Comic Book Fix: Digital Comics Fail
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 03:05 Written by david golbitz Thursday, 23 August 2012 03:05
I’ve had my Nexus 7 tablet for a little more than a month and a half, and while I love using it–it has a bright, beautiful screen and a fast, intuitive, easy-to-use operating system–I’ve noticed something about my digital comics purchasing that struck me as a little odd, and something that should make comic book publishers rethink their digital publishing strategy.
I’m not buying new comics. Are you?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve bought tons of comics from comiXology over the last several weeks. More than I intended, actually, but they make it so easy. One push of a button and there’s a comic book sitting on my tablet waiting for me to read it. And the sales they have! Every weekend, comiXology has more and more comics on sale for only 99 cents. So cheap! Honestly, I don’t want to see my digital comics bill.
But none of that is the odd part. No, what I think is odd is that none of the comics I’ve been buying are new comics. Every week since I got my tablet computer, I’ve gone to the comic book shop and bought my fresh batch of new comics. Physical, tangible, print comics. And I come home and I hold them in my hands and I read them. And then I slide them into a boarded bag and stick them in a short box full of older print comics and the cycle repeats over and over and over. All that space I was hoping to save, back when I wrote my initial digital comics review, yeah, that hasn’t happened yet. I’m still buying physical comics just like I always was. The tablet hasn’t changed that. What has changed is, I’m reading more comics. Just not more new comics.
My first digital comics purchases included the four individual issues of Batman that comprise Year One, as well as the individual issues of The Dark Knight Returns and all six Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. What do these purchases all have in common? They’re all comics I already owned in physical form. But they’re also stories I really enjoy and rather than trying to dig out the print copies from whatever boxes they’re most likely in, I thought it’d be nice to have all of them in one place, where I could call them up with the press of a button. And, they were on sale. Each of the Batman comics was 99 cents. The Scott Pilgrim books were five bucks. Granted, they’re the original black & white versions of SP, but then I was offered an upgrade to the new color version of Volume 1 for only an additional buck or two. Such a deal!
And so it’s gone. I’ve been using my tablet to purchase, for the most part, digital copies of older comics that I already owned print copies of. I’m not spending three or four bucks for a new comic. I’m spending one dollar for an older comic. I’m spending five bucks for a graphic novel I already own in print form.
I admit, however, that there are new comics I’ve been buying. Digital-only or digital-first comics, like DC’s new Legends of the Dark Knight digital series, which features different writers and artists for each arc, or the comics from new publisher Monkeybrain. Each of these comics cost $.99 or $1.99 and range from around 12 to 24 pages, give or take, and none of the comics are available in print form. Not yet, anyway. DC has plans to publish a collection of these new Legends of the Dark Knight digital comics, and maybe Monkeybrain is planning on publishing its books as trades once enough issues come out, which is fine. More power to them and I hope they’re successful. But I don’t want to wait to read these comics in print form, and at a buck or two, I’m not going to. But if they cost any more, I wouldn’t be interested.
Here’s a perfect example of the difference between print and digital comics and which I consider to be the better deal: a few weeks ago, comiXology had a sale on Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. The first six issues of each of the most recent renumbering, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics X-Men and Ultimate Comics Ultimates, were on sale for a buck each. $.99 to be exact. So I bought some. I bought issues 1-6 of Brian Michael Bendis’ new multiracial Spider-Man series. And I liked it. A lot. I’ve always been a fan of Bendis’ work, but I got tired of being bogged down in all his various Avengers titles and the only books of his I’ve really kept up-to-date with have been Powers and then Scarlet. But I’d heard good things about Miles Morales and, hey, for only six bucks I could check out the first six issues of this new series.
And when I finished reading these first six issues that I had bought for a buck each, I became curious as to how much the rest of the series was online. The most recent issues would still be cover price, I figured, but maybe some of the other, earlier ones, maybe, say, 7-10 would be cheaper. But no. Each and every issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man was available at full print cover price. $3.99. Four bucks for one digital comic. And after paying six dollars for six issues, there was no way I was going to pay four times as much for a quarter of the content. No. Way.
Marvel had me. I liked the series. I wanted to read more. But their ridiculous pricing structure made it cost-prohibitive for me. And I don’t mean to single out Marvel. DC and other companies are guilty of this, too. (Though, to be fair, at least DC drops the price of their books a full dollar a month after street date.) I simply refuse to pay the same price for a digital copy that I would for a physical copy. It costs publishers literally nothing to put a digital comic online for purchase. There’s no printing or shipping costs, which contribute more than anything to the high price of comics these days. So for them to try to sell us digital comics for the price of something we can actually hold in our hands, well, they must not think very highly of us at all.
And that’s my rant for this week. Check out my picks of the week below. And rest assured, I bought each one of these comics in print form at my local comic shop. (Well, not the Invisibles Omnibus. I admit, that one I bought from Amazon. $150 retail is a little pricey.)
Picks of the Week
- America’s Got Talent #3 (Image), by Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch
- Invisibles Omnibus HC (DC/Vertigo), by Grant Morrison and various artists
- Mind MGMT #4 (Dark Horse), by Matt Kindt
- Punisher #14 (Marvel), by Greg Rucka and Mico Suayan
- Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 (IDW), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
- Scalped #60 (DC/Vertigo), by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
- Is ComiXology the future of comic books? (neowin.net)
- Fantagraphics Goes Digital With ComiXology – All Major Pubs Now Available (comicsworthreading.com)
- Comic Book Fix: Digital Comics on the Google Nexus 7 (donthatethegeek.com)
- ComiXology Sales Total An Estimated $19 Million In 2011, Could Triple in 2012 (comicsalliance.com)
- At last a digital comics number: ComiXology’s sales were $19M in ’11 (robot6.comicbookresources.com)