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DC Comics Gets Real About Digital: Same Day Digital Downloads of Comics in September

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DC Comics just raised the bar for comic book publishers looking to expand their distribution to the digital realm.  Currently, the official editions of digital comics come trickling into the online world with little rhyme or reason.  A handful of titles will be out at the same time that a new issue hits store shelves.  A larger number, but by no means all,  will have arrived by the time an issue has been on a store shelf for a month.

DC just announced that, as part of a revamp of their entire line, these revamped books will be available online in digital form the same day they hit store shelves.  This should be a seismic shift in how comics are distributed online.

Before getting too excited, it would be prudent to count a couple things we DON’T yet know.

  1. Will this only be the superhero titles?  What about Vertigo titles or non-superhero titles like Jonah Hex?
  2. What price will these same-day releases be?  The seemingly standard $1.99?  The print cover price of $2.99?  A premium of $3.99?  If the price is higher than $1.99, will it eventually go down?

When you look at Vertigo, those titles have traditionally made their money in world of trade paperback collected editions, so digital may not be the priority.  Ironically, Vertigo titles might have more appeal to the casual reader many super hero titles.  However, when they make a point of calling out “superhero” titles, you get the feeling that’s the only thing that’s going for the “day and date” (simultaneous digital and print) release.

Regardless of whether Vertigo titles and the various media license-based comics fall into immediate digital release, this puts pressure on all other publishers to release their comics simultaneously across print and digital.  DC experimented with this style of publishing with their “Justice League: Generation Lost” mini-series.  Marvel has also experimented, notably with Ultimate Thor and an Iron Man annual.  Look for Marvel to follow suit in the very near future.

A bigger question is the issue of pricing.  The convention has been to make the simultaneous release the same price in both print and digital.  In the case of DC, $2.99.  Marvel once tried charging more for the digital edition of a simultaneous release, chopping an Iron Man Annual into three parts, which totaled an extra dollar if you downloaded.

There is a school of thought that you can engage in the hardcover/softcover formula of print pricing in the digital world.  Charge more when an issue comes out and then lower the price as it ages.  In fact, if we look at issues of Generation Lost at the Comixology website, the last (final issue) is available at its cover price of $4.99. The previous issues (like issue 17) are available for $1.99.

Is DC going to be following this $2.99/$1.99 policy?  The answer has not yet been revealed, but it almost certainly was discussed.

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