back.  The price and quality can’t be beat.

  33. Mr. Wood, from one suit to another, you are a scholar and a gentleman. Yes, sir, I wholeheartedly agree. What Marvel is doing is the best decision business-wise possible.

  34. Mr. Wood, Great Article!  This is a classic example of the Marketing Mix also known as the 4 P’s of Marketing, product, price, place (distribution) and promotion.  These are not static, but dynamic and are always in a state of "tweaking" if any business is to be successful.  Whenever you change one of the four P’s, you need to take a concerted look at the other three to see if they need to be adjusted as well.  With the new place (distribution), it makes sense that price and promotion are being adjusted to reflect that.  It is not a matter of Marvel having the different markets (print to electronic) compete with one another but rather of determining how to position your product within different markets to garner market share. 

  35. Very thoughtful and intelligent piece Jason.  I really enjoyed it, and I’m in total agreement with you.  Thanks for bringing your business perspective.

  36. @Wood: Welcome to iFanboy, great first article.  I like how you point out the digital distribution as a way to bring in new readers.  I also think it could be used to get current readers to try something new.  By offering free digital issues it can influence current readers to buy new physical copies at the $3.99 price.  Since you’re a stock broker, do you have any good tips on hedge funds?

    @stuclach: Nice heroin reference. 🙂

    @waynebc2001: Marvel has an online digital subscription service like Netflix but the library of comics is limited.

    @glwarm76: I agree they should have the older issues set at $0.99

  37. @JesTr – Every chance I get.

  38. I would like to point out again that digitizing comics, like iverse and comixology are doing does incur a cost increase. They aren’t puuting out new issues because they can’t afford to yet, because the market is very new.

    I say get rid of the issue, save us lot a lot of trouble.

  39. Loved the article! I also want your mutant power.

  40. @Conor You are right they are not using comics to market movies. I meant to emphasize the R&D/licensing part. But there is not a 100% disconnect between how comics do and how the movie companies think the movies from comics will do. Very small communities can create large buzz which does help market movies.  Green Lantern is a recent example of recent comic book success helping to drive what movie they make. But my larger point was that the profits of Marvel and DC from the comic books are pathetic compared to the business Warner and Disney do. They can afford to invest in expanding the audience comic books reach, something that would make them more money in the long run, and help with their real core business of finding new things to put on kids pillow cases. It is not insane to think the market could be expanded at lower price points. Look at comic sales in France and Japan. Look at how many people read a comic strip every single day. Look at the growth in Trade Paperback sales. I could totally see a lot more people reading comics if they didn’t have to spend $4 a comic at a weird smelling comic shop…

  41. I don’t the $1.99 will expand the market base significantly. I will go up in the short term only to drop again. I think the publishers have to expand the types of stories told in comic form along with the $1.99 price.