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Marvel Makes Foray Into Digital Distribution: Retailers Respond

Digital distribution: It’s not just for video games anymore.  Thanks to the iPad, there is now a platform perfectly poised to bring comic books to millions of people, without printing presses or shipping costs… and without physical retail stores.  Comic store owners are waiting in patient apprehension for the comics industry to figure this out, and Marvel might be the first one to do it.

The publisher formerly known as Timely announced last Friday that they will be trying out their first simultaneous digital distribution.  They will release the Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 on the iPad on the same day that it will go on sale in comic shops across the US, and a day before it would be physically available in Europe.

The 80-page annual will cost $4.99 from the shelf, but no one is really sure what the cost of the digital copy will be.  The iPad price on other (older) Marvel comics is $1.99, but Marvel has said that the annual will be split into three “issues” for the iPad (it is three times the length of a regular issue).  Marvel has declined to comment on whether this means the digital copy will cost more or less than the physical one.

But as long as we’re asking for comments, Bleeding Cool has done a round up of comic retailers and their opinions on the move.

Opinions run the gamut:

Sid Smith:

Looks like Marvel is competing for our retail dollars… I think it’ll take awhile, but when the next price increase hits and the average monthly book is $5, I think lots of folks will switch to digital comics or simply drop comics all together.

ComicsPRO, the official guild of comic book retailers:

The primary reason for the existence of ComicsPRO is to be a help to professional storefront comic book specialty retailers. In light of Marvel’s “day & date” announcement for the Iron Man Annual, we are hopeful that every digital reader will sample the first chapter online—and then visit one of our many member stores in the U.S. and Canada to buy the whole story in printed comics format.

Tim Stoltzfus has an interesting historical view on Marvel’s announcement:

The official word doesn’t show pricing yet. That reminds me of a long time ago when Wizards of the Coast announced Magic Online and was very mum about the exact pricing structure until the last possible second, which turned out to be the same price as buying real cards.

Marvel’s PR so far has taken the same tack. As long as the digital price stays at or above the same price as the physical comic (which it absolutely should), I don’t see a problem with day and date simultaneous releases.

See all the statements in their entirety at Bleeding Cool.

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