Monday, October 17, 2011

Digital Horizons: Up With Digital Exclusives, Down With Prices, Down With Piracy

The New York Times announced this past week that Archie comics has reacquired the rights to the Red Circle superheroes, and that they'll be publishing new comics about these superheroes in digital format only. This surprised me since DC was pushing the Red Circle characters so recently, but I guess they weren't doing well, so might as well sell them back to Archie. The really interesting thing to me about this news is that Archie is going to be offering these digital comics via a subscription service. Part of me is intrigued by the idea of paying a monthly rate to have unlimited access to anything I want to read (a la Marvel's Digital Vault), but another part of me holds onto the idea of wanting to own the comics I read, not just rent them.

Meanwhile, Fleen, "the webcomics blog about webcomics," reports the results of scholar Mia Weisner's research into digital comics buying habits and interests. Fleen finds most notable, and I agree, Weisner's report that 90% of comics readers who are willing to buy digital comics are not willing to pay more than 60% of cover price for them. I apparently fall in the 2.4% minority of stupid people who are willing to pay full price. Not that I'm happy about it. I really think digital comics would do much better if the price point were lower. $0.99 per issue, same as an MP3, seems like the right point to me. But apparently I don't believe that strongly enough to refuse to pay more.

iFanboy has an interview with a former digital pirate who has given up pirating because, basically, the influx of legal digital comics made the whole thing uninteresting to him. It seems like that's basically what happened in the music industry--at first the industry was afraid to go digital because they didn't want to make piracy too easy, but piracy thrived in spite of them until the industry finally did go digital, making the piracy more or less redundant (not that it doesn't happen anymore, but my impression is that it happens much less than it did in the late nineties and early naughts). Of course, the music industry sells individual units at one buck a pop, not three or four bucks. Just saying.


  1. Dizzying, that the Red Circle characters are back at Archie, especially after DC made a big push to have them cameo in a bunch of titles, and then solicited-and-cancelled trades for the first issues of those series. I'd like a panel where Green Arrow says, "Wait, where's the Shield? He was here a minute ago."

    Pricing is something all the companies will have to work out -- no doubt it's a process, same as with the music industry. I'm not blessed to have a dedicated digital reading device, and if I did maybe I'd feel differently, but I'm no more inclined to pay $2.99 for one sliver of a story (an issue) in print, let alone $2.99 for a digital issue that I'm licensing rather than owning.

    Ninety-nine cents sounds right, but even then I'd really need to fall in love with reading on a device before I bought my top-tier titles that way (though maybe I'd finally sample All-Star Western ...).

  2. Ha ha, that would be awesome if the characters acknowledge the disappearing Red Circle characters. Maybe we can at least get that from Ambush Bug. And yeah, there are a lot of books I'd sample for a buck that I won't for two, three, or four.