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Last week, Rich Johnston over at Bleeding Cool reported on some pretty underhanded tactics being used by retailers to stifle the growing digital market for comic books in order to maintain the failing direct-market-only print monopoly. According to Johnston, Jetpack Comics in New Hampshire and Larry's Comics in Massachusetts planned to stop stocking any Dark Horse print comics in the shop as a response to rumors that Dark Horse would be making Digital Comics available on the same day as print comics for up to $1.50 cheaper per issue.
As it turns out, the rumors were mistaken and Dark Horse actually intends to release the digital comics at the same price as the print versions, dropping the price a month later. Dark Horse sent out the following email yesterday afternoon to clarify the situation and stop the controversy:
December 5th, 2012
Dark Horse retail partners and fans,
You may have been surprised by our recent announcement regarding digital pricing.
We apologize for the confusion and concern surrounding Dark Horse's recent announcement of simultaneous release in print and digital. We want to make it clear that nowhere in our announcement (see below) did we indicate that our same-day digital pricing would be less than that of our physical books. Due to some miscommunication, there has been widespread speculation based on our current pricing model.
To clarify: We have chosen to release all new single-issue comics digitally for the price of $2.99 for the first month, dropping to our standard digital pricing of $1.99 after that.
Dark Horse values our retail partners and is grateful for the twenty-five years of business we've done together. We have considered the retail community in all of our digital decisions and look at direct-market shops as crucial to our continued success. With that in mind, Dark Horse will make every effort to keep our comics retailers strong in a changing market.
We continue to value everyone who both buys and sells Dark Horse products, and thank you for your support. All of you are the reason we are here today.
While this reporter certainly understands the fear that publishers harbor toward taking a risk that might hurt their current distribution system, the fact is that the direct market, while profitable for now, has resulted in a dwindling customer base and a complete lack of new readers. The possibility of expansion resides solely in the digital marketplace, and artificially inflating prices for an unlimited potential number of new readers in order to keep the stores that sell to the feeble number of existing readers seems very shortsighted.
Print comics sold in comic shops cost money to print, cost money to ship, and must be marked up so that Diamond and the comic shop can all get their cut of the price. They have also risen drastically in price over the past decade because of the shrinking readership that all print industries are suffering from, and a spiraling solution of bilking more and more money out of fewer and fewer readers. Digital comics do not have those limitations, so pricing them at the same rate cannot be seen as anything other than self-destructive appeasement.
This reporter was excited to believe that Dark Horse was planning to lead the way into the digital future, and perhaps they still might, but it looks like now is not the time. Sooner or later, however, one of the publishers will have to if the comic book industry ever plans to grow beyond its current niche market.
Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror