The much-anticipated Apple iPad hit US stores this week, and the usual buying frenzy occurred. The iPad has been a gadget that the comics community has been watching closely, as it offers for the first time a portable, easy way to read comics digitally in full-colour in a size close to their printed counterparts.
Marvel Comics was the first one out of the gate to launch an iPad app, making available many of their archived titles, as well as a few more modern ones. Based on the demos I’ve seen, the app itself looks to be pretty good, borrowing heavily from the ComiXology app that has been one of the best received of the comics readers for portable devices.
What surprised me though was the price of the digital comics: $1.99 per issue. Granted, Marvel does have a few freebies available, but aside from those titles it’s pay as you go, and to me it’s pay-way-to-much as you go. When print comics are selling for $2.99-$399 an issue, it doesn’t make sense to me to sell their digital counterparts at $1.99. Production costs on digital comics are obviously significantly less than print, and if its because there aren’t ads in the digital comics, to be honest I’d rather pay less and have an ad here or there that I can choose to skip past, like I would in a print comic.
Many are speculating that Marvel has priced them like this to avoid angering retailers. I can see that, but the thing is, they are already offering cheap reprints at the retail level. Marvel (and Image, and DC for that matter) are currently reprinting many of their key issues like Civil War #1, Flash: Rebirth #1 and The Walking Dead #1 and offering them for the low price of $1. This is meant to get people interested in the stories and characters by giving them a taste at a price that’s easy for people to justify to check out the stories and characters they’ve heard about.
So why wouldn’t the same idea be utilized in the digital market?
Also, there’s nothing that says that any Publisher, Marvel or otherwise, couldn’t license their digital books to a store to be sold through an App of their own. That would hurt Diamond, but they would still be necessary for the distribution of trades, merchandise and other print issues. When it comes to a digital archive, why they wouldn’t offer a simple subscription fee for unlimited access is beyond me. Again, that may be in the works, but currently it’s $1.99 an issue.
I have no idea what the long-term plans are for Marvel and the iPad. I don’t know if they are planning to offer it as a cheap archiving alternative, or if they plan to digitize every one of their new releases as they hit the stands. But it seems to me that they are missing a great opportunity to push collected editions and graphic novels (which have much more of a long-term sales life than single issues), by offering the digital single issues at a much lower price. I do realize that it’s quibbling over $1, and if you buy a lot of books every week, the savings do stack up.
So in the end, there are good points and bad points to the Marvel App. Personally, I’m a little disappointed, but then again I’m notoriously hard to please. What say you, kind reader?