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  1. #1
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    Default Tilting at Windmills - Dec 6, 2012

    This month, Brian Hibbs reflects on November's surprising news from DC Comics regarding its digital publication schedule and what it means for him - and the rest of the comics retail industry - moving forward.


    Full article here.

  2. #2
    Senior Member PretenderNX01's Avatar
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    No business model can last forever unchanged. The Music industry had to evolve to allow single song downloads to combat piracy, in doing so a lot of independent stores died out. But if the Musical labels didn't change, they would have died out along with them.

    I don't want to be harsh, but if DC didn't step up their digital publishing and they go under- what have you got to retail?

    I personally prefer paper comics, I wait until Batman Beyond is collected into a comic. I may get to a point where I wait for trades.

    I never thought I could wait to read an issue because I wanted to go online right away and get by cyber-discussions going, but I find now my real life is getting busy and I do wait until the comics stack up. Sometimes I even wait to buy comics until I have enough to just buy a bunch from Midtown's website and make the shipping worth it. Everybody's got to save a buck.

  3. #3
    I Love Comics! wishlish's Avatar
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    Brian, I could be wrong, but I thought that the motivating factor for changing the digital release time was the fact that while Comixology was willing to wait until 10 am/2 pm/whatever time it was, the Nook, iTunes, and Kindle markets were not. Those markets are used to updating new media at the earlier time and were unwilling to change just for digital comics. That left Comixology (a pretty valuable player in the digital market) vulnerable. Let's face it, in that space, Comixology is the small company (at least compared to Amazon).

    As much as digital comics could hurt the print market, a digital market without Comixology might be even more harmful. After all, Comixology is the only company that's shown any willingness to partner with LCSs through digital stormfronts. If Comixology doesn't stay in business, then any chance an LCS has of grabbing any digital money goes to zero (unless you want to be creating a page of Amazon Associates links every Wednesday, and even then, I don't know if Amazon pays referral fees on digital sales, or if their referral fee is as good as Comixology).

    Or am I wrong?

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    I just don't buy it. That there is one person that says, let alone 10% of a customer base, "I like print comics, but my store doesn't open till 9am. Even though I'm a human being and so I sleep at night, not waking up till 6 or 8am, I'm now gonna buy digital now that they're available in those one or two hours I'm awake before the store opens. Let's forget that fact that I'm probably not buying comics anyway because I obviously don't have a job since in that case I'd be doing that right now and getting my comics in the evening."

  5. #5
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    From the CBR article, updated, this seems to be the nut of the problem:

    "In book, video and music channels, Tuesdays are traditionally when new releases go on sale, something that’s continued even as the number of retail chains has shrunk. The direct market, meanwhile, has held to Wednesday as New Comics Day, with Diamond Comic Distributors enforcing on-sale dates even as it’s offered Tuesday shipping."

    So most media is expected to release on Tuesday. Comic shops, working by Diamond enforced rules, have to release Wednesday.

    Is there any way that we could shift New Comics Day to Tuesday? Heck, I remember when New Comics Day was Friday. Then it slowly shifted over time to Thursday, then Wednesday, and competitive forces would have shifted it Tuesday if Diamond's near monopoly powers hadn't stopped the drift.

    What I'd really love is if we could change it back to Friday again, and then let the digital versions release on the following Tuesday. I miss Friday new comics. It was a great way to start the weekend. But there's a huge culture and infrastructure built around Wednesday new comics.

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    I am not surprised by the digital frontier making micro transitions without warning. The companies are trying to align themselves slowly until all the conditions are right to not rely on the direct market anymore to be sustainable. The only reason I have yet to do the switch to digital is price, access/ownership and a universaly readable format. Based on what I have been able to read on digital comics those seem to me to be things that are not in step with other digital media.

    What will open the flood gates to a true digital world for comics, once tablets saturate the consumer world, I believe will be removing the ownership/file reader bottle neck. Allowing the buyer to own the file and port it to any device that can read it easily will open up the viabilty of digital distribution to it's full potential. To do that a universal file format that is readable on any device and not reliant on a select few companies to read it like Comixology or Diamond to me would be key.

    I have been reading comics for almost 31 years and feel that the current distribution system is the very problem of the hobbies sustainability, especially in the digital age. The moment you price comics on parity with other disposable/consumable digital media, allow true ownership of that media and easy access to buy/play that media I believe the sales will materialize. And I bet they will likely exceed the sales we see today and justify the move to digital.

    While there are mp3's and e-books there are still music and book stores. They just aren't the same type of mega stores we had oveer the last 40 years. The same will hold true for comic stores. The will just need to evolve into something more in step with the times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wishlish View Post
    Brian, I could be wrong, but I thought that the motivating factor for changing the digital release time was the fact that while Comixology was willing to wait until 10 am/2 pm/whatever time it was, the Nook, iTunes, and Kindle markets were not. Those markets are used to updating new media at the earlier time and were unwilling to change just for digital comics. That left Comixology (a pretty valuable player in the digital market) vulnerable. Let's face it, in that space, Comixology is the small company (at least compared to Amazon).
    You're not wrong. AFAIK, comiXology is the only one of those platforms that allows publishers specific control over release timing, versus "sometime after midnight Eastern" on the others. DC conceded a bit to retailers like Brian by delaying comiXology releases to midnight PST/3 AM EST, but there's nothing they can do about the other platforms without completely withdrawing from them.

    I've heard rumblings myself that Marvel may be moving to the same model. We'll see if that pans out, but I doubt DC will be the last company to change its digital strategy like this.

    (It's funny - I've thought for a while that some kind of gradual parting of the ways between publishers and the DM over digital was inevitable, but I figured the first real skirmish would be over pricing, not release timing.)

  8. #8
    Critical Critic nosocialize100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Convex View Post
    You're not wrong. AFAIK, comiXology is the only one of those platforms that allows publishers specific control over release timing, versus "sometime after midnight Eastern" on the others. DC conceded a bit to retailers like Brian by delaying comiXology releases to midnight PST/3 AM EST, but there's nothing they can do about the other platforms without completely withdrawing from them.

    I've heard rumblings myself that Marvel may be moving to the same model. We'll see if that pans out, but I doubt DC will be the last company to change its digital strategy like this.

    (It's funny - I've thought for a while that some kind of gradual parting of the ways between publishers and the DM over digital was inevitable, but I figured the first real skirmish would be over pricing, not release timing.)
    If Marvel doesn't they're going to get beat a bit since some readers might use up their budget by the time they get their books out.

    It'll be interesting to see if this change in release schedule effects physical comic sales.
    I write comic book reviews every Wednesday using pages from each book. Check it: Is It Good?: All the Best Books of the Day Reviewed!

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    A number things about this blog essay bothered me.

    First of all most of us don't make 6 figure incomes, so not sure why you could make that doing just about anything else than selling comic books! Maybe you have a law degree or a computer science degree from a Stanford in your back pocket? Obviously anything else doesn't include teacher or postal worker or graphic designer!

    Second: Digital may actually be pushing extra business your way! I only know my own case. When I first started reading the New 52 on comixology I was a mostly lapsed comic book reader, and never a regular Weds kind of comic book addict...but the app and the DC event lured me into weekly comic book buying and eventually made me realize how much better the physical comic books are...now I have a pull list of 24 comics at my local shop for the first time in my life...and ultimately buy 30-40 physical comics a month from them.

    To my mind the easier and more reasonably priced digital comics are the more new or casual readers will be caught in the comics net and those that really like the comics will migrate over to the physical experience. That is exactly my experience, anyway.

    Third, it's your decision about which comics to stock...but I know that living in a city with at least 6 comic book shops, I paying attention to which shop has the most choices and the best discoverability of good comics, the best shopping experience...I stay away from the places that just care about filling subscription boxes and don't provide a full shopping experience....I suspect a lot of the reason I didn't become a die hard weds customer in the past was because of the low quality of the comic shop experience....

    I've always enjoyed your column, but this one bugged me a little.

  10. #10
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    So because DC choose to join the rest of digital America, Hibbs is going to deviate his weekly whine-rant about how crap DC suddenly is. Of course, if Hibbs ever had anything nice to say about anything in comics, his head might cave in, so who expected otherwise? Frankly, I support any company, big or small, that can get comics out of the LCS ghettos and into real mass distribution again. Kudos to DC for getting me my comics early and for embracing partners beyond Comixology and the paper ghettos to get digital content out to as many people as possible.

  11. #11

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    Brian,

    I would love to hear you comment - or anyone else I suppose, but I am curious about Brian's opinion - on a theory that I have held since the New 52, and at least tangentially touched on in your column.

    Namely, that the New 52, 'cancel and plug with new title' system is in part a strategy to ensure that even if a title sinks in sales and is cancelled like the one you are hinting at, that Warner and DC have been able to renew/maintain their publication trademark on the said character or title.

    To me, this became abundantly clear when Men at War was replaced with G.I. Combat. Why not simply change the creative teams and storylines otherwise? There was no reason that I can fathom that what is currently being published - and likely soon to be cancelled - in G.I. Combat couldn't have been published in Men of War.

    I don't think anyone was demanding a Human Bomb series either, or Phantom Lady series.

    I'm not talking about the quality of these particular stories - though I could rail on and on about Men of War (against). Just that I think DC has set things up so that even if they lose (i.e. a title gets cancelled) they have still won (renew their publication trademark).

    I mean for some of these titles I imagine we were getting pretty close - possibly, in a few cases even long-past - the renewal period.

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    The first thing I want to state is that those of you who think that this is about digital are, in fact, wrong -- this column is about being lying to over very specific promises when the circumstances of those promises have NOT changed, according to the very promise breaker themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by PretenderNX01 View Post
    I don't want to be harsh, but if DC didn't step up their digital publishing and they go under- what have you got to retail?
    DC is in NO DANGER WHATSOEVER of "going under". Sales are up, and the lion's share of that is from PRINT.

    Quote Originally Posted by wishlish View Post
    Brian, I could be wrong, but I thought that the motivating factor for changing the digital release time was the fact that while Comixology was willing to wait until 10 am/2 pm/whatever time it was, the Nook, iTunes, and Kindle markets were not. Those markets are used to updating new media at the earlier time and were unwilling to change just for digital comics.
    DC had several options, the simplest of which is to say "digital comics are released on Thursday, 12:01 am, then" Instead they chose to throw print retailers under the bus.

    Quote Originally Posted by wishlish View Post
    As much as digital comics could hurt the print market, a digital market without Comixology might be even more harmful. After all, Comixology is the only company that's shown any willingness to partner with LCSs through digital stormfronts. If Comixology doesn't stay in business, then any chance an LCS has of grabbing any digital money goes to zero (unless you want to be creating a page of Amazon Associates links every Wednesday, and even then, I don't know if Amazon pays referral fees on digital sales, or if their referral fee is as good as Comixology).
    While I do know ONE retailer who says that their cut from CMX is reasonable money, I also know about 20 more guys who tell me that it is a meaningless sum generated for them. DC certainly has other potential options if their store is really DM retailers selling digital -- they could go with Diamond's plan, which is infinitely more favorable to the retailer. I can say as a user of Diamond Digital that I have FOUND MORE MONEY WALKING DOWN THE STREET than that generated in fiscal 2012 so far, but then I found a fifty dollar bill two weeks ago, and that doesn't happen very often.

    But, more importantly, if you don't see that the aggressive entry of Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google into the digital market ultimately dooms CMX to irrelevance, I'm not sure what to say. They will get their milkshake eaten.

    Quote Originally Posted by ZiggyFakeMcCoy View Post
    I just don't buy it. That there is one person that says, let alone 10% of a customer base, "I like print comics, but my store doesn't open till 9am. Even though I'm a human being and so I sleep at night, not waking up till 6 or 8am, I'm now gonna buy digital now that they're available in those one or two hours I'm awake before the store opens. Let's forget that fact that I'm probably not buying comics anyway because I obviously don't have a job since in that case I'd be doing that right now and getting my comics in the evening."
    I don't really understand people who go to midnight movies, either, but Thursday 12:01 AM screenings of films are often the best-attended screenings, because there are CLEARLY a number of people who want to be the FIRST person on their block to read a comic -- or to blog about it, even. More importantly, the people MOST LIKELY to
    do so is the "super user", the one who is the most fanatical fan who buys the most comics.

    The important thing to understand is that 10% of SALES do NOT come from 10% of the CUSTOMER BASE... it comes from the top ONE percent (or sometimes less)

    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Ha View Post
    Is there any way that we could shift New Comics Day to Tuesday? Heck, I remember when New Comics Day was Friday. Then it slowly shifted over time to Thursday, then Wednesday, and competitive forces would have shifted it Tuesday if Diamond's near monopoly powers hadn't stopped the drift.
    About a year ago the entire industry shifted to Day Early Delivery, and, at that time there was a lot of discussion about possibly moving NCD, but one major problem is that moving it forward was apparently impossible from the DC/Marvel side without giving up a week on Final Order Cut Off. And moving FOC has a series of other terrible ramifications from it. But whether this was *literally* "impossible", or just "uncomfortably inconvenient" is not exactly clear.

    One other problem with moving the times forward was that it made it harder to fix problems for people whose shipments went awry.

    Either way, I don't really know any retailer that wouldn't be amenable to discussing other release day options if those helped preserved release parity. As long as I have at least 24 hours to process the shipment, and we preserve FOC on non-returnable product, then we can release comics on the eighth day of the week, as far as I am concerned!

    I do want to note, however, that "media release day" is, in fact, TUESDAY, so 12:01 AM Wed is already "out of synch" with that.


    Quote Originally Posted by sleepyreader View Post
    t's your decision about which comics to stock...but I know that living in a city with at least 6 comic book shops, I paying attention to which shop has the most choices and the best discoverability of good comics, the best shopping experience...I stay away from the places that just care about filling subscription boxes and don't provide a full shopping experience....I suspect a lot of the reason I didn't become a die hard weds customer in the past was because of the low quality of the comic shop experience....

    Sure, clearly this is true -- but we're not talking about "discoverability" here, really -- we're talking about titles that really have no discernible audience that I am carrying *purely* from the misguided notion of being a "full line" store. Which has been a nuts idea for at least 10 years, probably more, but one on which I cut DC a much greater amount of slack due to a history of support for the DM. Without that support, there goes said slack.

    Ultimately, we're talking about 1s getting cut -- 1s that only sell in maybe a 50/50 chance. These are not critically acclaimed books, and, frankly, the room I save in racking those marginal titles will go to making MORE room for the GOOD/fringe comics. At the moment we're talking about going from a 4:2 racking ratio of Marvel & DC vs everyone to 3:3 -- but these 1s are from half to 20% of the total sales of those books in my store.

    Either way, I'll put my stocking and curatorship against any TWO stores in San Francisco.


    Quote Originally Posted by Schnitzy Pretzelpants View Post
    the New 52, 'cancel and plug with new title' system is in part a strategy to ensure that even if a title sinks in sales and is cancelled like the one you are hinting at, that Warner and DC have been able to renew/maintain their publication trademark on the said character or title.
    Here's the problem with this theory: you don't need to release monthly ongoing titles to play the trademark game.

    -B

  13. #13
    ... with the High Command Lemurion's Avatar
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    I'm thinking this may have been mandated from higher up - and once you figure they HAVE to bow to Amazon on release timing, they really had no choice. Not unless they want to ignore the ten-million-ton gorilla in the room.

    I don't like that they didn't announce it; but that may also have been tied in to the nature of the deal with Amazon and BN? Since that wasn't announced publicly before they went live there's a good chance that there was a contractual obligation involved.
    Anyone who thinks DC is bringing back the Silver Age doesn't know what the Silver Age is.

    There is no such word as "persay," it's per se, two words, from the Latin.

  14. #14

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    I realize this is impractical, but if you think there is a significant audience looking to buy at 12:01am wed, why dont you open your store at 12:01 wednesday? It's wednesday. No reason you shouldnt be able to sell new comics then.

  15. #15

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    Personally, I don't know why anyone is loyal to any corporation; they are not and will never be loyal to you, unless you buy a significant amount of stock in them. They are legally obligated to place the interests of their stockholders over everyone else (Note that this is not the same as the common myth that all corporations are required to maximize profit. If the stockholders don't want them to, that is.). They will never, ever prioritize the interests of their customers above the interests of their owners. Period.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelPaytonMZ View Post
    So because DC choose to join the rest of digital America, Hibbs is going to deviate his weekly whine-rant about how crap DC suddenly is. Of course, if Hibbs ever had anything nice to say about anything in comics, his head might cave in, so who expected otherwise? Frankly, I support any company, big or small, that can get comics out of the LCS ghettos and into real mass distribution again. Kudos to DC for getting me my comics early and for embracing partners beyond Comixology and the paper ghettos to get digital content out to as many people as possible.
    I think I threw up a little. If you think this is going to bring comics back in to mass distribution, you're sadly mistaken.

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