Why 50-cent Comics Should Return

In his column “They’re Selling Comics on the iPad the Wrong Way”, Stephen Totilo sums up my feelings about how comics buying on the iPad platform has not lived up to its potential.

I’m a near lifelong comics reader. I have the dozens of long-boxes in my basement to prove it. Still, given the right opportunity, it would make the jump tomorrow to reading all (or at least nearly all) of my comics on my iPad. What are the components of that right opportunity?

Cost: Right now, e-comics cost essentially the same as print comics. That’s insane. If I’m going to pay the same price, I might as well get the collectibility of the printed comic. Funny thing is, at this point in my life, I’d much rather not have to find storage for more printed comics. The possibility of having my entire comics collection available from a single e-reader at the tap of a button is tantalizing, but not worth paying the same price for the physical product. Now, I’d gladly pay under a buck for an e-comic. I like 50 cents because it harkens to the prices when I first started collecting (yes, I’m old) but I could potentially go for 75 cents, maybe 99 cents for the new books, with reasonable deals on the back issues, which brings me to…

Bundles: Even worse in terms of cost, I can actually get printed comics cheaper than the electronic versions if I wait and pick up a trade paperback collection for a bundled price. There are no options for bundles, or discounts for picking up a whole arc, miniseries, or even entire run of a book for e-comics. When Marvel first ventured into electronic comics, they were selling DVDs with the then entire run of books like Fantastic Four or Spider-Man—forty-plus years of comics—for fifty bucks! I would totally pay something like that to, say, download every issue of Avengers to my iPad. Thing is, presumably, the back issues have already earned out. Hell, I already own many of them! Why should the publishers be charging full price for them all over? And why am I going to pay full comic store prices to pick them up piecemeal? Three hundred back issues for $600? I could buy a new iPad! On the other hand, three hundred back issues for $59.95? Hell yeah, sign me up!

Convenience: The interfaces on apps like ComiX (and the official DC and Marvel apps) make you hunt-and-peck for individual issues. I want to pay my flat-fee and start whole collections of comics downloading to my iPad or Mac.

Choice: If I knew, for certain, that all of the week’s new comics would be available for download on my iPad the same day they hit stores, I might still make the switch in spite of the above concerns. But instead, only a few select comics show up as e-books each week, along with a confusing mix of seemingly random back issues.

I honestly hope the major publishers figure out how to do it right, because I think they’re leaving money on the table with their current half-hearted approached to e-publishing now that the near-ideal platform for their media has emerged and is continuing to develop (with the production of competing tablet devices).

In the meantime, I’ve got my long-boxes…