I don't think that anyone at Marvel actually though that comic store retailers would be in favour of this move, did they? The decision to release Iron Man Annual #1 on digital and in print on the same day – a day earlier on digital for the UK. And the realisation that this is just the beginning.
I asked a number of retailer participants of the Comic Book Industry Alliance for their thoughts.
Sid Smith of Pop Comix writes;
Looks like Marvel is competing for our retail dollars… I think it'll take awhile, but when the next price increase hits and the average monthly book is $5, I think lots of folks will switch to digital comics or simply drop comics all together. I hear this quite a bit today as customers complain about higher cover prices and I really cant blame them. I'd rather see comics maintain the current or lower price point by using cheaper materials to produce books.
Randy Myers of Collectors Corner replied;
This is a slippery slope, for them as much as it is for us. They could lose everything as well, look at the connection between pirated music and slipping sales and the sheer numbers and percentage of music that is downloaded and shared illegally, and the failing Manga markets and the direct connection to illegally downloaded content there.
Luckily I've been preparing when they would do this branching out and setting us up for the long haul, but honestly instead of being professional and going on and on about the unique qualities of comic books on paper and the fundamental connection they have to the paper form and function in that format as entertainment and collectible or tangible items, that gives them an edge over disposable media and entertainment like video games, and music, I would rather just say that they honestly should study the past and what worked and thinks of the future of the industry at large, when cannibalization and or marginalization of the marketplace could be a very real thing if this isn't handled properly.
I would like to say they can keep the virtual comic books, I'll stick to selling the REAL thing as long as I can make a living doing so alongside other items that move us further away from depending on business partners like Marvel who would just as soon not send someone into a store to buy more of their licensed products and other items like trades, and just directly compete for the same dollar it infuriates me, with all the great things they have been doing like the MCG $1.00 comics which I think can be used to to really grow sales of periodicals and collected editions, you think they would have worked harder on not directly competing with us with same day release this soon…
I would like to add that removing the social element and the truly unique experience of a really good comic book store & the immeasurable effectiveness of the cross pollination of sales between publishers and that shared shelf space is another subject often overlooked in this whole discussion.
Tim Stoltzfus of More Fun Comics and Games wrote;
I am holding any real comment until I see the pricing. The speculation is that the book will be available digitally for the equivalent of $5.97 for the whole issue. If that's the case, I have no problem with this.
The official word doesn't show pricing yet. That reminds me of a long time ago when Wizards of the Coast announced Magic Online and was very mum about the exact pricing structure until the last possible second, which turned out to be the same price as buying real cards.
Marvel's PR so far has taken the same tack. As long as the digital price stays at or above the same price as the physical comic (which it absolutely should), I don't see a problem with day and date simultaneous releases.
And Phil Boyle of Coliseum of Comics added;
At this point we're commenting on a fin without knowing if it's a shark or a dolphin.
We know that digital isn't just coming, it's been here for years. Any sleazeball can download comics the day after they come out for free. I'm betting that Iron Man Annual will be available at a 100% discount the day it is released in either print or digital so nothing there has changed except maybe Marvel asking pirates to pay for the booty they take. Good luck with that, Marvel.
I will also take a moment to point out that anyone who has been touting comics as strictly reading material should buy stock in digital companies while you still have a few bucks in your pocket.
ComicsPRO, the official guild of comic book retailers issued the following statement from their board of directors;
The primary reason for the existence of ComicsPRO is to be a help to professional storefront comic book specialty retailers. In light of Marvel's "day & date" announcement for the Iron Man Annual, we are hopeful that every digital reader will sample the first chapter online—and then visit one of our many member stores in the U.S. and Canada to buy the whole story in printed comics format.
ComicsPRO also wants to work with all of our suppliers to continually find ways to bring new readers into comics and to re-energize latent comic book buyers. A digital marketing strategy will no doubt be part of that and ComicsPRO retailer members will continue to be proactive in pushing publishers to be as aggressive about promoting their printed comics as they are about promoting digital sales.
So… when will the second book come? The third? The fourth? How will they be priced? Is a sucessful and attractive digital strategy worth risking the base revenue from the direct market? It's time for everything to change again…