There was a lot of cool stuff seen yesterday at the Diamond Retailer Summit, including black-and-white artwork from Before Watchmen. But what got my juices flowing was something the fine folks at Archaia handed me:
This is their 2012 Free Comic Book Day issue. Many comicsologists were amazed when they announced that the “free” comic they would offer this year would be a hardcover book! Usually, that free comic is the equivalent of a $2.99 comic book (and some publishers have given out an actual issue of a regular series).
So this is it. It’s comic book sized. It’s 48 pages of full color comics (some are in black-and-white). Forty-three pages of story.
And it costs retailers thirty cents a copy.
Granted, Archaia has to limit the number available, as they are losing some money on the copies sold. So, naturally, I asked what the suggested retail price would be on such a book.
Let’s factor that cost, just so you can see why I was so gobsmacked.
A similar, everyday comic of that size costs $3.99. Usually there might be 40 pages of story, with advertising. Fans routinely complain about the cost, as the added story pages are not a “satisfying chunk” of entertainment… that is, not worth the extra one dollar in price.
So here we have $4 comic, with a nice cover and binding, for one dollar more. No advertising, aside from two pages showcasing the graphic novels, and the typical “meta” pages you find in a typical book (title page, table of contents, creator biographies). Normal book readers don’t notice or complain about such pages. (Seriously… graphic novels run ads in the back all the time, showcasing the creators’ other titles, as well as related genre titles.)
So, comics fans, would you be more likely to purchase a nice hardcover binding than a magazine binding, if the content justified the price? Would you buy an annual or a special one-shot if it had this binding?
Retailers, would you stock and sell such editions? Would it be easier to handle the back issues if you could shelve them like a regular graphic novel? Do you feel that “waiting for the trade” would be discouraged with such an edition?
Librarians, would you buy periodicals in library bindings? Would you shelve them as books, or as magazines? Educators, what do you think about this edition?
Publishers, distributors, creators; would you design and market such an edition? Does this hearken back to the square-bound prestige format popular in the 1980s and 1990s? (Dark Knight Returns, Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn, Elseworlds) Do you think there is a market for a hardcover comic book?
Myself, I hope more publishers pursue this. It takes a lowly comic book periodical, and turns it into a book! People are less dismissive of comics if it looks like a book. And that’s the first hurdle: perception. Get past that, get them to read it with few preconceptions, and the battle for the reader’s heart and mind is halfway finished!
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!