I just don’t think Diamond gets digital. They’re trying, but they keep throwing some really odd things out there. This latest bit has me somewhere between scratching my head and insulted. It was recently pointed out that Diamond was going to start selling digital copies of its Previews catalog. I went for a look, sure enough, there it was. $3.99 for a digital copy of a catalog. This is utterly absurd.
The need to actually purchase a catalog has been a sore spot in certain circles for a number of years. I’m the customer. Why should I have to pay $4.50 to discover what’s coming out and what I want to buy? Some retailers take the high road and provide copies of the catalog to their customers. Diamond’s only defense is talking about how expensive it is to print that catalog. In theory, the advertising they sell to publishers might not cover the cost printing. Still, I have a hard time picturing a world where a $4.50 cover price and lots of paid advertising don’t add up to Diamond making a tidy profit off their catalog.
Personally, I’d call that catalog price a tax on either the shop who provides it or the consumer who pays for it. Still, this practice has been accepted.
Now we have the digital version. The price is down to $3.99. So Diamond would like you to spend $4 to decide what you want to buy/pre-order. They have a print + digital bundle, too:
Customers who choose to purchase a print version of PREVIEWS for $4.50 can get a digital “Print-Plus” version for an additional 99 cents, while customers who want a digital-only copy will pay $3.99 for the monthly issue.
I’m not entirely sure how large the market is for people who need a dual bundle, but it’s available.
The thing is, when you start charging $3.99 for the digital copy of the catalog, you can’t claim printing costs to justify the price. You can’t pretend you’re not trying to make money off the distribution of product information. Comics have always been an odd place, in that things that are normally business-to-business publications, like a a product catalog, will have consumer demand. The strangeness enters the equation when the sales tool becomes a secondary purpose to a revenue stream.
As a consumer, I’m highly insulted I should be asked to pay $3.99 for a digital copy of a catalog that should just be provided.
But that’s not the funniest part. The funniest part is how increasingly irrelevant the Diamond catalog is for the digital consumer.
Why do you need to get a Diamond catalog? For pre-orders. So you can add something to your in-store subscription that you don’t think the store will order enough of to stay on the shelf (or in some cases, that you don’t think the store will order at all if you don’t make a special request). Mind you, putting a barrier between pre-order information and the consumer isn’t exactly doing the publishers any favors.
The thing is, if you’re buying digital comics, you don’t care about pre-ordering. The whole point of digital comics is they’re available on demand and you don’t have to worry about them selling out at the shop. You browse the digital comic store(s) of your choice and just buy what you want.
The only people who need a digital copy of Previews are people buying print copies who want to save 51 cents for the privilege of knowing what to order.
Should there be a digital copy of Previews? Absolutely. Should it cost $3.99? Absolutely not. It also probably shouldn’t be tied to Diamond’s digital comic service, since it’s really pushing print customer to the digital side and DC and Marvel aren’t on Diamond’s digital offerings list yet.
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.