Quotable 04/05/10

April 5th, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

Kiel Phegley: How significant an impact does Marvel feel the iPad and similar devices will have on Marvel’s bottom line? Any predictions as to when – if ever – comics go completely digital?

Joe Quesada: Are you kidding, the significance could be…well, significant. The iPad could be the new feeder system for brick and mortar stores. Ever since the newsstand really died for comics, that element has been missing in many ways. Trades in bookstores picked up some of the slack, but the newsstand used to be huge. I think the iPad will be that and more and will improve the sales of comics in all areas, especially at comic shops. That’s why we have the comic shop locator built into the app.

Joe Quesada, Cup o’ Joe 04/02/10

I don’t know that I agree with Joe Q’s answer. When I stopped buying CDs, getting an iPod didn’t send me back to Best Buy. It sent me to AmazonMP3. What’s much, much more likely is that mainstream digital comics and comic shop comics will split into two separate, but complementary, revenue streams. I try to minimize the floppies I buy because I vastly prefer trades. I buy mp3s and ebooks at a wholly irresponsible pace due in large part to the fact that I don’t have to worry about storage. If I start buying comics on the iPad, I’m not going to click the little “Go to a comic shop!” button to start filling up my house. I’m going to click the “Buy digital comics” button to fill up my iPad with every issue Hypno Hustler ever appeared in.

While it’s nice that Marvel is attempting to maintain favor with the retailers, and stressing that in their press releases to an almost absurd degree, but I can’t see any iPad revolution sending people to comic shops without Marvel self-sabotaging their digital sales. Remember when DC Comics announced that there’d be no trade of Identity Crisis until at least a year after the series ended?

Yeah, that’s self-sabotage. It’s stupid. You’re leaving money in wallets. It’s nice that retailers make bank off floppies, but there’s a large subset of readers who don’t care to buy a 32 page pamphlet. Manga used to come out over here in floppies, remember that? Now it comes out in fat little trades. The market adjusted to the demand.

I hope Marvel goes all in. I’m talking simultaneous releases on Wednesdays, fat packs of classic stories, freebie issues to get people caught up on characters… go big or go home. DC is asleep at the wheel, as anyone who attended the terrible DC Nation panel this past weekend knows. They have vague platitudes about how stuff is on the way, we’re looking into it, really, and asinine anecdotes about how digital comics can’t replicate the experience of folding out pages in Blackest Night #8 and wah wah wah plastic doesn’t feel like paper.

Pop quiz, hot shot: who cares? You aren’t trying to sell digital comics to people who already buy your books and care about whether or not you use crappy paper that smells bad. You’re trying to sell digital comics to people who don’t already buy your books. If some fanboy loves paper so much, let him buy the physical product. Shoot, push a variant out there and let him buy two. You’ve got us, all two hundred thousand of us. We’re there, hook, line, and sinker. Now, go get them. Get my mom, get my grandparents, get my cousins. Get people who have never, and will never, step foot in a comic shop, whether that’s because they can’t find them or because they don’t exist in their area.

Marvel is big enough to force a change in the industry, for good or for ill. Coming hot out of the gates on the iPad is great. Now keep it up and break out of the crap complacency and one-upsmanship that defines both companies and start throwing some weight around. Put the boot in.

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21 comments to “Quotable 04/05/10”

  1. Marvel has already shot themselves in the foot by pricing their comics at $2 instead of $1. It also shouldn’t be surprising that Marvel has that attitude towards digital comics. After all, the general attitude at Marvel, and DC to be fair, is “You will like comics the way we like comics or you won’t get them at all.” This goes for everything from collections to digital comics and right down to the characters themselves. I mean, how many creators have come out against digital comics simply because they prefer reading a hard copy?

    Given that Marvel and DC’s only real business strategy is to appeal to their hardcore fanbase, it’s not surprising that they either dismiss a very large potential new audience or, if they even think about that audience, that they think this new audience has to like comics they way people at Marvel do.

  2. I think Marvel actually made a good choice with the price point – yeah, right now, it’s pure profit since they’re already doing all the editorial/creative/legal costs for the print copy, but the actual print/distribution costs are never as high as you think. To actually have the digital comic market work, it has to financially make sense. i.e., if Marvel makes, say, $1.50 off each floppy, they need to make $1.50 off each digital comic sold. If they make less revenue off of a digital issue than a print one, well, that leads to death in the end.

  3. I’m with Andrew– two bucks is half retail for a lot of books, two-thirds retail for others, and works out to about twelve dollars an arc, a price I routinely pay on Amazon for stories. Of course I wouldn’t mind paying a dollar, but I’m okay with paying two bucks.

  4. Seeing the Marvel App on the iPad makes me really want one. I think 2$ is as low as they can go without making B&M go fucking postal. Frankly the whole endeavor is still a little out of my price range, (500$ + ~12-20$/mo) but the Panel by panel view, the digital bookshelf, and the quality of the screen do have me salivating. a savings of ~2$ per book would pay for itself slowly as well, but I wish there was a way for me to try it out for a week before dropping half a grand.

    I do think devices like the iPad will be the slow dismantling of print periodicals, but only when they become ubiquitous. And yes it will slowly start to dismantle B&M, and likely be bad for comics much in the same way that discount online retailers dismantled a lot of (board & rpg) game shops. The future’s a digital one, there’s no way we’re putting that genie back in the bottle.

  5. I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the economics behind comics, physical or digital, but $2 seems too much to pay for something that you don’t own a physical copy of or can’t use on another platform. Sure, it may be cheaper than buying the physical issues but a lot of people seem to think those are overpriced to begin with anyway.

  6. It does seem like Marvel could sell issues at $1 a piece, considering how much they’re saving on printing, paying Diamond, and making sure retailers get their cut. Of course, I say this not knowing how much money it costs them to sell their stuff digitally. Still, I have to imagine it’s considerably less than the costs associated with print.

  7. Will the iPad and others like it destroy the B&M stores? Maybe. I suspect if it does, it’ll be a slow burn, like Joseph suggests. Of course, if you can only get certain things in the B&M stores, then maybe that will help. If publishers can do exclusive content for both, can’t they have the best of both worlds?

    I’m cutting back on my comic buying, primarily due to space. The B&M stores are losing me regardless of the iPad. The iPad (or a similar device–I’m not sold on the iPad just yet) might actually keep me from leaving the industry altogether.

    I agree with Eric that $2 is steep for something you don’t actually own. My understanding (and I do not own an iPad, nor have I investigated Marvel’s app, so this is just hearsay) is that you pay $2 for what is basically a rental. You don’t keep it the way you do music. Does anyone know if that is true?

    Their digital initiative is NOT pure profit. They may have already paid for the page rates on those books, but they still had to shell out for the development of the app, formatting the books, paying someone to manage the whole thing, etc. While the printing and distribution fees may be gone (although I’m sure Apple gets a cut of every book sold, which is why it isn’t a subscription based app), there are different costs associated with this new distribution.

    If I could get a Marvel digital subscription and had access to that on the iPad, that would be very tempting. But I’m not sure how feasible that is, and I’m definitely not plopping down $500 on the chance that it is. There are alternatives to the iPad in development, so I may just wait on those.

  8. I’m interested to see how it all pans out, but I have no interest in reading comics on a screen unless I have to (like Bayoux before it came out as a trade). As unfashionable as it is, I love my paper copies. I stare at a PC all day for my job, it’s nice to relax with a piece of paper with pretty pictures on it.

  9. DC’s complete resistance to going digital is something that I absolutely hate and will never understand about them. I don’t buy comics, and therefore don’t read them because there are no comic shops close to where I live, and I don’t usually have the time to stop by one anyway. I would gladly buy digital comics, and they’re losing that potential revenue. I’m sure there are other people like me who want to read comics, but don’t particularly care to invest in a bunch of overpriced, mostly poor-quality little magazines that just take up space and fall apart in a couple years anyway.

    I used to buy comics online, and when I did so, I’d always download a digital copy of my purchase as well (yes, yes, illegality aside) because I enjoy the convenience of being able to open a folder, find the comic I want to read, and read it right there on my computer without having to search through a stack of musty physical copies.

    I don’t give a crap about fold-out splash pages or whatever new gimmick DC wants to come up with in an attempt to prove that physical copies are superior. There will always be a market for them (as those Newsarama polls about digital comics that always make me want to scream at my monitor when I read the comments by the people who will NEVER EVER EVER BUY A DIGITAL COMIC prove), regardless of these gimmicks. But damn guys, you’re already in a shrinking, niche industry, and you’d think that you’d want to branch out to reach the most people possible since everything is going digital instead of hiding in the dingy local comic shop. You’re just going to look stupid in a couple years when you’re forced to go digital and make some self-congratulatory press release about how you’ve always been interested in producing digital comics.

    I wish we could get some digital service that isn’t tied directly to something like the iPad, which I never intend to purchase. I just want to be able to use something like AmazonMP3, where I can log in, buy a comic, and read it on my computer, regardless of what type of computer it is. I thought the Longbox thing was supposed to be that, but I am wondering if it will ever come out, and even if it does it’s looking like DC, the company I am most interested in, will probably not support it.

  10. This isn’t specifically directed at anyone here, but I’ve never really heard an argument against digital comics that goes beyond “I like the way comics feel and smell and oh the experience and OH MY GOD YES YES PRINT I LOVE IT.” Yeah, I personally like the “feel” of comics too, and I like having a bookcase full of trades and hardcovers but that’s personal preference, and that’s just right now. I think it’s naive and short sighted to think that people will ignore an easier method of consumption. I mean, I like vinyl a lot too. Whatever. I’m not going to the record store every week to pick up new albums because it’s easier and faster to download them online. On Christmas Day 2009 Kindle books outsold print books. I think history has shown us that this type of thing will happen time and time again and I have no reason to believe the comics industry will be any different than the television, music, or book industry.

    Marvel, for the most part, has embraced this idea for years. I dunno what the hold up is over at DC.

  11. As much as I kind of detest the way everyone acts like a big iPhone isthe second coming of jesus christ himself, I have to admit digital comics are the future and definitely where we should go and I applaud Marvel for giving it a shot.

  12. I wish I’d seen that quote from Mr. Quesada earlier. Now I’m just gonna sound like an also-ran, but David’s absolutely right. Digital comics are not going to be a feeder into DM stores, much less brick and mortar or mailorder stores. Digital comics are a destination, not a road to more of the same. I realize that in his position as EIC of the cornerstone publisher of the DM, Mr. Quesada may feel it necessary to stay things like that in order to keep from antagonizing his biggest customers, but that doesn’t make what he said true.

  13. I don’t understand why going hard on digital comics means the destruction of Brick and Mortar stores.

    I’m a 4 to 6 book a week guy. I love going to my store. I love my single issues pile. Paper feels lovely all over my finger tips. Marvel has me. My local has me.

    Go after everyone else. The comics marketplace doesn’t have to be zero sum. Digital Cheap Comics can be a bigger market place the one we have now. Both can co-exists for as long as paper doesn’t become insanely expensive.

  14. Regarding Quesada’s comment and digital being the destruction of brick and mortar stores, the thing I do hate about the current digital strategies is that they’re trying to use them in service of the physical stores. I subscribed to Marvel’s digital service for a while, but I didn’t really like it because they constantly advertised and tried to get me to buy things I was already paying for. I enjoyed it and read tons of comics I wouldn’t normally read during the time I was a subscriber, but something about them trying to get me to go to a local store and pay for the comics I was already in essence paying for left a bad taste in my mouth. And the way the service was intentionally handicapped to inexplicably not include full runs of popular comics and not offer new releases until weeks or months after they came out always felt a little underhanded to me.

    They do need to be treated as distinct markets. I don’t want a digital service that is constantly trying to get me to go buy physical copies, because that’s not what I want. If I’m paying for the convenience of digital comics, it’s because I don’t really want to go down to the physical store and buy my comics.

  15. I love record stores. There’s no good ones around me unless I want to drive more than two hours. I buy MP3s now. I buy more music than I used to, but not in stores.

    I love comic stores. There’s no good ones around me unless I want to drive more than two hours. I don’t buy exclusively digital comics or mail order comics. Yet. But I can see it happening.

    They don’t have to be two distinct markets, but I think they’re going to be.

  16. I am not sure what the answer is, but I am reluctant to pay more for a digital comic than I would pay for digital music. Ninety nine cents sounds pretty good. An extra fifty cents might work. A full two dollar comic that I cannot resell or use any other platform? Possible, but I do not know how probable that is.

    Then we get into how big these files are. They are not like most digital comics. They actually have a panel flow set-up that REALLY appeals to me.

    -typed on my iPad

  17. @West3man: I really think once the library becomes substantial and it becomes easier to buy more and more of your favorite titles with the click of a button that price will seem pretty reasonable. If I could start up a subscription to my favorite comic for 24 bucks a year, downloading it to my iPad every month? Hell, I’d do that right now, and I think the same goes for a few people.

    The “99 cents for a song, 99 cents for a comic” is probably an unfair comparison. After all, you’re getting 20-something pages of story as opposed to a couple of minutes worth of music. Is it more worth it? Less worth it? Who knows? Couldn’t you just as easily compare it to a television episode that you download from iTunes?

  18. I’m going to be contrarian and admit that I still like comics I can feel in my hands over digital. I can browse through my physical collection and stumble upon a story I want to read again, or use the covers to cue my memories, or put them in a special box to remind myself to read them later. Digital comics get lost in the computer–I don’t even remember I have them. It’s like my collection of 30,000+ MP3s, too many to even remember what some of them sound like or where I got them, and sorting through them doesn’t help.

    There are a lot of advantages to digital comics, but only if they break the 22-page model. I look to digital to provide something different from paper comics, not just a cheaper, more disposable version of the same thing.

  19. I’m not buying any digital comic at $2/issue. A song, which quite frankly I’ll go back to more often than I’ll go back to any comic, is $1 apiece. $2 for one comic is a really bad deal by that standard.

  20. […] Blogger David Brothers: "I don’t know that I agree with Joe Q’s answer. When I stopped buying CDs, getting an iPod […]

  21. I don’t know if digital comics on the IPad will result in more traffic to direct retailers, but I do think the comparison of the IPad to the IPod is faulty. Buying an album on ITunes, for a majority of consumers, results in exactly the same experience as buying the album on a CD. Not many people talk about “collecting CDs”, or liking the way the physical product feels in the hand, the bottom line is the act of listening to music is the same whether you bought the album from ITunes or bought a physical CD and then imported it onto your IPod.

    That said, I am not sure that someone who buys his/her first comic on the IPad (or first in a while) will then decide to go out and fill up their house with floppys and trades. I do know that I love my Kindle but haven’t stopped buying books in their traditional paper format.