By now you’ve seen the upset reactions from retailers over the ongoing digital sale of 99¢ comics collections. You’ve heard about CB Cebulski’s statement that Marvel is not setting the prices, and it’s an Amazon/Comixology thing. And you’ve read Brian Hibbs’ open letter when he says he is very disappointed at Marvel. It seems that Marvel has done it again.
But what if…CB Cebulski was telling the truth?
I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment but received nothing back. I’ve been told in the past that it is quite common for Amazon to sell products at prices that are not set by the publisher or manufacturer and that many digital sales sales are not originated by the publisher.
And this time, I have heard from a couple of informed sources who tell me that it[s quite likely that this is what happened here. Much of this has to do with the contract. Retailers at the Diamond Summit quite rightly asked why only Marvel’s digital collections are being deep discounted., but it’s possible that Marvel signed a different contract with other publishers that gives Amazon greater leeway in pricing.
Amazon buys its products from comics publishers for the same rate regardless of how much they sell it for. But they often offer deep discounts on products that Amazon chooses – sometimes just because they they they are overpriced. Examples include The Prime Reading and Prime Book Club.
So when CB Cebulski said that the 99¢ pricing was something that Amazon and Comixology had come up with…as unlikely as it may sound to the average comics reader, it is actually possible that this is what happened.
Now, does Marvel need to contact Amazon and Comixology and find out what the heck is going on and stop selling brand new collection the week of release at an insanely low price? Absolutely. It is devaluing digital comics and further lowering potential profits and royalties for creators and publishers alike.
What the truth of the matter is, I’m not here to say for now. I know that CB Cebulski told people who spoke with him after the show that he was giving the best information he had and he knew that it wasn’t adequate but it was all he had to go on.
Let’s face it, Amazon is not the most transparent of companies, even for suppliers. God knows, trying to get information out of them on a matter like this is nearly impossible. In this case, trusted observers have told me that what is happening with Marvel’s digital collections might not be Marvel’s idea at all. And this is a scenario that is at least worth considering.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.