My partner in crime and best friend has already commented on this issue and being the neophyte that I am, I am barely qualified to speak my peace, but I'm going to anyways.
I'm sick of printed comic books. There I said it. I'm sick of all that goes along with it, but mostly I'm sick of the price I have to pay for my addiction. Marvel and DC are like drug dealers, they have a bunch of addicts who can't live without their stories and they are taking advantage of that. But even addicts know when to stop taking the drugs that are killing them. In this case it's robbing us of our hard earned money, but someday soon, we'll stop buying comic books altogether.
When I was in High School I remember going to Shinders (a local book store that sold comic books) for my weekly comics in 1988-89. I think books were either .75 or $1 at the time. That was reasonable in my mind. I could afford that. It was still expensive in the long run, because I still needed to by my bags and boards, plus long boxes and I had to find a place to store them all, but I was okay with all of that. Luckily I gave up on books within a year or two and didn't collect a great deal of them.
Now it's not the same thing anymore. Nothing has increased in price as much as comic books over the years. In 2000 books were $2 and in 1990 they were $1 and in 1980 they were .50 cents. That's $2.50 more in 30 years. And in some cases $3.50 in 30 years. Sure you are going to say "but that's thirty years", well the only thing I can think of that has increased that much since then is gasoline. In 1980, gas was like $1 a gallon, now it's basically $3 a gallon, so that's a good comparison. That's the only comparison I can think of. But the big one for me is the cost from $2 in the year 2000 to $4 in the year 2010. That's a 100% increase in ten years. Holy shit, we should be super pissed about this. And for some reason we aren't really.
I know we complain about it all the time, but we don't seem to be doing anything about it except gritting our teeth and straining our back accounts to buy our books. I don't want to do that anymore. I am sick of it. Does this mean that digital can save us from spending too much. Well it sure could if Marvel and DC were smart about it.
I am going to break this down as best I can with the limited knowledge of math that I have. Here is how the cost of comic books breaks down with the best of my research can tell me. I might not be perfect with this, but I am VERY close to getting to bottom of this.
We are going to use a $3 comic books, because lets face it, selling those books to us at $4 is just plain gouging and they don't need to do that, they just do it because they can.
Here is how I will break it down. Diamond gets a 70% discount on the retail of the book, so that leaves all the rest of these numbers totally irrelevant because if we eliminate Diamond, then we eliminate all the rest of the costs. 70% of $3 is = .90 cents. Did you see that number? .90 cents. That means Marvel pays their talent out of the .90 cents. That means a digital comic book has the potential of easily being able to be sold at the .99 price point. Sure they won't do that, because they are greedy sons a bitches, but perhaps we can settle for a still reasonable $1.25 a book. That's a .35 cent increase in profit for Marvel ON EACH BOOK! That's pretty huge.
Plus lets not forget the potential market out there. Sure this all boils down to NEW READERS, I hear this all the time. The current readers are never going to switch over, we are too old to change our ways, which is our fault and we'll have to live with it, but a newer generation just might be interested in comic books if it were convenient to buy them. Just like iTunes took over the market on music, I think it's time to take over the market on comic books.
The big problem I see here is the cost of a reader. Right now we have devices that aren't made for reading comic books, but work in the short term. We have the iPad at $500 and the HP slate at like $700. Both way too expensive for a comic book reader. What we need is a device/reader that is the same size, within 5% or so, of a comic book page and about as thin as a Kindle. A battery life of around 24 hours and a ton of storage space for under $150. Is that something possible right this instant, well not really, at least to my knowledge, but we are awfully close. If we used buttons to turn the page I think we could pull it off, but if we want a touch screen, pinch and zoom and other features, then that cost point is unattainable. Give it a couple of years and we are definitely there.
Let's round the cost of a reader/device up to $200 to be fair in this comparison. We can easily do that price point within the next year and have all the features we need for a comic book reader. Now let's put our current comic book allowance per week at $15 (I'm being frugal on purpose, but many of you spend WAY more than that). So that means we get 5 books each week for $15. Now lets break this down if they were digital. I'm going to go with the $1.25 price point to help make my point, but some books might be only .99 cents (if Marvel and DC are smart about it). Let's take $1.25 x 5 = $6.25 right? Now that's a $8.75 savings per week and we are still getting our same stories. So $8.75 x 4 = $35 a month. Okay so now we are getting somewhere. So that means in 12 months we would save $410. Surely enough to buy a decent reader; and that's just in one year. I'm not even going to mention the $20 or dollars in bags and boards we spend along with buying a long box for $12. But I will because I'm a super big cock. That's a total of $442 a year in savings going digital. Minus the cost of a reader at $200, so a grand total of $242 in the first year. Then each year after that, we start saving $442, or we can translate that to like ten more books a week. I pick the more books thing, but you do what you want.
I'm not saying that digital comics WILL save the industry, but I think they are our best bet in the long run. We have to face facts, the sale of comic books is dropping every year and we have to do something about it. Either we lower the prices of printed comic books to $2 and get more readers in the doors, or we die a slow and painful death. OR we sell digital comic books for $1.25 each and Marvel makes more money, we save more money and we don't have to deal with all the shit that goes along with storing are paper products.
Will it make me sad to see my LCS go out of business? Hell yeah it will. I literally cried one day, well my eyes welled up, when I realized that my Shinders was closing. That place was like an institution for me. I went there just to get out of the house. It was my hang out place. I loved that place like a good porno mag. If Shinders would have had pages they would have ALL been stuck together. But I would rather see my LCS go out of business then the whole industry which I love.
I've given my two cents and I feel better about it. I'm sure I've missed a few things, but if you want to hear more about my digital comic book rant, you can listen to our 175th show as we talk about this for at least 45 minutes.