July 12, 2010
For as much as the music and movie industry serial screw things up for consumers, they at least seem to understand how to price their products. Digital versions available for download are cheaper then their physical product counterparts.
When Sherlock Holmes came out on DVD, you could buy the disc in the store for $17, but online for about $12. Same goes for most albums.
Consumers are smart enough to know that if the company doesn't have to supply an actual physical product (disc, case, printed artwork), then the company is saving money on manufacturing and shipping costs. The price online, therefore, should be reflective of those savings.
But when Sports Illustrated released their magazine app they priced each weekly issue they same as their newsstand edition. Worst yet, they didn't provide current magazine subscribers any discount or option to switch to digital delivery. Nor did they provide any discounted subscription rate. $4.99 every week for the iPad version of SI.
The comic industry is no better. I didn't pay much attention when the Marvel app came out, but when DC Comics released their comic book app I started taking a close look at what was up for sale.
DC had plenty of older issues priced inexpensively, though some were still higher than I expected. What was worse was that they were making only one comic - one out of the hundred that DC publishes each month - available online at the same time that the book would be available physically in stores.
So I could either buy older comics at slightly discounted price from the physical product cover price. Or I could buy the one new, current comic being made available electronically for the same price as if I bought it in the store. Hardly a compelling reason for me to start regularly using the DC comics app on my iPad.
Now I know that there are some costs in delivering comics or magazines electronically. There are servers to maintain and bandwidth to pay for. However, that cost can be distributed across hundreds of titles being sold. You have to pay the printer each time you print a book. In the end, it is still a lot cheaper to distribute your material digitally.
Until publishers like DC Comics and Sports Illustrated realize that consumers expect a less expensive digital version, I don't see how they expect to make the digital portion of the publishing business successful.