ORION returns with this week’s GOING DIGITAL: Casualties of Price Wars!

14 Oct
Image representing Barnes & Noble as depicted ...

Not cool. (Image via CrunchBase)

Going Digital: Casualties of Price Wars and Other Ridiculousness

by Orion Tippens


The shot heard around the world?

In recent news, Books-a-Million – another book store chain, joined Barnes and Noble on its recent ban on DC Comics’ select 100 graphic novels made exclusive for 4 months for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire. Both chains combined total over 900 bookstores where Sandman, Watchmen, and Fables (among others) will remain invisible to consumers.

This revolting development is not really a revolution. In the end, it’s the consumers that suffer, especially those on the digital fronts. On print, such absence will help comic book stores and small business retailers not interested in such power games involving digital devices. On the digital front, this sends a terrible message to those who spent much money on their digital devices.

That by disagreement, a powerful company has proved they can easily ban books by the push of mere button. All this, over petty squabbles that involves their personal interest: mass profits. If you depend on your e-reader or tablet for comics, you can’t simply “visit another store.”  That is, unless you are rich and will just buy another expensive alternative (and possibly starting your digital comics collection over).

Or can you go back to print? The answer to that is best explored another day.

That being said, just bear this in mind when buying an e-reader or tablet. Consider the corporate entity that controls the gates on your applications, publishers, and access to your device. When out to make a profit, do they have your interests at heart? Or do we become the collateral damage?

Which brings me another subject that bothers me…

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1 variant cover

The existence of the $3.99 digital comic as a read that contains carries the average number of pages (around 24) vs. the normal $2.99. I see this with some of DC’s new 52, Marvel’s recent crossover, and other offers.

There was a time and place for the raising of some comic prices. I recall it back in the day when Wolfman/Perez’s New Teen Titans started printing their second volume on Baxter paper. Later came the silly cover enhancements of which suckered me much. Sometimes, the comic was a “Giant Sized” edition, or had some cool bonus stories. All very valid reasons to jack up the prices from whatever the regular price of their other “regular” priced comics.

A significant number of extra pages should be the only exception. Cover enhancements or fancier paper do not apply on my iPad or whatever. Maybe someday, some stupid HD edition or some 3-D version might work.

Otherwise, the reason seems to stand that standing prices of digital for Marvel and DC are to match the comic store retail shelf price. Supposedly, this is to keep the comic stores in business. This, being the only valid reason in print for the $3.99 should be if the paper quality is better. In that case, the digital version should be less.

And in both circumstances, it seems wrong for a comic to be of higher price because a higher paid writer or artist is at work. Could you imagine if such a business model was applied to musical downloads on iTunes? Prices should be universal. If the writer or artist is of higher tier, then the book should simply sell more copies. Mainstream comic companies should have more faith in their readers, not alienate those with lighter wallets…

3.99 digital price


…Or even worse, push away new readers via the digital front who have little care for troubled comic stores or don’t know much about big named writers. Some of us just want to read black Spider-Man or whatever. The next generation of readers using these digital devices will not care for their value, nor their condition. In the end, most of us buy these comics because we are are interested in their content. We want to read and enjoy.

That being said, I think $2.99 is a fair price set for a popular comic in digital or print. This in large quantities will keep the industry alive, and the artist and writers well-fed, while encouraging companies to produce more quality content. Cheaper would be nice, but I try not to ask too much as a consumer. Then, just surprise me.

Overall, publishers and digital managers need to pay attention to their consumers regarding their marketing plans, and include their interests at heart as much their potential profits. Otherwise, other threats will increase if we can’t get our comics when we want them and at logical prices…pirate-y threats.

Orion Tippens loves comics, writing, and travel, and hosts his own blog at captainipad.blogspot.com.

4 Responses to “ORION returns with this week’s GOING DIGITAL: Casualties of Price Wars!”


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