Wow, this announcement just came in my inbox and floored me. A real game changer: Marvel is including a digital code in all $3.99 comics starting this June. Let that sink in for a minute: every print comic, at least the higher priced ones, are going to include a free digital copy. Here’s the press release.

New York, NY—March 9, 2012— Marvel is proud to announce that, beginning June 2012, all Marvel super hero comics priced at $3.99 will include codes for free digital copies of those same issues on the Marvel Comics app for iOS and Android devices at no extra cost! That’s right, the most-talked-about comics in the industry—including Avengers, Captain America, Invincible Iron Man, Mighty Thor, Amazing Spider-Man. Wolverine & The X-Men and more—will come packed with a code to ensure fans have the most critically acclaimed stories with them anytime, anywhere.

“We’re committed to bringing fans the best value in comics. By including codes for free digital copies in all our $3.99 super hero comics, we’re doing just that” said David Gabriel, SVP of Sales, Marvel Entertainment.   “We’ve seen a tremendous response to the digital codes in Avenging Spider-Man, our Season One graphic novels and the Ultimate Comics line. The positive reactions from both retailers and fans make it clear that including these codes with our books drives customers into comic stores on a repeated basis.”

Marvel made comic book history in 2011 by announcing  all titles in the Ultimate Comics line would include codes for free digital copies on the Marvel Comics app, with unrivaled incentives for comic shop retailers. Then, in 2012, Marvel announced the acclaimed Season One graphic novels would also include similar codes making them the first graphic novels to ever include codes for free digital copies at no extra cost.

“At Marvel, we’re always looking for ways to bring the worlds of print and digital media together to deliver the best comics experience for our fans,” said Peter Phillips, SVP & GM, Marvel Digital Media. “With this next step, fans will soon be able to buy their comics from their favorite retailers but also enjoy them on their mobile devices and tablets, all at no extra charge. Welcome to the Revolution.”

 

This could go either way; massively increase print sales while hindering digital sales. It could be argued those still buying monthly comics are not the real target for the digital market and this just helps get the message out. If you don’t want the code you could give it to a friend, thereby expanding the hobby, or sell it online for those nefarious types.

It would be interesting to see hard numbers of used digital codes that were provided with the recent Marvel graphic novels; if the numbers are relatively low Marvel doesn’t have much to lose. It does make a statement as to the perceived value of digital editions if they’re to be given away so freely.