Cost of downloading the first episode of season two of The Walking Dead TV series, which takes 62 minutes to watch: $1.99
Cost of downloading the latest issue of The Walking Dead comic book, which takes maybe 10 minutes to read: $2.99
Less succinct thoughts to follow:
I know that they’re different mediums, and I would be the last person to suggest that TV is superior to comics as an artform, but things seem awfully easy to compare when you’re taking in both of them via the same device (an iPad, most of the time). $3 for digital comics is an absurd price. Digital comics are worth a dollar. It’s not that hard. They’re worth a dollar. I will impulse-buy a ton of things on my iThings, because I am foolish with my money, but I at least need the perception of value. But if I am going to stare at the screen of my iPad after making a purchase, I will purchase the thing that gives me the most opportunity to be entertained while staring, for a reasonable cost. That is never comics.
I could easily see myself dropping $10 a week on ten digital comics. I doubt sincerely that I am alone in that. But I can not bring myself to spend $3 a week on one digital comic. And I’m the exact demographic that the comics companies cater to: I’ve been reading comics my whole life, I have iDevices and disposable income, I like using those devices for the sake of using them, I’m not even particularly picky — I still like the Ultimate Universe! — and I will often look at songs or apps or whatever and say, “Oh, it’s only a buck, what the hell,” sometimes multiple times a day. If comics companies can’t get me to buy digital comics, then they can’t get anyone to. Do you think a twelve year old is going to be able to convince mom to drop $3 on the new issue of Miles Morales-as-Spider-Man so he can read it for ten minutes? Digital comics are worth a dollar. $0.99 is what they are worth. Sell them for that price and people will buy them, because it is not so absurdly overpriced compared to every other form of entertainment that you can get for your iDollars, and because people actually do like comics. They’re just too expensive.
And I know — you do this, you put the comic book shops out of business, mostly. And that is unfortunate. I worked in comic book shops for a long time, and I still like going to my local shop (though less since they stopped bothering to regularly stock the selection of independent and critically-acclaimed graphic novels that had made Austin Books a world-renowned shop once). But the fact is: A, they’re probably going out of business anyway, and B, they’re not a particularly efficient business model. There is a much better one, and it is right here on my desk as I am typing this.
(There are more than a handful of options to keep comics in print, as well — though DC’s Barnes & Noble/Kindle Fire flap suggests that they’re not super concerned about that — and so I’m really not sure if we need local comic book stores for anything other than a set-dropping on The Big Bang Theory.)
Anyway: my computer is broken right now and I was looking for something to do on my iPad for a little while, and when choosing between New Comics Wednesdays or watching the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I was struck by just how little sense it made to buy digital comics, period. Which is a bummer, because I’d like to.
*Note: We don’t actually know that they’re awful because no one is releasing their sales numbers, which is almost certainly because they’re even worse than you think.