Nobody Sells Marvel Digital Trade Paperbacks For List Price

Comic Book News

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With all the emotions surrounding a month of Amazon/Comixology selling Marvel’s newly released digital trade paperbacks for 99¢, part of the bigger picture has been lost.

People often talk about single issues when talking about digital comics.  Single issues are almost always sold for the print cover price and then some publishers mark them down a bit after a month or two and some don’t.  Digital trade paperbacks and original graphic novels?  Just like shopping for the print edition, they’re discounted all over the place.  (Just not usually all the way down to 99¢.)

So let’s have a look at a few of the items that have been in that parade of sale books and see what they cost at different places across the web right now:

Thanos: The Infinitity Siblings

Print list price: $24.99
Digital list price: $19.99

Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers – The Ms. Marvel Years Vol. 1

Print list price: $34.99
Digital list price: $19.99

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 – Most Wanted

Print list price: $17.99
Digital list price: $6.99

X-Men Blue Vol. 0: Reunion

Digital list price: $34.99
Digital list price: $19.99

When you look at this, a few things come to mind.

Marvel isn’t keeping the print book price and digital book price the same.  That’s different from how single issues are treated, but somewhat consistent with the overall book trade.

Comixology is the only place selling those digital comics for digital list price and that’s a recent development after the 99¢ sale suddenly ended.  This is where the can of worms opens.

Nobody is quite sure if Amazon’s pricing for Marvel’s digital offerings is going to snap back to list price sometime between now and next week.  Previously, Amazon was slightly cheaper than Comixology proper.  Right now, it’s night and day.  And as of right now the 99¢ sale is still going on at Amazon.  It’s extremely simple to set up your account to have your Amazon digital comics purchases automatically migrate over to Comixology’s app for reading, so a person would have to unaware of the pricing difference to buy Marvel digital tpbs at Comixology when there are cases of a nearly $10 price difference.

If Amazon’s pricing follows the Comixology site’s return to list prices, does that mean we’re going to see Barnes & Noble/Nook and Google Play drop their discounting?  The contracts and internal politics may be different at each place.  We’re also not sure what’s a contractual matter at Comixology and what’s more of a political issue with a large vendor.

This is a very strange situation.

For example:  Detective Comics,  Vol. 5 came out this week.  Google Play has the digital list price at $16.99, but they’re happy to sell it to you for $9.99.  Comixology will sell it to you for $12.99.  Here, Amazon is selling it for that list price of $16.99.  Clear price advantage to Google Play, but you can see where the prices are all over the map and things are highly inconsistent even inside the Amazon ecosystem?

If you look at the broader online space, you see a lot of different prices.  The different prices are a function of different digital retailers offering different discounts off that digital list price.  So if digital retailers aren’t supposed to be able to discount, then all sorts of contracts aren’t being enforced and haven’t been enforced for quite some time.  And if they aren’t in violation of contracts, then a person has to wonder if there’s a maximum discount built into the contracts?  We’ll never know without seeing the contracts.

Bottom line: this is complicated and fluid situation… and if you’re the sort of person who reads digital comics and doesn’t mind having their comics spread across a few different browsers, it can really pay to shop around.

Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work?  Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics

Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.

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