Reflecting on the collected editions I’ve read over the last three months one thing stands out: publishers are skimping or dropping extras and supplemental material.

Since the birth of the trade paperback softcovers have rarely included any extras, but their pricing has reflected this.  In contrast hardcover collections have always commanded a premium and publishers have provided extras in the form of interviews, art and story development and much more to compensate.  Unfortunately this seems to be falling out of fashion.

Marvel is currently charging $25 for hardcover and $15 for softcover of the same collected material.  Regardless of page count they seem pretty steady with these price points so it’s a good benchmark.  Are we getting anything for our extra $10 other than cardboard?  Yes I brought this same point up earlier but I’m still brooding.

With all the talk about digital releases fit and finish will be what makes people buy a print version of a book over digital.  Paper size and weight, graphic design, cover stock, smell; you know, the whole package!

Alex Dueben just did a great interview with Gary Groth of Fantagraphics fame over at Comic Book Resources; I’m going to quote the part about their take on print and digital.

The other big topic of discussion right now is digital releases. Fantagraphics is in the business of creating beautiful, well-designed volumes that can’t be replicated online…

I think that’s one of our strengths, although we are planning on making our books available on every digital platform. I think one of our big strengths is that many of our books are art objects in and of themselves. And many people, not everybody, but many people want to have that object and don’t necessarily want to read it as a download or on a Kindle or Nook or iPad. I think that’s probably helped us sustain our sales, the fact that the books are beautifully designed and great to actually hold in your hands. I think we have that advantage over, say, a prose novel.

And Fantagraphics definitely has that advantage over many comics where the coloring doesn’t match the paper and binding may be poor…

Where the books are basically hideous and it doesn’t matter if you hold it in your hand or read them on a Kindle.

Having said that, I just read “Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley,” which is a great book and beautiful, but can’t imagine a great online market for it.

Fantagraphics’ “Peanuts” project kick-started the current classic comic strip reprint craze

I think that’s right. I think that’s true of all of our books. I mean, some of our books have higher-end production values than others. Some books just don’t warrant that art object treatment, whereas others do. We published a $125 Gahan Wilson collection that’s three volumes in a slipcase. Each volume had a die-cut. The slipcase itself had a plexiglass wall to it. It was a magnificently done book in terms of both production and design. But you could read Gahan’s cartoons on a screen. That could be done. Some people would probably opt to do that. To one degree or another, all of our books can be read on a screen.

We’re cognizant of that and we’re certainly moving in that direction. I think what the future is going to hold is that books are going to be on multiple platforms, in digital and in print. I don’t think one is going to necessarily overshadow the other. They can be available in various formats. We’ve been literally working on the digital formats for the last year, just working out all the bugs and talking to the various platforms. I’m sure by this time next year, a lot of our books, if not the majority of them, are going to be available digitally.