By thatlad 8 Comments
So we've got a lot of potential for digital comics in the future, we've had the comixology family of apps(marvel, DC, Boom etc.) on ios devices(iphone, Ipad) for a good while now. There's Marvel's own viewer on it's website, and DC have intergated onto comixology's web viewer too.
There's a clear market in a digital future, as evidenced by not only the popularity of the aforementioned viewers but also the pirate market.
However, I'm of the opinion physical comics simply will not die out. It may contract and become simply a collectors or even a niche market but it will still be there.
Thing is I'm wondering how the publishers are going to control this future without compromising their base suppliers and also are they going to learn from the music/movie industry's mistake in entering digital?
Points to note:
Piracy will always exist. This is a fact, it was there in olden times when paintings would be forged and even in the 80's when people would copy cassette tapes with music on for their friends. Difference today is it's easier.
However, Norm (of tested.com) made a good point on a podcast that piracy takes up too much time and if you can add such value to a product that the price makes me think it's worth it then I'll buy it. Example of this being itunes, apple took ahold of the music market and made it cheap, easy and accessible. Piracy hasn't died in the music industry but serious money is still being made.
This is one of the big wins of the marvel & comixology apps, the free comics hook you in then you buy the next chapter and the next one before you know it you've spent serious wedge! (this doesn't apply to the DC app though as they tend to be more expensive with few free 'hook' issues)
Publishers need to be careful not to fall into the same trap as the music companies. Itunes took off in such a big way and became ubiquitous that it's now a situation where apple have a prettty big hold over the music companies. Publishers should look to protect themselves by not relying on the ipad/iphone, get some android apps out there. Same goes for comixology, it's a great UI and so simple to use but if they become the only game in town they could be the next diamond. Help some new start ups, competition is key to driving business.
A thorny issue, you've got to protect your IP but if you goto far there can be rebellion. Customers could walk away or worse someone could breach your DRM and create a easy way to access your IP just to spite your efforts. Look at a physical comic book and think about what I can do with it, I can take it anywhere, read it in any room of the house even lend it to my friend if I choose to. Now I'm not saying just let people have free rein but allow me to buy a comic and then view it on any platform i.e. if I have a collection on the ipad but buy and android device I shouldn't have to sacrifice my collection. Let me view it on the multiple devices I have in my home (PC, Phone, Ipad, any other future viewer...TV?) and keep it simple so it doesn't detract from the experience.
So how to integrate this digital future without sacrificing your brick & mortar base? Well for a start I wouldn't recommend going the Sony route, the PSP Go was an abject failure some retailers refused to stock it as they knew they're helping destroy their business. Also Sony have reasoned they can sell digital games at the same price if not more.
Customer's aren't stupid, they know a digital copy is massively cheaper as no middle man, no physical costs, no transportation costs. Sell the digital copy cheaper so people see the value of it but give the physical copy a unique selling point.
Look at triple-play blurays, I actively look to buy these as I know I can get a physical copy that's worth my cash and a digital copy for convenience. Publishers could include a code for a free download version with the physical version, people would pay for the physical copy but if they wanted to travel or didn't want to damage said copy they could store the book and read it on a reader whenever they wanted.
When it comes down to it, digital is here and it's only going to get bigger. Should be interesting
Digital comics & the ipad