Dark Horse did an about-face this week over its day and date digital pricing. Last week they announced day and date digital books would be $1 less than print, but after a furor on the CBIA retailer forums they changed to same pricing for the first thirty days and a $1 reduction after that, matching DC’s pricing.
Retailers threatened to boycott all Dark Horse books unless the digital pricing was changed to match print pricing. This seems like sound logic: as I retailer I’m worried I may lose some comic sales to digital so I’m going to boycott Dark Horse and ensure I lose all sales from that publisher by not stocking their books. Hmm.
I can see the panic that would arise from the brick and mortar comic retailer, but only in a short-term perspective. Are digital readers regular comic shop customers looking for a way to save money every week on their reading? It seems to me from a comics standpoint digital readers and print readers are two distinct group with very small crossover.
Print comic fans are a distinct group that makes the journey to a comic shop on a regular basis to pick up their monthly comic books. For the most part these are not casual readers but a dedicated core. This same group doesn’t seem to grow outside the normal numbers the industry has seen the last decade. They most likely are not going to switch to digital comics anytime soon.
Digital comic readers are a more casual group that enjoys the convenience of having the material instantly in hand. They’re not “collecting” comics, they’re reading them.
I fall into the comic reader group, as I’ve been reading trades for the past two years. If the material is in a standard format I could be swayed to buying them digitally, once this whole DRM issue is resolved and I can download my comics and read them where I like. It’s the same situation digital music was a few years ago: you bought from Amazon or Apple and you were locked, but now there’s really no DRM so you save the files and do what you will. But I digress.
Dropping digital day and date pricing from $2.99 to $1.99 is not going to make all the comic collectors stop buying their books at the comic shop. Dark Horse had a chance to make a sweeping change to the comic landscape and potentially open it up to a much wider casual audience.