Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Going Digital
Column by Steve Bennett
Published: 11/14/2012 02:20am
Although I frequently write about digital comics for some reason I let several stories on the subject somehow slip past me. For instance, for some reason I decided to ignore the story about how sales of DC Digital Comics rose nearly 200% over the course of a year. The way I found a reason to avoid writing about how DC Comics would now be available via not just Comixology but three of the most popular e-bookstores; the Kindle Store, iBookstore, and Nook Store (see "DC Goes Wide") went without comment. Then came the story I couldn't let go without comment; "DC Comics 'Considering' Digital Subscriptions," at least according to a piece by Russ Burlingame that appeared on the comicbook.com web site. The author spoke with Hank Kanatz, DC Entertainment's Senior Vice President of Digital and learned that back issues would soon be made available digitally and yes, DC is indeed "considering" a digital subscription program that would allow fans to automatically download new releases from their pull list for a pre-set rate."
I've put "considering" in quotes because given this kind of unprecedented growth they'd be fools if they didn't do this. Because now that they have evidence that digital comics sell, the next thing they will need to know is how big that potential market is and how fast it can grow. And the best way to do that is through repeat business; making those casual readers into regular ones.
Even though this development has had, as far as I can tell, no perceptible effect on the direct sales market, I would understand if the news about possible digital subscriptions made some retailers feel at least a little nervous. I mean, it would be hard to look at a competitor entering two areas that they have had exclusively all to themselves as being good news. But for those who are worried it should be noted that nowhere in the business does it exactly say what this "pre-set rate" would be. When it comes to non-comic magazines deep discounts are usually the rule; a monthly issue of Esquire costs $5.99 but you can get a year's subscription for $8. But 40% off seems to be about as good a deal as you can get on a year's subscription to a monthly Marvel/DC comic book. It's hard to imagine DC undercutting that for their digital subscriptions.
Here's a confession for you; in spite of all my big talk about supporting digital comics I don't own a tablet. It's pretty much for the same reason I don't own a smartphone; being a man in his early 50's having never had one I can't see how I could really need one. I have a friend who's a decade older than me who dismissively calls them "toys" and it's kind of hard to disagree with him. Not when I keep seeing people walking down the street, unable to look away from the tiny screen held out in front of them for even a second.
I do however own a cell phone, finally. After a great deal of internal struggle I realized I no longer could justify the "luxury" of a landline anymore, seeing as how I usually only received calls twice a month. It makes phone calls; it cost $10. Which brings up the real reason I don't own a tablet--the cost. Given my current budget a tiny flat computer really seems like the embodiment of an unnecessary expense, but after a solid year of 50 hour work weeks I decided I deserved a "toy." Especially when they released a deluge of $200 mini-tablets.
So today I broke down and got one. So far the biggest speed bump has been learning how to type on a tiny glass screen with my Vienna Sausage-like fingers. But then I belong to a generation that was instructed from birth to never touch the screen. And I haven't even gotten to reading comics yet; I'll let you know how it goes.
There was a part of me wished one that one of DC's initial New 52 titles had been Young Romance. Well, on February 6th that dream will finally come to pass with the release of Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine's Day Special. I would have preferred an honest attempt at reinventing the romance comic for the modern age, but a couple of bullet points from the solicitation did earn my attention. Like "Dick Grayson and the daughter of Lucius Fox meet-cute!" and (especially) "Plus: Perforated Valentine Day cards featuring the stars of these stories!" And of course there's the sticker shock; 64 pages for $7.99 doesn't exactly make for an impulse buy, but that's probably what a Golden Age comic book would cost today.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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