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On comics and the digital age - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
void where prohibited, except by law
On comics and the digital age
I freely admit I'm not really a part of the core audience for comics.

Aside from having, you know, wobbly bits (I appreciate this is more a stereotype these days but I suspect that the majority of comic readers are still male) I also have poor vision, which leads to many comics being difficult for my brain to process. I'm really not used to thinking visually. Also much of the subject matter of comics is deeply tedious to me. You won't get me reading a superhero story unless it's in some way subversive of the genre.

Nonetheless, I like art. I'm not particularly concerned what format that art comes in, as long as it speaks to me. I own a complete run of Sandman, for example, and it's one of my comfort reads. Therefore, it's not impossible to sell me comics.

The thing is, comics *could* be about to undergo a renaissance. It won't be too many years before it will be possible to consume comics on Ipad or ebook reader type devices. (Yes, I know you can do that now by illegally downloading them. I'm talking about actually making the creators money in some way.)

The problem lies in the fact that things aren't priced according to the cost of production, rather according to what the market will bear. Traditionally comics have been expensive to produce. Particularly full colour comics. That means that you won't be able to pick up a bound collection new for less than a tenner. Much though I love Sandman, my copies are all second hand, because no story, no matter how good, is worth the kind of money a new run of Sandman would have cost. This is why I don't own any Strangers in Paradise, or Order of the Stick, despite having enjoyed both immensely.

So when the comics industry embraces the brave new digital world, my fear is that they will price according to what the market will bear, rather than according to the cost of production. So an electronic graphic novel will probably cost a couple of quid less than the print version. The core audience will be happy - they're getting the media they pay for cheaper, and the producers will be happy because their profit margins will have gone through the roof. The brick and mortar comic stores will be less happy, but that's economics.

The thing is where does that leave people like me who quite enjoy some comics, but really aren't obsessed by them. Continuing not to buy comics, I suspect. I have a feeling, however, that there are orders of magnitude more people like me than there are hardcore comic readers.

But the producers will never even realise the market share they've missed out on. Their sales will go up, as a result of wider availability, and they'll never even notice that they've missed out on the chance to enter more mainstream markets. And this is before we even consider the crippling DRM they'll surely want to put on the things.

Any idea that capitalism always works in the best interests of producers and consumers appears to ignore the fact that people are not entirely rational.
2 comments or Leave a comment
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: August 21st, 2010 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Odd - I saw you link to this on twitter, but this, and your previous two recent posts aren't showing up on my friends page. I can't see any obvious reason for this.

There's already a Marvel comics app for the iPad, and from what I've seen, it works very well. The device and form factor are ideal for the medium.

"Individual comics are priced at just $1.99 each with new content arriving every week."
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 22nd, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did wonder why they'd attracted so little comment. This may explain it. I wonder what, if anything, I should do about it?
2 comments or Leave a comment