The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on February 12, 2011

I like digital comics discussion, don’t you?

Item! Diamond is going about digital comics the wrong way! What a shocker, the monopolists controlling the comic shop system may not know how to, or want to, succeed in the case of digital distribution! Woo.

The thing is, I can see the ghost of a decent idea here. Could comic shops also be able to sell digital comics, in a way, as well? Why not? I wouldn’t be against record stores selling MP3s in some way, either. It could just be a further expansion of their market (although, really, the only reliable future I see for the comic shops that will survive the great digital massacre to come will be the ones who primarily sell graphic novels and collections, the things that people will likely still have a taste for in the future). But in reality, the idea of paying 2 bucks for an unlock code at the shop IS pretty stupid (why go out of your way to do that? What would the advantage of doing that over just buying it over the actual app/service?). And getting the same thing when you buy a print copy for an extra 99 cents is maybe even more stupid; considering the disposable nature of the pamphlet format, why would you want both? So you can throw out the paper version and still have the story on hand? Why buy the print version at all, then? Plus, if you’re going to try to sell people on that, you might as well do it for free, as an incentive to get the print comic.

And, of course, there is the topic of Marvel and DC’s current wading in the digital market rather than diving into it. Those two are stuck on the same chain of fuckery as Diamond; Diamond controls the distribution of their mainstream comics, and so all three of them are stuck serving the comic shops, so the comic shops can in turn serve them. The thing is, if the publishers weren’t so servile to the distributors/shops, they would be the ones to benefit from a major digital move. Periodical comics are a marginal industry, and at this point are way too costly to be the impulse purchases they probably should be (4 bucks for the bigger-name Marvel comics? Fuck off). They can sell their throwaway books for a decent price in a convenient place (I.E. not just in scattered niche locations), and they could probably make some real money off of it. Alas, we are not there yet.

We’re stuck in this weird little interzone where Marvel and DC are afraid of jumping into the modern world, even though they have nothing to lose (I don’t think either company’s profitability would budge either way if they simply stopped publishing their comics completely). Are they scared of pissing off the shops? The fans? Diamond? Like they’ve had much of a problem with fucking people (I.E. creators) over before. So why placate this dying minority?

The answer is, as many already know, that they don’t care about their comics. Certainly not enough to put any effort into convincing people to buy them (the odd space filler article in major newspapers about some pointless ‘big event’ notwithstanding). So why would do anything other than the most basic approach to this new distribution model?

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