DIGITAL COMICS: Wave of the future… Or Comic Store Killer?

Posted: August 1, 2010 in Comic Book Distribution, Controversy, Digital Comic Books
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Yeah, an iPad has all kinds of bells and whistles-- but can it fit on a Spinner Rack?

The SAVIOR or the DEVIL… Depending on who you ask.

Apple may take a 30% vig on those millions of applications offered for sale in their APPS Store– but they earn PENNIES for each iTunes track or “album” purchased. This is well-known. Why is Apple willing to do this? Because they want to sell more iPods. They are willing to have the iTunes store “break even” (I’m sure it does better than that) to make the majority of their ca$h on their hardware.

Apples used the “pennies per track’ defense fighting the Music Industry… Whose major players insisted that they be allowed to up the price of individual songs from .99 cents to $1.29. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was afraid he would sell

Ice will tell you it's ALWAYS been "All about the Benjamins"

less iPods because of the price increase. This was also the same reason Amazon fought the book distributors over selling Digital eBooks for more than $9.99. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos worried he’d sell less Kindle eReaders. Jobs would be having this exact BATTLE with book publishers now that Apple has released the iPad– except Bezos already lost.

Neither titan had to worry. Digital content prices went up and their hardware sales still increased… As more and more consumers decided to indulge in the new gadgets.

Unfortunately, it seems that many Comic Book Store Owners are under the pie-in-the-sky impression that Marvel, DC and the other comic book publishers will somehow use this new platform to aid their retail stores. Some retailers are so deluded, they’ve actually convinced themselves that the major 2 comic publishers (Marvel & DC) will use digital comic delivery as a means to “help” them “recruit” new customers for their comic stores.

And maybe they will– initially– if it makes the right economic sense for them. But if Marvel & DC can make more money on digital comics by foregoing all PHYSICAL distribution– meaning every single “Brick & Mortar” comic store would go “poof”… They would do so tomorrow in a gnat’s heartbeat.

We’re all dealing with DISNEY now. The same Disney that opens retail stores by the thousands, then runs the same stores into the ground– and closes 3/4 of them tomorrow without batting an eye. (That’s how little something like retail sales means to Disney’s massive bottom line.)

Disney entering the comic game– coupled with the SUPERHERO MOVIE BOOM– has finally awakened Time-Warner… And they are suddenly treating DC like a more significant Corporate Cog. In fact, given recent rumors, I can easily predict that DC Comics will be moving their headquarters to Los Angeles any day now. Disney Studios has lots of land and lots of cash to build more buildings.

HOPE YOU LIKE DRIVING IN RUSH HOUR, DC EMPLOYEES!

Former DC Publisher Paul Levitz was the linchpin in keeping the old comics distribution paradigm alive. Since he’s not there anymore– and since the SUPERHERO MOVIE Can no longer be ignored… Everything is going to change. Things will change so much– that I’m afraid a previously unreleased, unpublished Warren Ellis Hellblazer comic finally seeing print is not going to make up for all wacky new stuff we’ll be forced to do if we want to keep reading these things.

Luckily for me (and every other retailer and collector)– most of this (except DC’s cross-country move) is a ways away from now.

Which is good for me, as I simply refuse to read comics on a computer or any other electronic gizmo. (I can barely stand to view short comic book previews on a LCD screen of any kind… So digital comics are definitely out for me as a reading option.) I like the tactile sensation of holding a book. I like being able to bury my nose in the paper pages (unless the book was printed in China of course).

But I’m an old man by today’s standards. Sooner than I’d like, kids will grow up not knowing what paper periodicals are.

Many comics have long been printed as loss leaders for merchandising sales anyway. I once had a DC Bigwig tell me that the Wonder

It's "Do or Die" with the Benjamins.

Woman comic hadn’t made any real profit (or had lost money) since the ’60′s… But DC couldn’t afford to stop publishing it because of the huge yearly windfall they received from merchandising the only RECOGNIZABLE Female Superhero. DC felt (and rightly so), that if they didn’t show they were making the effort to publish at least one MONTHLY Wonder Woman comic– that they would seem to be abandoning the character… And they would severely harm Wonder Woman’s merchandising potential.

As stated above, Brick & Mortar Comic Book Stores will CEASE to EXIST (as we know them) if the Big Two decide one day to go all digital, all the time.

But I don’t need to tell retailers any of this. The smart ones already get it. DISNEY could care less about them– and will violently jilt every comic book retailer the MINUTE they figure out how to make more money on comics utilizing the DIGITAL MEDIUM.

As costs for physical distribution– including gas, paper, ink and other essential materials continues to rise– comics (especially floppies) will eventually price themselves out of the market. (Hell, they’re almost there now.)

I’m not relishing this occurring in the least. But it WILL happen.

Pissed off about comic book quality now? Wait until you have to spend $80 of your own paper and printer ink to print out some great comic you’ve just read on your iPad… Because one day soon– that’s the only way that– you’ll be able to hold a new paper “comic book” in your hands.

I see only one silver lining to comics entering this new digital age. At least people won’t be paying exorbitant amounts to CGC to “slab” their new comics before they even read them. No physical comics– no new books smothered in an unnecessary protective plastic shell. Sorry fans that favor idiotic wastes of time, natural resources and collector’s money!  No more slabs for you!

But then again,  if you bought into the overly hyped marketed “necessity” of CGC grading– without questioning why you should have to pay someone else to grade your comics… Then reading a comic on an iPad probably seems “cool” right about now.

Comments
  1. Edward2962 says:

    A sobering view. But I wonder if the comic shop might become something closer to how vintage record stores (CD sales are down but vinyl sales are up) are now. That place for the collector instead of where you go for the latest thing? I’m like you, I want my paper product! A few years ago folks were predicting the death of print but it hasn’t happened as quickly cuz like I read someone say, no one wants to curl up in bed with a good laptop.

  2. Locusmortis says:

    Your missing out by not availing of reading comics on your computer. although I far prefer the paper version its handy to have digital copies of comics. If your not sure whether to start getting an unfamiliar writer or artist then it can be very useful to check out their previous work.

    Also its handy to have digital versions of comics you already own, if you need to check some detail you don’t have to go and fish them out of longboxes or whatever.

    • Insideman says:

      LM– The only comics I’ll read on a computer are short art/story previews for work I am unfamiliar with. I use these previews to determine if I am going to buy certain collections. And even they can be hard to find and tedious to read. (Please see My Pull List 8.4.10 for more thoughts on the subject.) I appreciate your fortitude. I am afraid I don’t share it though.

  3. [...] The Apple iPad is a near perfect platform for reading digital comic books, and this is something that I’m excited about. Why? I’ll get to that; but first, I need to point you to a thought-provoking post on Swear All You Like about digital comics as comic store killers. [...]

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