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Diamond Digital Comics: Diamond and iVerse Hatch a Particularly Silly Digital Download Scheme

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Diamond Comics Distributors has hatched a plan where you can buy digital comics in your local direct market comic shop.  No, not off the website, in the actual store.  You buy it in the store, they print you out a download code and then you go home and download it.  They have a few publishers signed up to release the digital editions on the same day the print copies are released, but this set up has managed to do the impossible: screw up releasing digital and print simultaneously.

This is possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen as a digital consumer.

There’s almost too many points of concern to hit all at once, so let’s take it by the numbers:

  1. Is the Digital Market the Direct Market? What makes anybody think that the digital comics consumer is already going to a direct market store on a regular basis?  All the anecdotal evidence, including IDW president Ted Adams (IDW being one of the participating publishers) is that digital isn’t the same audience.  In fact let’s quote him.  “All I can tell you is from my perspective as CEO of IDW, and our print publishing revenue is up over the last six months and our digital publishing revenue is up over the last six months, so it’s clearly not cannibalizing our print sales.
  2. Is This Cannibalization Unto Itself? Dear retailers, if the print audience isn’t the same audience that’s buying digital downloads, then you’re pushing digital onto a customer base what wasn’t into it in the first place.
  3. And If the Digital Consumer Isn’t Already in the DM… So, you’re releasing digital editions of comics concurrent with the print editions and then telling people they can’t purchase them if they don’t walk into a physical store… what does this actually say to the digital consumer something like this is supposed to be targeting?
    1. That’s not how downloads work.  Downloads are universally about instant gratification.  You know, like how the Kindle lets you download a book on the bus or train, commuting to work?
    2. You’re punishing the WIDER audience, many of whom do not live near a direct market store, for not making a trek to the comic shop when they want to buy something.
    3. When you tell people, “oh, it’s available for download, but you can’t just download it from the web,” you’re taunting them.  (If I said the new Lady Gaga single was available, but you couldn’t get it on iTunes, you had to go to a Wal-Mart, buy a code there and come home to download it, you’d think that was ridiculous.  And if you lived in NYC, where there isn’t a Wal-Mart in the first place, you’d be pretty hacked off if you liked Gaga.)
    4. When you tell people it’s available for download, but not to them, you’re functionally encouraging piracy.  This is absolutely not a convenient download to wean people off torrents.
  4. A Monopoly?  In Comics?  Surely Not. I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t like an alternative to Diamond as the main distribution channel.  When Diamond starts having exclusive rights to the digital editions of current comics, they’re one step closer to an actual monopoly.  Publishers should be looking to hit a wider market and not be restricted to the back of the catalog.  This is tying you to that old system.  When Amazon gained a near-monopoly in eBooks, publishers got nervous and had trouble negotiating.  When iTunes gained a near monopoly on digital music distribution, music publishers got nervous and had trouble negotiating.  Putting all your digital eggs in one basket is not something to be entered into lightly.
  5. How Many Platforms Does This Work On? So I’m looking at the iVerse website.  All I’m seeing is App Store, iPad and iPod.  Can I actually view any of these digital comics on a PC?  Seriously.  This FAQ page is a joke if you want to know what platforms their product works on.  By all means, exclude 90% of the market if this is true.
  6. Are You Sure This Is Effective Outreach? Now everybody understands that if the new stuff is only available for in-person, physical purchase, the entirety of the community that purchases digital comics is just going to ignore any sites related to this, right?  Why?  Because there’s no point if you just want to download the latest thing.
  7. The Format Problem Nobody Wants To Discuss. So, once again, we have a set of publishers off on one proprietary platform (iVerse) and then we have another set of publishers (DC, Marvel, etc) on other platforms (Comixology, Graphic.ly, etc).  So what is being encouraged here is to split up your digital collection over several proprietary file formats.  The Tower of Babel syndrome is just not helpful.  It’s a larger issue, but comics need a standard format (like MP3 for music).  Diamond, and by extension , the retailers, aren’t helping matters by backing a seriously incomplete selection of publishers on a proprietary format.  Well, unless you’re trying to be a monopoly and force everyone on your own format.  Go back and listen to complaints about Amazon owning the Kindle format.
  8. I Hope This Company is Healthy. You know how every year, Diamond has a hiccup, everybody gasps and says “what if they go bankrupt,” and then somebody says “it’s OK, DC has an option to purchase them.”  Did a bunch of smaller publishers just set themselves up for a worst case scenario of DC having an exclusive license to their digital editions?  Conversely, if something happened to iVerse, you might have that Tower of Babel problem with how to read your files, especially when you upgrade to a new OS.

That’s the Cliff Notes version of the red flags that press release set off.  Fleshed out, I could probably go 5K-10K words, but you probably don’t want to read all that.

Now, if you had a traditional affiliate program (and make no mistake about it, these in-store sales are a strange, physical manifestation of your classical Amazon affiliate program) where I could buy digital editions of comics on the same day as the print release on the comic shop’s website, that might be an entirely different story.  Provided I got to keep a copy of the file.   That I could view it without being online.  That it was viewable on a PC (iVerse boys — go ahead and update that FAQ page).  And, honestly, I’ve done enough of the math, I think the right price for a digital download is $1.50, not $1.99.  And while I could see an option to purchase a download code at the register, exclusively at the register?  No.  Just no.

I mean, setting up direct market retailers to participate in the digital market isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but I’m not sure I could imagine a less well thought out implementation.  Is this seeking out the right audience?

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12 Comments

  1. The ‘better option’ you’re describing is what Comixology just announced about a week ago. Retailers can sell digital comics to consumers via the web, and the retailer gets paid. Agree that this is a much better model with better coverage of publishers and more supported platforms.

  2. I agree with everything you’ve stated except for Point #2, I think there a market for direct market consumers who want both the printed comic book and digital version. The big questions are how big is this market and what they’re willing to pay for both versions.

    Would someone pay $3.99 for both printed and digital version? Or $3.50. Or $4.99.

  3. Consumers shouldn’t have to purchase the electronic version of material they’ve already purchased in physical format; similar to CDs, where the tracks can be converted to .MP3s and DVDs which include Digital Copy versions. The process should be as simple as outlined here:
    http://www.apple.com/itunes/digital-copy/

    Why can’t comics come with redemption codes that allow for free download of the comic you just purchased?

    This would keep the collectors happy as they would have a physical product to enshrine, and the electronic version for reading.

    The non-Comic Shop readers, who just wanted the electronic version, would have to purchase that version, (hopefully on a day-and-date schedule and at a reduced price) but would not have a physical product.

  4. It plays out like this….

    Customer: Hey I’d like to get the digital version of this comic.

    Retailer peals off an Avery label and hands it to the guy.

    Retailer: Here you go.

    Customer: Are you @#$%ing kidding me?

    Diamond is a multimillion dollar company and the best they can come up with is and AVERY LABEL!!! Priceless!!! BWAHAHAHAHAAA!!!

    Also…

    So the RETAILER has to print out the label and then the CUSTOMER has to go to IVERSE who is actually filling the digital sale. … and what exactly is DIAMOND doing in this entire transaction?….. Seems like NOTHING!

  5. I agree with what Diamond is trying to do. It is one of the only companies that is making an effort to keep the retail brick-n-mortar store in the loop. I think the model can be improved down the road. I like the idea of the widget that can be placed on a shop’s website and a customer can go online and browse through a huge catalog of back issues. I’d like to see that offered for the day-and-date titles as well. There’s a valid argument in why someone would want to go to the retail store. My suggestion would be to keep the possibility of going to the physical store, but also allowing the store to sell new comics via its website as well, with the 30 day exclusivity given to shops before available elsewhere.

    I think the model seems slightly clunky, but I’m positive it can be streamlined. If you read interviews with Dave Bowen, they’ve already come a long way in six months.

    Physical video stores and bookstores are going to become endangered species (especially the former). I think it will take a little longer for comic shops to die out due to digital becoming the prevalent medium for purchasing and viewing comics, but it’s definitely nice that retailers are being given a chance to profit from the new medium rather than potentially just losing sales to it.

Trackbacks

  1. Comics A.M. | One Piece breaks another record, more on Diamond Digital | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment
  2. I Was Going to Write about Diamond’s Digital Comics Sales Program « Mr. Manley
  3. I Was Going to Write about Diamond’s Digital Comics Sales Program « Mr. Manley
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