By Darryl Ayo
Instead of writing in my own blog, I’ve been intensely debating, arguing and fighting on other people’s blogs. The issue of the day is DC Comics’ new digital distribution plan. For the record, some information is here:
So here’s my issue. No pun intended:
An average song on iTunes costs 99 cents. The average music album is $9.99. Many video game apps that you can download on a smartphone are free, 99 cents or a few dollars (as opposed to forty to sixty dollars for console games)
An average printed comic book is 2.99, 3.50 or 3.99. The price that DC is proposing to sell them for in their digital store is whatever the price on the print version’s cover is. So, when JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 comes out later this summer at $3.99, the digital customer will be asked to pay 3.99.
Part of being a digital customer of media is letting go of the desire for resource-consuming, space-consuming physical media. The benefits are a cleaner house and a lower cost. But for some strange reason, in the bizarre world (no pun intended) of American comic books, the digital customer is asked to pass on the savings, even though s/he is forgoing the physical product. It makes no sense. NO PUN INTENDED. WELL…PUN IS ACTUALLY APPROPRIATE.
I’m not buying that. Literally, I won’t buy it. Marvel Comics, DC’s chief competitor has already implimented “day-and-date” releases for the same price. The trade-off for both entities is that after a few week’s time (I suppose a month), the digital price will drop. But since the comics that they sell and promote are so very focused on being “present,” the avid reader doesn’t want to be a month behind the people with whom s/he discusses comics. And for those like myself who have run out of shelf space and are rapidly running out of floor space, piling on more of these expensive magazines seems more and more untenable. But since the digital customer is getting less for the sale, the cost should be less.
I am very much a person who enjoys holding a book or a magazine in my hands. I think that the kind of art that DC Comics and Marvel Comics publishes looks better on paper, than on my iPhone screen. And since I know that there are fewer middlemen involved in the digital sale, I don’t understand–and cannot rationalize–paying the same price for what is demonstratively LESS PRODUCT.
There are some counterpoints to this.
I do buy digital comics when I feel that they are appropriate. I enjoy taking part in the “digital sales” that the companies put together weekly, in which a particular group of their titles are available for 99 cents. And that’s a price that I can get behind. I absolutely will buy a digital comic issue for 99 cents. That is on the level of what I pay for songs that I buy as well as my favorite app-based video games. I think that customers like myself respond to the single-dollar price point because it strikes a balance between paying for something and that something being immaterial. Also, when it comes to commodities, the less something costs, the more of it people tend to buy. Since DC Comics and Marvel Comics are in the business of selling entire universes of interconnected stories, it has long been vital to their business to encourage loyalty. More simpy: the less that a given comic costs, the more that the comic reader will be likely to also purchase related comics. The things are designed to hook you in and lure you into reading its sibling publications–but that won’t occur if the customer sees a price that doesn’t seem fair and just closes the app entirely.
If you want my loyalty, here’s my price: 99 cents. Match it or go kick rocks.