October 17, 2011

Digital Comics: What They're Doing Right (sort of)

I got an e-mail this morning from Comixology and Marvel telling me that they were running a "half off sale" until 11:00 AM.
That's half off $1.99. So already, Comixology is offering these comic book issues at a low price compared to current new issues ($2.99 to $4.99). This price covers almost all old issues -- issues that are collector's items in print and may run $10, $20, $50, or more in comic shops and on eBay; issues that were originally $.35 on the newsstand; and issues that are only a few years or months old and originally were $1.99 to $3.99 or whatever.
Comixology is a nice "equalizer" in that way. In digital comics, there is no collectibility. You can't invest, buying a $3 book featuring Obama with Spider-Man and hope that you can resell it sometime for a tidy profit. But on the flip side, you aren't spending $100 because you want to finally read that issue about Spider-Man meeting Obama and you realize that the only way that's going to happen is to buy it from one of those people who want to make that tidy profit. Again, though, because prices are so fixed, you're not going to be able to find that issue on eBay for $.25 starting bid because they finally understand that, really, they aren't putting their kid through college because they bought a comic book with Obama and Spider-Man inside and now they just want to get rid of them.
So prices are "fixed". Sort of. You can buy any of DC Comics' new books the same day they arrive in comic shops, but you will pay full cover price for them for a period of time, before the price drops to that magical $1.99.
And then there are the sales. DC Comics was running some fairly regular weekend sales, with a selection of half off comics. When the Green Lantern movie came out, you can bet that they had a bunch of Green Lantern comics for just $.99. When their big Flashpoint crossover was hitting stores, they ran a sale on Flash comics.
They also frequently have sales for the smaller publishers titles.
And now this e-mail from Marvel. This is the first sale from Marvel that I remember seeing, and like the DC sale, it has a time limit. For this one, all twenty-seven issues of Immortal Iron Fist are $.99 each. If you were to buy these at cover price, that would be about $100 you'd drop. If you were to buy the collections on Amazon, you'd be spending $42 (they have some of those "bargain priced" right now).
And I find myself in a quandary. As of this writing, I have one hour if I want to get in on the sale. This is a series I wanted to read, but my local comic shop didn't have the entire series by the time I realized I might like it (that's the way of things for me -- I'm late to the party, always). But if I'm going to spend the $27, why not spend the $42? I have birthday money, right? And I'll have the entire story on my shelf, in nice and tidy graphic novels. Then again, if I get it for my iPad, I don't have to worry about using shelf space. And really, am I going to read it again?
The truth is, while I have the comic apps, I haven't bought any comics on them. In fact, the only comic on any of those Comixology apps that I have on my iPad right now that I paid for, I bought at a comic shop! It's Justice League #1, the digital edition. Cover price $4.99, it came with the comic book and a code to put in to allow you to download the issue as well.
The clock is ticking. Just under an hour now. There's something else they are getting right: that sense of urgency.
In the end, I think I know what I'll be doing. I'll probably put off the choice . . . not do either . . . and then, if I think of it I'll get them from the library.
If I think of it.
What about you? Are you on the digital comics bandwagon? Or is it paper only for you? Or are you like me, hanging somewhere in-between?
~ Ben

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