Digital comics aren’t really for me. At least, they haven’t been. There are numerous reasons for this: although I read every comic I buy, I the collectibility of comics is part of the appeal for me and a digital comic will never appreciate in value. There’s no Mean Time Between Failure for comics, though there are for the hard drives we store them on. You can’t resell them, especially if you hate an issue. And I’ve never much liked being chained to my desktop (or even a laptop) in order to read or watch anything.
However, with tablets, slates, iPads, and phones of all types making digital comics more convenient, I’m starting to come around. There are still obstacles, though. I don’t want to pay for a digital comic that I’ve already bought in a physical form. In addition, because there’s no printing costs and I don’t really own a physical thing, I don’t want to pay as much as I would with a floppy. Also, retailers are understandably skittish that digital comics will poach their sales, and without them I’m up a creek.
Fortunately for the comics industry, I’m a man of solutions.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first: cost. Digital comics should cost a fraction of what a print comic costs. There will always be back-end costs (the creative team, hosting, bandwidth, etc) but as long as we’re digitizing print comics (ie: this is a secondary distribution model, not the primary one,) we can consider the creative expenses covered by the print side. Therefore, digital comics can cost less and still make a profit. Obviously everyone wants to pay as little as possible, but 50% of cover price seems like a realistic price to pay for a virtual copy of a physical object.
Keeping print lovers and retailers happy is a trickier proposition but I think I’ve stumbled upon a novel solution. If publishers put a code in each of their comics that allows the buyer to download one copy of that comic for free every six months it allows print customers to receive the benefits of digital comics without having to buy the same book twice or being forced to decide on one format.
There’s no cost to the publishers because the infrastructure is already in place for folks who want digital-only. For the negligible cost of several megabytes worth of bandwidth they keep all parties happy.
Customers are happy because they’re getting a bonus for the ever-increasing cost of their comics and not having to choose between print and digital. Retailers are happy because digital comics aren’t taking as much of their business, and because the code resets every six months the secondary market stays intact. Granted, publishers don’t care about that because they make no money off of the secondary market, but it’s important to realize that retailers are their customers, not comic readers. By allowing the code to reset, even if you buy a back issue the code is valid in perpetuity. Piracy isn’t a large concern because anyone wanting to illegally download comics has plenty of other avenues to do the wrong thing, so publishers can focus on the honest and their lawyers (or superheroes) can focus on the dishonest.
Okay, maybe this is a little overly-simplistic. Comixology takes their cut. Marvel has their own subscription model. But I think my key points are sound. What did I get right? Wrong? Hit us up in the comments section.
Edit – Marvel’s just announced a deal to for offline comics at $1.49 each. Hey, that’s half of $3, isn’t it?