Digital comics

The Hidden Cost of Marvel’s Incredibly Cheap Digital Comic Book Sales

Marvel Comics launched a new digital comic book sale yesterday, one that sees around 300 graphic novels discounted to 99 cents each on Comixology and the Amazon Kindle store. It’s pretty much the best deal fans are likely to find these days. But while the prospect of being able to buy critically acclaimed books like Vision: The Complete Series and Walt Simonson’s Thor for less than a dollar is great for readers, this sale raises significant concerns for an industry still struggling. with the new challenges of the digital market.

This actually isn’t the first time Marvel has offered such drastic markdowns on its digital collections. Several times over the past year, Amazon has seen 80-90% markdowns on Marvel digital graphic novels. The first time this happened, many readers naturally assumed it was some glitch of some kind. But at this point, it’s clear that these massive sales are only part of Marvel’s ongoing business strategy for digital comics.

At first glance, these sales appear to be a win/win situation. Readers can load their tablets with new comics for pennies on the dollar, while Marvel gets a big boost in sales and the prospect of attracting more eyeballs to their digital catalog. It’s not like digital comics cost them anything in terms of printing or shipping, so theoretically the company still makes a small profit even when a $30 collection is reduced at $1 or $2.

7 Best Comics To Read For Avengers: Infinity War

However, these recurring sales threaten to devalue Marvel’s digital comics in the long run. Once readers get used to the prospect of paying a dollar a piece for these collections, will they voluntarily switch to paying $5, $10, or $15 instead? Given how often these line-wide sales have occurred on the Kindle Store, what incentive does anyone have to keep paying full price for Marvel books? Why not just wait a few months for the next big sale?

Plus, why buy physical copies of these books when the digital versions are so much cheaper? Owners of comic book stores and bookstores are sufficiently wary of digital comics as they are, fearing that they are slowly being squeezed out of an industry that once relied entirely on them. They may see these digital sales as a sign that there’s no reason to continue to store many of Marvel’s paperbacks and hardcover editions much longer.

Another problem is that Marvel creators may be making less money from these sales. Jim Zub, Writer of The Uncanny Avengers broken down the mechanics of digital comic sales few years ago. While terms may vary between publishers and creators, the bottom line is that the reduced sale prices mean there’s a lot less money to spend for everyone involved.Marvel’s extreme digital sales have also put other publishers in a tough spot. When do companies like Boom, Image, and Dark Horse have to start responding with their own 99-cent graphic novel sales just to stay competitive? Not all publishers are as well equipped as Marvel to handle such large markdowns. Those sales might end up convincing readers that 99 cents for a full graphic novel is a fair price, digital or print. And at that time, making a profit by making comics becomes a much more difficult task.

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by follow @jschedeen on Twitter, Where Kicksplode on MyIGN.