Ilan Strasser of Fat Moose Comics and Games in Whippany, New Jersey, saw the news about Marvel's new online comics service (see 'Marvel Launches Subscription Site') and thinks it's only a matter of time before demand for paper copies will dwindle:
It's no real surprise that Marvel is downloading new and old comics -- it was just a matter of time. And it goes without saying that DC will follow suit in a similar manner. But Marvel and DC should be aware that with only a six-month delay between the rack date and the online release date, there will be no reason for retailers to reorder comics, even when they are available and in stock at Diamond. The end result will be ever dwindling inventories of new comics at Diamond. I used to keep the last year of most ongoing titles on my shelves -- now I won't be able to do so even if I wanted to, which I won't.
Why would I? A customer who buys only two books a month can now read those books online, plus ALL the rest of the Marvel releases for that month, for $12 LESS per year than it would cost to just buy those 2 books at my store. Also, once the program is up and running for six months, there is no time delay with new books for the online reader. He or she will wait a month between 'issues' just as readers do now, at least for the books that actually release on schedule. Ladies and gentlemen, the real beginning of the end of the pamphlet is upon us.
Secondly, you can kiss the vibrant trade paperback, graphic novel, and omnibus sales goodbye. Why pay $50 and up for a Masterworks or Archives volume? Why pay $75 and up for any of the omnibus titles or the Absolute series of books DC has been releasing? Why pay $10-$30 for a trade paperback? This isn't a question of customer loyalty, faith in the product, or focusing business skills. It isn't even about coming up with a new business model. It's about the financial reality surrounding the decisions a younger, technologically savvy comics audience will make as gasoline and heating oil hits record highs, milk is $5 a gallon, and all our other essentials are increasing at higher and higher rates. It would be foolish to think that new comic prices won't increase as well, further widening the affordability gap between online and physical comics. Marvel and DC will have every reason to abandon the pamphlet form especially when comics become more popular due to their ready availability online at a significantly reduced price
It may take a while for these events to put most stores on the brink of bankruptcy. The timeline will be determined by how long it takes for the (older) people who prefer a tactile reading experience to all die away. But it's only a matter of time since almost all younger people are computer savvy and technologically proficient. Change always comes; that's unavoidable. I believe it's time to become exceptionally frugal with my buying decisions -- and to start mapping out a new plan for my economic future.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.