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What price comic books? We're not made of money!


#1

Print comics are at the tipping point when it comes to pricing. I think $3.99 is the upper limit people will pay for a regular, monthly 32-page comic. DC Rebirth is going back to $2.99 but Marvel has already proven people wil pay $3.99 for a book. DC is leaving serious money on the table and WB is not going to let that last for too long.

I think when a 32-page book starts going for over $4, there will be serious pushback from the readers and retailers. The Big Two and other companies know that at some point, they will have to raise prices in the next 10 years but that scares the shit out of them. They know they are skating the edge and that going above $4 will cost them sales. Permanently.

In order to mitigate this, they are going to have to push digital at a lower price point and that will truly disrupt the brick-and-mortar retailers. Comics are becoming far too expensive. Something has to give.

I think in the next 10 years, there will be a huge market correction that will be unprecedented. It will not be due to rampant speculation but caused by people leaving the market due to high product costs. You will see many companies go under. Marvel and DC will survive due to their parent companies. I can see Image making it due to their operational structure but they will be shadows of their former selves. Digital will be the only real lifeline with platforms like Marvel Unlimited becoming the desired avenue to go in and Image becoming an online art collective.

I think that within the next 10 years, we will see the end of the industry as we know it and something new rising from its ashes.


What will the comic book hobby look like in 10 years?
What will the comic book hobby look like in 10 years?
What will the comic book hobby look like in 10 years?
What will the comic book hobby look like in 10 years?
#2

I honestly would have thought that digital would have been a stronger player by now and started to push physical books out. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. So it’s hard for me to predict what is coming. I think unless someone makes a drastic move that tanks the industry we will continue down this split market road. Physical issues and comic shops could continue to be a niche industry while the digital market proliferates or not.

$3.99 for 32 pages? When’s the last time you bought a comic? It’s generally $3.99 for 22 pages. That’s the norm at Marvel and becoming the norm at Image.

I think this doesn’t have the kind of affect that a lot of people assume it would. Comics are almost 4X as expensive as when I started collecting. I’m sure some people could multiply that number. I think most of the people who tout these doomsday scenarios have already checked out and it wasn’t because of the price.


#3

I think he’s talking about the total pages which is the number they use for solicitations. The story pages are usually 20-22 (in fact Marvel and DC took them down to 20 a few years back).

On the subscription model, I can’t see logically how it works outside being a secondary market. Even with Netflix the vast majority of their output has already made it’s primary money already. I don’t think many would sign up if only Netflix original material was available.

Marvel currently put out 70+ new comics a month, what would be the motivation to put out that much material without the regular buyers of the single issues (either in print or digital)?

So I can see an expansion of that but not as the new model.


#4

That’s the total number of pages in a book, including ads. You may only have 20 pages of story, though.


#5

DC also made a big deal when they were charging $3.99 for their 32 page books with backups and $2.99 for their 22 then 20 page books. Comics used to be 32 pages. Now they’re 22 or 20. There aren’t that many ads anymore either except for house ads and those carry over to ComiXology. You can see some of the page counts here.

So what’d you pick up today, Todd? :wink:


#6

Comics have almost never had 32 pages of story. I think there’s some confusion over the literal physical page count and the story pages. They still solicit at the 32 page physical count: http://www.comicbookresources.com/article/marvel-civil-war-ii-august-tie-ins-spider-man-ant-man/view=all

When DC did their books with backups they had 28 pages of story, which they have now dropped and reduced all to 20 (although at $2.99).

Before that, back to when I was a kid in the 1980s the standard has been 22 story pages. Back in the 1970s, if you read the early Uncanny X-Men books they went briefly down to 17 pages.


#7

You’re right. They do still seem to mostly solicit at 32 pages. It looks like some of the Image books are a little more honest soliciting at 24 though.

I still don’t think @Todd reads enough comics to notice. :wink:


#8

I gotta disagree with Todd about price. I know it matters to him, but I don’t think it matters at all to the vast majority of readers. Every single month you can see top ten comics at $4.99 or $5.99. People have predicted the death of comics because of increasing prices for 30 years. There’s just no evidence at all that price matters. In fact I think the majority of buyers couldn’t tell you the price of the book they just picked up.

Comics are a hobby. Like pretty much every hobby you pay more than you really need to. If you’re into sports you buy kit and go to games that are overpriced. If you’re into music you buy merchandise or go to concerts. If you like cars you spend too much. It’s a hobby, it’s an escape from regular life and it’s a creature comfort. No comic has ever sold because someone needed to buy a comic. It always has been, and always will be a luxury good. If it were about value everyone would buy Marvel Unlimited and no-one would buy print.

I expect $4.99 to become the norm within the next 10 years. For the elite creators. We’ll move away from a model where a top team like Millar and Quitely sell a product at the same price as two complete unknowns. Higher prices will mean higher quality. Higher prices for better characters. We almost have that right now. And they’ll sell in droves (like they do today), because it’s a hobby, an escape, and price doesn’t matter.


#9

It’s worth pointing out (again) that Erik Larsen’s SAVAGE DRAGON book has no ads; for $3.99 you get a 20-page feature story, a backup story or two, plus a letters column that runs from 1 to 4 pages depending on the length of the backups. Granted, the backups and lettercol may not be your cup of tea, but I appreciate the effort he makes in trying to give value for someone who buys his book.


#10

The point I was trying to make with Todd is I don’t think it’s even price for him. I think he’s apathetic about the product and price was his excuse. I used to pay $1 an issue for comics. Now $3.99 is the defacto price for most books and it will probably go up. I whined about it but bought the books I wanted to read anyway. Now I realize it wasn’t as much of a problem as I thought. I’m sure there are some here that paid 25¢ or maybe even 10¢. So it really costs more than what they used to pay. Some do, some don’t.

I think this is going to happen sooner rather than later. DC’s double tier with $2.99 and $3.99 books was mostly built on it anyway. The better selling books were the ones that went up. Initially, they justified it with backup stories but even dropped those after a bit. We’ll see how their experiment with all $2.99 books again will go.

Or they quit buying and just complain about it on the internet. :wink:


#11

None. I’m getting them Saturday! :stuck_out_tongue:

I am not an outlier. Remember, I used to buy almost every Marvel title. Then in 2008, Marvel began to initiate there price increase. For the first time, I realized I was buying books I really didn’t enjoy. I was buying out of habit. Then in 2014, I bought my last Marvel book. The Marvel Universe no longer interested me.

I still buy some indie $3.99 books but even then I’m more likely to drop it quicker If it doesn’t entertain me.

I think price matters more than you think. There is a core that will always by that will buy at any price. But even they have limits. As the price goes up, that core will get smaller. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen. My LCS, who has been in business for about 40 years, has seen his revenues consistent but unit sales drop.

A crash/correction is coming. Whether it is internal or external forces or both or whatever the cause is, it will change the landscape.


#12

Price is a huge factor as to why I’m not buying comics regularly any more. There are other hobbies I’d much rather spend my money on.


#13

Ah, what would Millarworld be without contrarians?

The reported sales of books over the last few years both show that neither digital releases or price increases are slowing down sales. The industry just seems to get bigger and better (this year it’s fading but I think there’s different factors causing that).

For every old duffer whinging about price a new enthusiastic reader seems to arrive to take their spot.


#14

As I read this I began thinking of the subscription model for MMORPG video games. Many moons ago I was the producer for Lord of the Rings Online, and whenever a new update came out we’d end up losing a number of users. Why did we lose them? Well most of them were still paying the subscription fee, but not playing the game much, and when all the publicity about a new update came out they’d suddenly be reminded that they’re paying for this thing they don’t really care about anymore, and so they’d quit. We had a couple of price hikes in my time as well, which caused a large number of people to quit. Their exit polls suggested that the game was ok, but they didn’t think it was worth the new price. The MMO subscription model kinda relies on these “habitual subscribers” - what @Todd describes here I think is a combination of a lacklustre product and a price which is too high for said product.


#15

I just looked in the mirror and I’m 10 years younger.

You just defined apathy. :wink:

I think you’re probably less of an outlier than you think. I knew a lot of all-or-nothing fans. It mostly came down to how they felt about what they were reading and the price was an excuse. As Gar has pointed out, there are new, younger fans coming into the fold to replace complaining old farts. :wink:


#16

I used to buy nearly every Marvel book and stopped, because I am getting older and buying every Marvel book isn’t supposed to be a thing you do for your entire life.

Although I do have an unlimited subscription which probably works out to about 60 cents for every book I read…so comics haven’t gone up at all since I was a kid! :smile:


#17

It’s a huge factor as to why I’m not buying any number of things anymore. I don’t need them in my life. It’s also a reason why I’m eager to try out subscription services such as Scribd; I don’t care about owning a physical product, in fact I prefer digital to anything that’s going to take up space in my house. I care about the content, I care about the stories, and if $8.99 a month allows me access to unlimited stories then sign me up right now because there’s no way I can afford unlimited stories at 3 quid a pop.


#18

You’re not spending less money though, are you? You’re just spending it on other things. That’s changing priorities not leaving because of price. :wink:

This! If I could like it about 10 times, I would. I do have to compliment fans like @njerry though. They should represent the upper end of that spectrum but are still picking up the books they enjoy and praising them heavily.

I wish I could like this one about 10 times too.

One of the most disappointing things to me about meeting older comic creators (and some LCS owners) is how many of them have checked out of comics. They like to complain about the state of comics and go on about that. Then, you ask them what their reading and they haven’t touched a book in 30 years. A lot of them have access to just about anything they would want to read almost free of charge but still aren’t interested.


#19

The thing is too that there are options outside just buying the latest titles now at full price.

I buy mine via digital after a month or two when the cost goes down. A lot of others here, Ben as the king, buy in trade and surf around for the biggest discounts. There’s a Marvel U subscription so if you are willing to wait you can read as many as you want for $10 or lower.

I think as with most media, those options will have expanded a lot more by the time a decade is up. I doubt most comics readers even know about Humble Bundle options or scribd.


#20

It’s prioritsing what I spend my disposable income on, but prices have increased (as a result of changing exchange rates and pay increases being lower than general inflation) and I have less disposable income than before. I used to be able to buy comics, toy robots, gaming stuff, DVDs and books all the time. Now I’m buying less of everything, and comics have pretty much gone (and DVDs are gone altogether) - I buy the occasional second-hand trade or graphic novel, and some Humble Bundles and that’s it.