Marvel Pricing Digital Comics Three Times Higher Than Paper Copies [Updated]

from the economics-failure dept

Adam sends over a link to Scott Kurtz's discussion concerning Marvel's decision to price its digital comics for the iPad higher than paper copies. (Update: as is noted in the comments, it looks like it's not actually 3x the cost, but it still priced higher than the paper copy). As Kurtz notes, this serves no good consumer purpose whatsoever, and only serves to keep retailers happy:
I wish this made sense to me. The only reason to price the digital copy at 6 dollars is to keep retailers happy. It's not in service of Marvel readers and it's certainly not in service of expanding Marvel's audience. I have a lot of friends discovering Marvel comics for the first time through the iPad app. Paying for 1/3 of a comic for the same price they normally pay for a whole comic is not something they'll appreciate or understand. I get Marvel's desire to make a move like this without spooking retailers or Diamond. It's like a scuba-diver pacing his rise to the surface to avoid getting the bends. But what does Marvel risk by scaring off potential new digital customers by pricing a virtual copy of a comic higher than the physical copy you get to keep? And for what? To keep retailers happy?
Of course, we've seen this before. Incumbent businesses have legacy relationships. And one of the reasons why they're often so slow to shift to smart new business models is because it will upset those legacy relationships. But if your upstart competitors don't have those relationships and can route around them entirely to offer a better product for less, you're going to get hung up by your legacy relationships. Kurtz suggests that Marvel stop worrying about retailers and focus on consumers for once:
The only problem with that thinking is that Marvel Comics isn't in the business of keeping retailers solvent. Marvel Comics is in the business of producing and distributing comic books to as many readers as possible. At least it SHOULD be. And if digital distribution has a chance of being more profitable than brick-and-mortar store distribution then Marvel owes it to its readers, creators and stock holders to pursue that business without having to worry about someone else's business for nostalgia's sake.

Marvel should take a page out of Steve Job's notebook on this one. Be visionary and push ahead no matter who it pisses off. Especially if it's good for the company, readers and the industry itself.
It's easier said than done, but not doing it can be a lot more costly in the long run.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    mike, you have an mba. couldnt you actually have a look at this and realize that there are costs involved in digital delivery and distribution that might make this price more reasonable? everything from digitizing the material to the processing and stocking fees on various resellers, etc? the price isnt random, so why is it $6 instead of $50 or $1?

    your post is quick to slam, but sorely lacking in an insight into the situation.

     

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    m3mnoch (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    Re:

    heh. somebody needs a lesson in fixed costs.

    m3mnoch.

     

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    jjmsan (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    Re:

    Of course you could have done this too. Then we could have read an insightful useful post rather than your usual bid for attention. There is no way digitalizing material and delivering it costs more than print copies. Most print is done digital now anyway so the producer could just stop at the scanning process and not incur printing, ink, paper and transportation costs. Since these are all incured in producing the hard copy the digital costs should be no more than half that of the hard copy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re:

    jjmsan, that only covers one part of it. what is the difference in costs on retailing? what is different in the business models? what is the take by digital retailers compared to hard copy sales?

    "Since these are all incured in producing the hard copy the digital costs should be no more than half that of the hard copy." - basically, you are guessing. rather than assuming anything, wouldnt it be better to look at the business models and situations before quickly damning them?

     

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    Jay (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

    My mind literally stopped after reading $6 dollars.

    It went "Wait, what...?", as I tried to process Marvel believing that no one can find the comics for a cheaper price, It's much more than the traditional comic and probably has no added incentive of extra pages or anything else.

    Well, let's not forget that Marvel is owned by Disney so all of their decisions can't make sense. I believe Disney's monopolistic tendencies are interfering with Marvel's business sense.

     

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    big al, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:34pm

    digital cost???

    oh yeah.... it cost soooooo much that 1 person can upload a months worth (over 100) at a cost of....hummmmmm pennies?
    another FAIL !!!

     

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    Chris, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Not to nit pick here

     

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    Spyder (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

    Re: #1

    Reality begs to differ. Comics are made in one of two ways.

    1) The artist draws the comic in his/her drawing software of choice, from which it is sent to the editor and finally to the publisher in digital form where it is printed.

    2) The artist draws the comic on paper, from which the editor scans and cleans up the comic as necessary before sending it to the publisher in digital form where it is printed.

    Do you see what happens there? All comics are printed from a digital file, thus there is no digitization/processing/stocking cost beyond what is already done for brick-and-mortar stores. Developing the app is cheap and a one-time cost, easily recouped by $.10/comic or less over a short amount of time.

    There is insight lacking somewhere, but I don't think it was in the featured post...

     

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    Chris, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Not to nit pick here

    Oops, hit enter too soon on accident!

    Anyways, not to nit pick, but do a bit of research before just saying something is 3 times the price. I can't remember the last time I saw any Marvel comics priced at $2. Most comics cost around $3 (or more) now.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    bingo

    it always has been the same thing, whether it's DRM, piracy issues, patent infringement, etc: it's extremely shortsighted, which is horrible for any company that plans to exist for more than the next 5-10 years.

     

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    Spyder (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: Not to nit pick here

    Marvel comic cost $2.08/month if you are a subscriber or 3.99 each.

     

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    Spyder (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not to nit pick here

    We really need an edit button...

    source: http://subscriptions.marvel.com/

     

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    bshock, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:54pm

    Re:

    I'm always amused by this sort of rationalization. The claim is always similar: "There's a reason this costs so much."

    Perhaps because Mike is an MBA, he understands that the market doesn't care about manufacturing or distribution expenses. Customers will pay what customers will pay, and if you're charging more than customers will pay, you lose sales.

    That's the only bottom line that matters.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:02pm

    Re:

    "there are costs involved in digital delivery and distribution"

    There are costs involved in paper distribution, too. Are you honestly trying to say that the creation and transfer of a digital file are up to 3 times more than the typesetting, printing, physical hauling, marginal retailer costs, etc. that accompany paper printing? *sigh* yes, you are, aren't you?

    "stocking fees on various resellers"

    Why would there be more of these for digital distribution than physical (i.e. physical, extremely limited shelf space vs. might-as-well-be-infinite hard drive space)? That makes no sense whatsoever. Hell, why would you need resellers to begin with?

    "so why is it $6 instead of $50 or $1?"

    Because morons such as yourself are scared of the boogeyman of "piracy" and think they can offset some of the "losses" by raising prices artificially.

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "wouldnt it be better to look at the business models and situations before quickly damning them?"

    wouldnt it be better to look at the business models and situations before quickly supporting them?

    There, FTFY.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re:

    paul, stocking fees often have nothing to do with physical space. it is a question of time to add, maintain, and eventual remove the content, to manage the listings, etc. get your head out of the physical issues of paper versus the digital non-paper, the work is still there, just in a different form.

    failure to understand that very simple point pretty much makes the rest of your post a rant. still hoping that mba boy will be able to add to the discussion.

     

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    Are digital customers even the same as paper customers? I think they are different. If Marvel thinks even half of their paper customers are going to stop buying paper and start buying digital, I think they are dead wrong. Paper customers are collectors and admirers of physical media. Digital customers just want to be entertained. The digital versions should not cost more than paper versions, they should be free. In if retailers think their sales will decrease, f them, they are wrong anyway.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:12pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What is the marginal cost of an infinitely reproducible good again?

     

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    sehlat (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    So what?

    Marvel jumped the shark years ago.

     

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Six bucks for a comic book? WTF? We're surely doomed now.

    I guess the only thing that will come out of this is more proof of how the moron population in this country is growing exponentially, if any of said morons actually have the six bucks they need to scrape up. It's a frigging comic book! Nothing more! Six dollars? What kind of brain-dead loser would cough up that much for a digital copy of anything? Jayzus! I'll go out on a limb here (actually, an oak tree trunk) and say that anyone who actually forks over six bucks for a digital comic book has permanently and incontrovertibly put themselves in the top tier of candidates for the Morons' Hall of Fame for 2010 and beyond. More and more, as each day passes, I believe the movie Idiocracy was not so much a comically dystopic view of the future in the USA, but an actual documentary of the current state of affairs here. Keeerist! I'm getting the hell out of here ASAP.

     

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    AdamR (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: #1

    +1

     

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    AdamR (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Put down the crack pipe.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re:

    There you go.

    But, you have to admit, in the future, collectors (the market) will pay more for even the most banal of paper comics.

    In time, the price will go down as more content is available, but until then, there are additional expenses that need to be covered which include bringing in programmers and new software and hardware to accomplish this task.

     

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    the mighty sore, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:08pm

    just to clarify

    The comic in question is actually an 80 page special, the $4.99 price for the -paper- version is sort of a bargain, considering many of Marvel's 32 page comics cost $3.99 now. (BTW in 32 page comics there's usually only 22 pages of comics.)

    And, no, I'm not trying to rationalize Marvel's decision, it's stupid.

     

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    pclanguy, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:14pm

    Supply, Demand, and Convenience

    Being a long time comic book collector since my teenage years (I'm in my 40s now) there's a definate draw to the digital media.

    Any serious collector just needs to go open their closet and see the stacks of boxes, the countless hours bagging and boarding your collection so that the comic you bought 20 years ago looks like the day you bought it, etc. to understand that the collector isn't moving away from their media.

    That being said... as someone who travels for a living now, simply pulling out my iPad on the plane and having a portable collection for entertainment is very appealing, but not $6 appealing.

    Oh, and for those who think it costs more because it's digital? 1) Reread the above. 2) Go bury your head in the sand because that's about what your gray matter is worth right now.

    Plain and simple... they're being greedy and seeing whether they can get away with it. Digital comics aren't new, but they're hot now because of the iPad. They're just like everyone else... let's make a buck while people will pay for it. When they don't pay for it we'll drop the price back to what's it's been in the past.

     

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    JackSombra (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Those "extra" expences are minimal in comparison to the cost saving on digital distribution vs hard copy. If you get a decent uptake (which you would get if you just reduce price by just the retailers cut, never mind cutting out and passing on the printing/distribution savings) you would earn those expences back in minimal time

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:23pm

    Of course they're charging more.

    Don't forget, Marvel was one of the backers to have HTMLComics taken down.

    Now with no competitors, let the "screwing" of customers begin.

    I mean, just look at music.

    If it's digital, and infinite, their goal is to set the price to infinite.

    No need for a degree to figure this out.

     

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    bob, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:25pm

    The Physical

    Comic has value, and sometimes that value increases.
    I sold my XMen and Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four comics where the Silver Surfer is introduced for a nice amount of cash.
    Try to do that with a digital copy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Exactly in which of your universes does the cost of an IT team running a database server cost more than hundreds of retail stores paying part-time shelf-stockers?

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:40pm

    Wait... am I missing something here? The print version has been priced lower than average for the page count, and will retail at $4.99 for 80 pages. The digital version will be split up into three chapters and sold for $1.99 each. A one dollar difference.

    Again, that is a difference of 98 cents

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:42pm

    Wait... am I missing something here? The print version has been priced lower than average for the page count, and will retail at $4.99 for 80 pages. The digital version will be split up into three chapters and sold for $1.99 each. That is a difference of 98 cents

     

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    Clifford VanMeter, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:43pm

    Been in this business for 20-years

    It's important to realize that Marvel's business decisions in the past have led to their bankruptcy and the permanent crippling of the direct distribution system on which comics depended for since the 1970's.

    While Marvel and DC play footies with the idea of digital editions, independent companies (including mine) are producing web comics, print editions and digital editions that bypass traditional distribution and appeal to a much broader audience. The future of comics is affordable (our's will be 99ยข) digital editions.

    Clifford VanMeter
    http://arctoscomics.com

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:43pm

    Some broken html screwed up my post. One last time:

    Wait... am I missing something here? The print version has been priced lower than average for the page count, and will retail at $4.99 for 80 pages. The digital version will be split up into three chapters and sold for $1.99 each. That is a difference of 98 cents.

    Where is the "3 times higher" part of the equation?

    The price hasn't been raised on the digital version. The 2009 costs for the average 80 page comic was $5.99. The digital version is standard price.

    Why shouldn't Marvel give retailers a break by lowering the price of the physical copy?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 4:46pm

    "Marvel should take a page out of Steve Job's notebook on this one. Be visionary and push ahead no matter who it pisses off."

    And apparently attract the attention of federal regulators to boot. We know how that Helped Microsoft long-term.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:06pm

    Re:

    The "six dollars" is for an 80 page giant. And those sold for $5.99 in 2009.

    There is nothing accurate about either the knee jerk reaction of Scott Kurtz or Mike Masnick. Retailers are getting a 98cent discount from standard pricing. Digital consumers are paying marginally less than standard prices for a 80 page book.

    The problem is that people do what you just did. Their minds "literally stop" and they don't investigate the actual facts, which are very easy to look into.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:11pm

    Re: Re:

    I did look into this. And Mike is wrong, as is Scott Kurtz. the comic in question is an 80 page book that would have been priced (in 2009) for 5.99. The physical version of the book is being sold at a reduction of normal cost, as opposed to the suggestion that the digital version has been priced beyond normal.

    It is certainly arguable that the digital version should cost less. But Marvel still receives a great deal of it's comic revenue from brick and mortar stores, and is not hurting the digital customer by giving the non-digital a slight price break. Particularly when digital consumers get the additional option of buying one chapter at a third the price and determining if they like the material enough to purchase the remaining two chapters.

    If anyone here does have an MBA, they're not using it properly.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "stocking fees often have nothing to do with physical space. it is a question of time to add, maintain, and eventual remove the content, to manage the listings, etc"

    Let's see... a comic might need a maximum of, what, 100Mb to store (probably exaggerating there, but thinking high quality images). Add the content? Minimal cost. Most printing is done from digital files now anyway, it's just a matter of converting to the correct formats. Maintain? Huh? What is there to maintain in a file that sits on a server and then duplicated automatically when it's purchased? Again, minimal, especially compared to a physical store. Software does most of the work, little cost there. Remove? Why? If it's taking up a relatively small amount on your server, why remove it? If 1 person per month buys it in 2 years time, that's still free and clear profit as there's no marginal cost. A 1Tb drive costs virtually nothing nowadays.

    That's one of the big issues of digital vs. physical. Running out of physical shelf space? You have to move to a bigger store at great cost or remove stock. A digital store can simply plug another hard drive into its system and add an extra 50000 issues with minimal incremental upkeep costs.

    "the work is still there, just in a different form."

    If you would just pay attention rather than attack everything Mike says, you'd notice the constant discussion of initial cost vs. marginal cost. Everything you're talking about is the former. The savings come with the latter - especially when talking about international and long-term delivery.

    "failure to understand that very simple point pretty much makes the rest of your post a rant. still hoping that mba boy will be able to add to the discussion."

    I understand this thing that seems to be elusive to you - reality. Your inability to use the shift key or present a coherent argument does not detract from how the business world actually works.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I did look into this. And Mike is wrong, as is Scott Kurtz. the comic in question is an 80 page book that would have been priced (in 2009) for 5.99. The physical version of the book is being sold at a reduction of normal cost, as opposed to the suggestion that the digital version has been priced beyond normal.

    Interesting. I've updated the post. Thanks for the info, though the snark really wasn't necessary.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Re:

    The "six dollars" is for an 80 page giant. And those sold for $5.99 in 2009.

    Thanks for providing the info. I've updated the post accordingly.

    There is nothing accurate about either the knee jerk reaction of Scott Kurtz or Mike Masnick. Retailers are getting a 98cent discount from standard pricing. Digital consumers are paying marginally less than standard prices for a 80 page book.

    Kneejerk seems a bit unfair, don't you think? I wrote based on what was known at the time. You provided more info, so I updated the post.

    Why the unnecessary insults?

    The problem is that people do what you just did. Their minds "literally stop" and they don't investigate the actual facts, which are very easy to look into.

    Thankfully, I have this forum where people can add information. I have said plenty of times before that I am not a reporter. I write about what I find interesting based on the information available, and leave it open for discussion. Part of the reason for that is so people can add in additional facts. For that I will update the post and we all learn.

    Claiming that my mind "literally stops" is both wrong, obnoxious and unnecessary.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're right. The attitude was unnecessary. I apologize. It's just that it only took a few minutes to discover the facts, and it's frustrating to me when I see people post without doing the research first.

    That said, you had no reason to think the info presented was incorrect. Again, sorry for the unnecessary attitude.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:40pm

    Re: Re:

    The fact is this: a digital file is worth much less than a physical copy. Let's ignore the simple pleasure of having something in your hand - a digital file is disposable, especially if DRMed. It will never appreciate in value, as it cannot be legally transferred. You can't lend it to friends, resell it if you need some extra cash or donate it to a library. Hell, if DRM is involved I might not even be able to play it on all the devices I should. Every penny is a sunk cost.

    So, because such a file is so much less valuable, it should be cheaper. I don't care that the paper copy would be a similar price and it would cost the same again to send to my address outside the US. It's less valuable and so I am willing to pay far less.

    The "facts" don't matter, even if they are true. The physical goods are too expensive to justify my purchase, so the less valuable digital files are not going to change my mind.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I agree that it should be cheaper. But that doesn't have anything to do with clarifying that the reporting here was inaccurate.

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "I have said plenty of times before that I am not a reporter."

    Like I said, i apologize for the attitude. But regardless of whether you claim to be a reporter or not, you do report things. And people, like it or not, listen to you.

    Fact checking should not be the territory of journalists only. We have the internet. We should all be using it to fact check what we say before we say it. Particularly if we are in a position of influence, as you clearly are.

    It took me two minutes to discover that the information you and Scott Kurtz posted (and linked to) was incorrect. All I did was click the link to Scott and click Scott's link to the original article. About as easy as it goes. Scott should have fact checked before he posted. You should have fact checked before you posted. Multiple people agreeing with you and making judgments against Marvel without taking the time to read the source material should have checked as well.

    Yes, I let my frustration over this get the better of me. And I apologize. But it is infuriating to live in a world where everyone can easily verify their opinions before hitting "post", yet it is so rare that anyone actually does.

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:36pm

    too late

    now they want me to go get em free too
    WOOT
    zero is better then same cost as a regular commic
    THANKS marvel for teaching kids the value of free

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

    @6

    250GB = about one megabit bandwidth and when you can rent a ovh server for 25 pounds that is about 50$ cad or 50 cents a megabit

    so i can give out 83333 comics for 50 cents
    OR the who 100megabit 8.3 million comics for 50$

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:41pm

    P.S.

    this is a comic that has about the size btw of 3 megabytes
    so 8.3 million comics via a OVH rented server that has 10GB space and unlimited bandwidth

    YUP STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES
    marvel could go rent a few and um charger 10cents a copy and make money, with ads you might even do it cheaper

     

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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:44pm

    Re: P.S.

    Ten cents a copy won't pay for production costs.

     

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    Palmyra (profile), Jun 15th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    What? Comics don't cost 25 cents any longer? The next thing you will tell me is that Playboy cost more than a $1.

     

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    Pixelation, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:41pm

    P2P

    I wonder how many people will see the cost, get annoyed, and decide they would rather get their comics through P2P?

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "a comic might need a maximum of, what, 100Mb to store (probably exaggerating there, but thinking high quality images). Add the content? Minimal cost." - see, you did it again. i tries to spell it out, but you missed it. "stocking fees" isnt about physical size or storage required, it is about adding, updating, and removing, keep it in the right place, making it available, etc.

    "If you would just pay attention rather than attack everything Mike says, you'd notice the constant discussion of initial cost vs. marginal cost. Everything you're talking about is the former. The savings come with the latter - especially when talking about international and long-term delivery." - as always, if you look only at the marginal cost of the data trasmission, the costs are low. but credit card processing online is often 10% or more of the transaction cost alone. many digital retailers stock on a 'per transaction' costs basis, rather than on a unit cost. then when you look at some of the non-marginal costs that have to be covered by sales (such as the stocking fees, file setup at the retailer, insertion fees, etc), you start to see that digital distribution isnt all sunshine and roses. the costs of doing business do not disappear.

    remember too: the math of infinite distribution is only at its best when you distribute the infinite number of copies (because you get "anycost / infinity = almost zero". when you realize that most digital distribution is anything but infinite, then you will understand where you have to look at all of the business parts.

    the funniest part of all of this? mike got the story wrong, punted it into the weeds. the digital copy isnt any more expensive than the normal print copies. all of this because he could do some research. then again, he isnt a journalist, just an infinitely distributed guru.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 9:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    people here read your posts as truth, not as murky starting points for discussion. you were the one pointing fingers and laughing at murdochs companies for making a single html error on a link, and yet here you are completely punting a story into the weeds, and its nothing? smells like a double standard to me.

     

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  52.  
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    Memyself, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 10:37pm

    Re: P2P

    Any excuse will usually do.

     

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  53.  
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    Any Mouse, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 12:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I see what you did there. Anyone else catch it? Cutting out the parts about 'adding, updating, and removing, keep it in the right place, making it available, etc.' which are all minimal cost because it's already on the damn computer in digital format?

    And Mike did update, thanks. Maybe go back and look at that? It does say [Updated] at the top of your browser when you've got the page open.

    Yeah. Keep on truckin' li'l dude.

     

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  54.  
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    Any Mouse, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 12:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, the regular viewers come here for discussion, not news. If we want news we'll go read news. Most of those don't let us discuss anything at all.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Super Zero, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 1:36am

    Digital subcription service?

    I used to enjoy buying comics when I was a teen, but that was 20 plus years ago. I stopped primarily because I didn't have the free time one needs to invest in keeping track of all their favorite characters and every cross over they, or stories relating to them, may appear in (Blackest Night being a good example).

    I've long wished there was a digital service where all such tracking was done for me. Every time a new issue comes out, I'd get an notification e-mail with a link. All I'd have to do is click the link, sign in to my account, and read. All I really care about these days is the entertainment factor, something I feel is on par with a digital music download. That is to say they should be priced approximately the same seeing as both only give me about three to four minutes of entertainment.

    I honestly see no reason why the digital version of a comic should cost so much. $1 per digital issue is way more fair when ones considers the true value being provided. Naturally those in the industry will claim that this amount isn't enough to support their business model, but they are failing to take into consideration two very important factors. Firstly, it would allow them to build a much larger consumer base. I'm betting there are a lot of folks out there just like me who would happily pay if only the price was right. Secondly, all these people would be enticed to subscribe to other titles. Clicking a button is so easy to do when you're already a paying customer and they have your credit card info on file.

    We've already seen proof here that as price goes down, total volume of sales tends to go up. I think a fairer price on digital would work out swell for everyone concerned. Too bad it'll never happen. Most industry insiders and supporters simply can't fathom the concept of "less is more", plus the piracy bogeyman has them all scared half to death. All I can say is, if halving the price quadrupled your customers, why wouldn't you do so?

    Here is a mind blower. Let paying subscribers of the physical media read the digital version for free! Anyone that is still paying for physical issues is likely a collector. Letting these collectors read the digital version allows them to seal away their pristine physical copy, never to be touched by greasy human hands. Heck, the issue can even come vacuum sealed as a feature! Talk about adding value lol.

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 3:37am

    It seems their individual comics are priced rather high, but they also have a subscribtion service where you get access to alot of theier comics for about $60 a year. Olders ones mainly but there is more then 5000 comics as far as i remember.

     

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  57.  
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    the mighty sore, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Not to belittle your work Mike, but I mentioned the Marvel thing in the comments of the Wired app article : pricing, page count and all. "What was known at the time" was what is known now. That dude you're responding to isn't even the 1st commenter to mention there's a mix-up. (see post #24)

     

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  58.  
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    bob, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Umm, lots of comics are put out there for free. Lots of people host their own sites, fill it with their content, and let it all go for free.

    How can an artist do that if digital costs approach printing costs?

    Marvel could easily release these for a fraction, but they are afraid of risking revenue.

    Ironically, I quit buying paper comics years ago and have a nice battery of regularly updated online comics that I thoroughly enjoy. That's one customer lost to comparatively high prices!

     

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  59.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:27am

    you digitize once, that's it.. ONCE!
    And you probably don't even need to, as the files are undoubtedly already digital when it's sent to the printer. So those costs can just be very minimal.

    Stocking fees for digital material? Are you out of your tree?!
    What do these resellers do? Print them out and then scan them back in, when a customer orders the file for download?
    No, a single file on a server doesn't cost that much, that can explain the higher costs. In fact, stocking fees for the paper versions are much, much higher.

    More likely is that these companies are greedy, or that they don't want to annoy their resellers by offering the same product for less.

    Well not exactly the same product.
    A digital file has less value for a customer than a paper version of the comic, as there is no resell value. No real collectors value either. "ooh so you got the first edition of the #1 of the comic in digital format? Big deal{!} I've got a first edition of the #1 of the comic in paper"... Have fun trading your digital copies on conventions.

     

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  60.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:29am

    Re: Re: P.S.

    Did the 25 cents per comic in "the olden days" pay for production costs?

     

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  61.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh yes, good point.
    I read these comics on an almost daily basis:
    Ctrl-alt-del (http://www.cad-comic.com/),
    userfriendly (http://www.userfriendly.org) ,
    xkcd (http://www.xkcd.com),
    sinfest (http://www.sinfest.net),
    bunny-comic (http://www.bunny-comic.com),
    darths & droids (http://www.darthsanddroids.net),
    girl genius (http://www.girlgeniusonline.com),
    tweep! (http://www.tweep.com),
    schlock mercenary (http://www.schlockmercenary.com),
    extra life (http://www.myextralife.com/),
    phoenix requiem (http://requiem.seraph-inn.com/)

    All for free. How can this be?

     

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  62.  
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    MadJo (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 4:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh yes, good point.

    I read these comics on an almost daily basis:
    xkcd http://www.xkcd.com
    sinfest http://www.sinfest.net
    ctrl-alt-del http://www.cad-comic.com/
    userfriendly http://www.userfriendly.org
    bunny-comic http://www.bunny-comic.com
    darths & droids http://www.darthsanddroids.net
    girl genius http://www.girlgeniusonline.com
    tweep http://www.tweep.com
    schlock mercenary http://www.schlockmercenary.com
    extra life http://www.myextralife.com/
    phoenix requiem http://requiem.seraph-inn.com/

    All for free. How can this be, Marvel?

     

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  63.  
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    Thawmus, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 7:34am

    The Comic Shop

    I think there's another factor in play here, and one that I tend to sympathize with, because, hey, what the hell are they supposed to do? - The Comic Store.

    These guys aren't a Wal-Mart, and while they do try and get in on internet sales, they're not outfitted like everyone else. Digital sales take customers away from them. And some of these guys, especially in smaller towns, are just going to get killed outright.

    Now, I understand and respect the position that, hey, it's not Marvel's problem. But when you consider all of the other properties that Marvel and Disney are involved in, that are sold by these same retailers, then, yes, they do have an interest in their success. Things that Marvel has gotten involved in, such as VS and Heroclix, depend on these shops in order to generate interest. If these stores get beaten out by online sales (which is common these days), then they can't stay open. If they can't stay open, a lot of properties stop being profitable.

    I think Marvel understands this. And I don't think 98 cents is unreasonable. I'm all for making things more available and cheaper for the consumer, but I'm not terribly interested in seeing all of the little guys getting killed. Especially when these little guys give gamers and comic readers a place to congregate and have fun.

    Another factor here, is probably that Marvel isn't losing any sales at all, doing it this way. They're keeping the sales they have, they're not pissing off their distributors nor retailers, they're not pissing off their fans, and they're gaining new readers, regardless.

     

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  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 7:36am

    If Marvel starts doing this for everything and not just the 80 page annual of a character who just had a film released, then maybe I'd raise an eyebrow. It's more a way to cash in on the recent film and the recent release of the iPad then evidence of being stuck in a legacy relationship.

     

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  65.  
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    Pixelation, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: P2P

    "Any excuse will usually do."

    Maybe.

    That's the attitude the Entertainment industry/RIAA/MPAA have, I'm sure. Rather than figure out what it will take to have people buy, they give up and litigate. I suppose that's their prerogative.

     

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  66.  
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    darryl, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 9:15am

    Different price for a different product

    Thats all it is, and like any other company they sell different products at different prices.

    If they dont sell, they adjust, but they must sell them, and if people are willing to pay a different price for a different product, even a different product with the same content. That is the buyers, and sellers right.

    Its not different to selling a paperback and hardcover book, or a illistrated book.
    And in 2010 some people are obviously willing to pay extra for it in a form they prefer.

    As applies to every product, It might seem unusual that the price of the digital version is more than the paper version.
    But the design work is the same, and the digital copy is just like the physical copy for marvel, they can make as many legal copies as they like, the cost of producing the physical comic would be marginal. And the customers see the value of paying more to have it in a more convient form.

    Just like im willing to pay extra for special driving seats in a new car, there would probably be zero cost difference between the two types of seats, yet I will pay more for one than the other.

    And I expect too, its not my job to determine to price of the products I buy, its my job to determine if I am willing to pay the going price for the product that they are offering.

    And somehow mike you see this as bad ?

    Is there something wrong with a company offering different products at different cost break points?

    So if people see value in it, they will buy it, they will be happy, Marvel will be happy, but Mike you wont be happy ?

    Why not ? and how does this market model effect you ?

    Is someone forcing you to buy products that you dont like, or dont want, or that you think the price should be different.

    Everyone things that at some point, but no one is forcing you to buy this product, I guess your bitter because they are not just giving it away. Then why are you not pissed off that they create ONE comic and for a few cents each print millions of copies, and sell them for dollars.

    What is the difference?

     

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  67.  
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    darryl, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    "Legacy relationships" = Loyal Clientele

    "Of course, we've seen this before. Incumbent businesses have legacy relationships. And one of the reasons why they're often so slow to shift to smart new business models is because it will upset those legacy relationships."

    So, ive seen this before too, Incumbent businesses have loyal clientele. And one of the reasons why they're often so slow to shift to **a different, untested** new business models is because it will upset those Loyal clientele, that their business model effectively services.

    And because we have Loyal clientele, we want to keep them happy and loyal, and get more of them.

    So sure, we dont want to upset our customers, in the hope that we will get new customers, especially when the new model calls for the customer in the new model to define the price, not the seller of the product..

    So im wondering if you ran a business Mike, and you saw a new but largely untested business model, that was going to upset your existing and well established customer base, and not provide them with product they want, and are willing to pay for.

    Would you ditch your loyal established customers, and just onto the NBT (next best thing), ?

    The existing model commerce uses now is based on paying money for product you are willing to pay for, if you want it bad enough.

    Its a model that has worked for a very long time, what do you expect to do different that is actually a viable alternative model ?

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    darryl, Jun 16th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    A marvalous response

    Marvel, might even reply to you and ask you why should they change their business model, the one they are presently using is working very well, we are innovative in the market, our innovation is in our content, our value is in our content, our value is the comics, the pictures and the words, our business model is providing a constant supply of new and innovative product to the people who want to read it.

    We are so nice, that we offer that content in a number of forms, priced accordingly.

    Our (marvels) model is working just fine, we dont need to give away product, as we have willing paying customers, loyal and repeat customers.

    Its what is in the media that they are willing to pay for, not the media itself.

    Im not sure why you think that if something is in one form or another that its value is dependent on the form not the content.

    Sure, a digital file can be copied many times, but that does not take away the value of the contents to the person who wants or needs that contents.

    That is why, I have paid over $5000 for a CD-ROM with just a file on it.

    The value is what that file does, not in the cost of the media.
    MonaLisa probably is a few hundred bucks worth of materials, but that has zero bearing on the worth of the product.

    Same with a movie, you see it as a file that you can copy and give away at zero cost. But what it actually is, is the product of alot of money, effort, and risk to create the content of the movie.

    That way we can get to watch a 50 million dollar movie, for the price of the DVD, or a movie ticket.

    How does you model, or being able to copy, creat content of value?

    Trying to tie content value with media value will, and has never worked.
    You can have a billion dollar movie on a 50c DVD, the movie is still worth a billion dollars (or cost a billion dollars), but the file and data cost 50 cents.

    Just like a huge movie, could be on a film reel worth $20 in materials.

    Its the low cost reproduction of content that has always been the case, its always been much much cheaper to copy their content onto the media (film, tape, digital etc) than it is to create the product in the first place.

    Then the movie company sells that zero cost media, with the high cost movie on it, for far higher than the material cost of the movie reels the theaters receive. Again may be less than $100 for media costs for the film that costs millions to make.

    Mike, your constant argument is that as the media is free, the content should be free or cheaper, but its not the media you pay for, its the content, the price of the media is immaterial.. Then and now.

    And I have not seen anything in your 'model' that addresses that. That the problem you say now exists because of digital copying at low cost is different to what the legal copyright owners have always done, put their content on zero cost media (in relation to all other costs and expenses), the cost of the media is zero.

    It has always been that way, the digital age does not change that. So their model is and has always been zero cost media, high value content.

    Note the term "value" not cost the two are seperate.

    Things of great value can have zero cost, or cost zero to copy.

    Low value content, in whatever media, low cost or no cost is of low value and will always be so. Just as no value, will have no value. (on an individual basis, it's what value it is to you that matters).

    If its value to you is more than its cost you may purchase it, if its value to you is less than its cost its in your opinion too expensive, and you will seek better value.

    So if I see that a digital format comic is of more value to me than what is the asking price, I will purchase it.
    But its the value of the content I am paying for, not the value of the data, or the paper in the hardcopy.

    Next time your out shopping pick up some of the free newspapers that are available, you get lots of words, lots of pages, but the content is crap. Its not worth reading, even at zero cost. Is that the price for free? and if so. you can have all the free crap you like.

    Me, im happy to pay a fair price for a fair product, most people (fortunately) are.

     

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  69.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 16th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not to nit pick here

    normally id agree with the edit button.

    but on this particular site, some people say such idiotic things at times id hate to see them say something stupid and then just go back and edit their post every time they got slammed for it.

    id rather see their asshattery left in tact as a testament to their cognitive skills.

     

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  70.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "it is about adding, updating, and removing, keep it in the right place, making it available, etc."

    Create database entry. Upload file to correspond to database entry. Done. Very little effort involved over and above the creation of the master file.

    What needs to be stocked here, again? A digital file. There might be a minimal cost to keep the website updated, but as a premium over and above the cost of the physical product? Not necessary.

    "when you realize that most digital distribution is anything but infinite"

    The distribution? No. The goods being distributed? Absolutely. There is very little actual cost difference between supplying a single copy of a digital file and a million - bandwidth being the only real cost over and above infrastructure. It's not like physical distribution - where the costs increase exponentially (printing costs, the delivery infrastructure, dealing with damaged returns and unsold issues, etc.). So, the costs associated with physical product should not be necessary and therefore not passed on to the consumer.

     

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  71.  
    identicon
    Anonymously Brave, Jun 21st, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Different price for a different product

    My perspective as a former collector is that the digital versions hold little value for me. I think most collectors will feel the same. For them, it's about the physical object, both for the enjoyment and the potential for increased value and possible profit from future sale. The digital versions provide none of this, save for a "watered-down" version of the enjoyment. This is akin to an art enthusiast viewing an image of a painting online as opposed to viewing the actual painting in a museum or gallery.

    Because of this, the b&m comic stores have nothing to worry about. Their patrons are the collectors, not the casual purchaser. The digital versions will be more popular with the casual readers (assuming they find the price acceptable.)

    Also, keep in mind, more than for almost any other media, comic collectors are looking to retain these works for years and years. It is for this reason that comics are no longer printed on cheap newsprint. The industry moved on to highly archival, fine quality (and thus, very expensive) printing materials quite some time ago. Therefore, the cost of printing a physical copy is hardly small.

    It is for this reason the comic publishers attempt to predict demand for each title and adjust their printing numbers accordingly. You'd be hard-pressed to find any comic that has had millions of copies printed. The most popular may see thousands, but most comics will only have a print-run of a few hundred. It is the surpise hits of the low print-run titles that enjoy the most inflation of value.

    The cost of the materials (along with good old, normal inflation, of course) accounts for the rapid increase of cover prices from 10 cents, back in the day, to the standard current price of about 4 bucks.

    As much as some of you are bellowing about the costs for digital distibution, I think it is still safe to say that they are far cheaper than the costs for physical printing and distribution. I also feel very confident in saying that digital provides more profit for the publisher and less value for their target customers than the print versions.

    Marvel and the other publishers have every right to charge what they want for their product, digital or not. I think most of us here are just trying to say that the pricing level they appear to be choosing will leave most comic enthusiasts saying, "no, thank you." I no longer collect or read them, so I don't care. Marvel will care, though, if they set up their digital shop and no one bothers with it.

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Peter, Apr 5th, 2013 @ 7:06am

    Digital Subscription vs Retail. Sounds like a comic book already.

    First off, Marvel doesn't want to scare the retailors so to please them they start with this high sub price. But I guarantee there are a team of exe just sitting and waiting for numbers and as soon as its profitable or secure enough to make the transition- BAM! POW@ SWUSH#@! Its done. This is a tester and I'm sure the retailors are starting to worry but at the same time the retailors have one thing on there side- COLLECTORS. Part of buying comics, for me its all of buying comics, is holding that book and saving it for ten years and watching its value grow and seeing how the comic develops from some small story in its first appearance to some independent full blown series and main attraction character. You can bag and board a subscription nor will it ever increase in value so good look Marvel.

     

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  73.  
    identicon
    Peter, Apr 5th, 2013 @ 7:08am

    Digital Subscription vs Retail. Sounds like a comic book already.

    First off, Marvel doesn't want to scare the retailors so to please them they start with this high sub price. But I guarantee there are a team of exe just sitting and waiting for numbers and as soon as its profitable or secure enough to make the transition- BAM! POW@ SWUSH#@! Its done. This is a tester and I'm sure the retailors are starting to worry but at the same time the retailors have one thing on there side- COLLECTORS. Part of buying comics, for me its all of buying comics, is holding that book and saving it for ten years and watching its value grow and seeing how the comic develops from some small story in its first appearance to some independent full blown series and main attraction character. You can bag and board a subscription nor will it ever increase in value so good look Marvel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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