The first big announcement towards the start of this weekend’s New York Comic Con made quite the splash, and it had nothing to do with the revival of some dead character or the latest comic to be turned in to a film. Essentially, the two biggest English language comics publishers are dropping prices on their titles from $3.99 to $2.99. That’s US price by the way, which is pretty much the same as the Aussie dollar at the moment, and it will kick off in January. As you can imagine, readers are pretty excited. $1 less may not seem like a lot, but for those dedicated fanboys like me it means either more comics, or spending less, and that’s good news. Marvel’s press announcement clearly thanks the growth in digital readership for the price drop, as stated in this excerpt:
Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales & Circulation David Gabriel confirmed that new books launching in January 2011 will not debut at $3.99. “A lot of talk I’ve heard [today is] about the pricing increases overall…because of the digital comics sales, prices will decrease,” he said as part of a panel whose focus was “Print Vs. Digital.”
Gabriel prefaced the announcement by outlining some of Marvel’s broader successes in the downloadable comics space since launching their dedicated iPhone and iPad application in April. “This week we passed 2 million downloads [of the App,]” the VP explained, noting that the overall interest “does not translate yet into 2 million downloads today for books.” However, as a point of comparison, he said that weekly sales of comics on mobile devices have come close but not surpassed the sales of Manhattan retailer powerhouse Midtown Comics – one of the biggest accounts Marvel services in the direct market.
The sales online were particularly strong for the trial runs Marvel has done on day-and-date releases like this week’s “Ultimate Thor” #1. “We found that in a week’s time, the download of the day-and-date comics were a little bit less than what Midtown orders. They’re one of the top retailers in the country, so it gives you an idea of where we’re at.”
It should be stated that not all Marvel comics will be at the new price, just new superhero series that start in Jan. The same thing is happening with DC, who give declining readership due to recent price rises as the reason for its drop. Similarly, not all their titles will be $2.99, as this excerpt reveals:
“Today’s announcement re-affirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.”
“As Co-Publishers, we listened to our fans and to our partners in the retail community who told us that a $3.99 price point for 32 pages was too expensive. Fans were becoming increasingly reluctant to sample new titles and long term fans were beginning to abandon titles and characters that they’d collected for years.” said Dan DiDio, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “We needed a progressive pricing strategy that supports our existing business model and, more importantly, allows this creative industry to thrive for years to come. With the exceptions of oversized comic books, like annuals and specials, we are committed to a $2.99 price point.”
When taking into account mini-series, annuals and specials, more than 80% of DC’s comic books will be priced at $2.99.
That means that the recent Second Features, such as ones that just began starring Jimmy Olsen, and Superboy, will stop, which is a bummer and that 2 pages of ads will replace 2 story pages, so yes, DC’s titles will be cheaper, but there’ll be fewer pages. I think that’s a compromise most fans can be happy with though.