Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hooray! Print Comics realize the Internet exists!

So Marvel's finally decided to release a few archives of its comics online, finally giving people the ability to see all their old freaks and geeks in golden-age glory. It's good . . . except even with this huge bloom of press, it's doomed.

Not to say that anything that allows people to read old comic books shouldn't be lauded, but the model is flawed. The problems?
  • It's only 'older' comics; Newer comics won't appear for at least six months.
  • It's browser-dependant; no downloading allowed! (Yeah, RIGHT. Marvel, I know you're still trying to get the Internet back up to your bachelor pad, but let me introduce you to the Internet's annoying little sibling, ScreenShot. Good luck trying to get past him.)
  • It's subscription-based — apparently Marvel thinks that just because World of Warcraft can charge a monthly fee so people can pretend to be a wizard and City of Heroes can charge a monthly rate so people can pretend to be a superhero, they can charge a monthly rate so people can pretend to own a bunch of old comic books.
Marvel already charges $3 a pop for new comics; they could just as easily justify a $3 rate to download a given book through iTunes, make it available for new comics as well as older ones, and STILL make good money. Hell, let's crank down the resolution to something iPod-able, put it at $2 or (god forbid) $0.99, and call 'em "Low-Res Versions", making the print version still superior and 'worth it' to collectors and fans. Not only do you get more money, you can actually use iTunes to track which comics are doing better now that you've opened up your market a little more!

. . . and we're not even including the lower cost of entry for new comics. Imagine being able to offer iTunes-only Marvel Comics; you know, the things you'd love to do except you don't think they'll sell very well in print and you don't feel like wasting the paper, trucks, and shelf space on. If they sell well enough on iTunes, now you can justify print versions too!

'Course, knowing my cynicism, this subscription system will fail in two years (or less) and Marvel will erroneously think that nobody wants online comics after all, and thereafter offer nothing online. Shame.

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