Up until now we've only been able to get DC Comics monthly "single" issues via the DC and comiXology apps. If you wanted DC content through the three major e-bookstores, all that was available were graphic novels. That's all changing. Like, right now.
According to the Source blog, all of DC's periodical comic books will be available through the Amazon Kindle Store, the Barnes and Noble NOOK, and Apple's iBookstore. So you can follow all your fave issues every month through these three widely-used e-readers and tablets. And that, in terms of the comic industry, is what's known as A BIG FREAKIN' DEAL.
This opens up monthly comics to a huge audience, making it incredibly convenient for them to sample -- and perhaps collect -- these titles. And DC's the only major comics publisher to have pulled it off so far.
What buying single issues on Amazon.com's Kindle site looks like
But are they really making any money off these digital sales, or is this just a fad? According to a recent article in Venture Beat, DC has doubled their digital sales in 2012 -- up 200 percent since the same time last year. The "relaunch" of the "New 52" line is offered as one explanation for the increase -- allowing new readers to jump on board easier. The other reason is probably their "digital first" offerings such as "Smallville," based on properties with wide pre-existing mass appeal. 99 cents seems to be a common price-point for these digital firsts, as well -- and those "99s" add up!
And this is all before the deal to distribute the single monthly issues across the three biggest e-bookstores.
But is DC really going to see these big gains via Kindle, NOOK, and iBookstore? To me, it all depends on the searchability, visibility in the digital bookstores themselves, and more. If these titles are not prominently displayed, or if they are hard to find in the "search" features, it may discourage readers. This will also involve a e-bookstore specific marketing/promotional push that links directly to comic book entries, with a call-to-action to purchase.
For instance, if I'm promoting "Action Comics Annual" #1, I need to get this Kindle link in. From there, it might be an instantaneous purchase.
Also, will there be "pre-orders" under this new system? If not, the tactic of promoting new titles three months in advance will not be relevant to these new readers. There will need to be a different promotional strategy and language for these e-book/tablet consumers.
And, of course, there's the pricing issue. Some might balk at spending over two bucks on a digital issue -- first-run or no. DC drops the prices of their new comics one month after release to $1.99, so that helps. According to DC Entertainment SVP of Digital Hank Kanalz in the Venture Beat article:
"We do see a list of sales when the prices (on older issues) drops, so it proves that people are cost cautious...They do tell me they totally buy DC comics, but they wait a month when it’s a dollar off. I’m perfectly fine with that, because there’s still a huge chunk of people who can’t wait that month."
Me personally? I'm a 99-cent sale junkie. 99 cents seems the perfect price-point for DC's older, more obscure stuff. Free first issues of long runs also encourage me more to try out different series.
Ironically, all this might help comic retailers rather than hurt them -- because there will be more demand than ever for the "physical artifact." This is why "variant covers" are so big now. What is the point of a digital variant cover? How can you get an artist to sign a tablet screen? These "physical" comics will become more and more like "collectible art" -- with many readers buying both digital (for convenience) and paper (as they would a poster or other swag).
As of this writing I am finding some single issues pop up in the e-bookstores. In a future post, I'll go browsing through both my iPad and NOOK and give you a report on the experience.
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