Let’s be clear, I think it was cancelled. I just don’t know it was cancelled.
And because of the lack of transparency, if I were a retailer, there are a number of questions I’d be demanding answers to:
- Did Marvel force Amazon to cancel the promotion or did Amazon cancel it for their own reasons?
- If Marvel forced the cancellation, did they initially sign off on the sale or did they somehow take 5 weeks to realize they had veto power?
- If they did initially sign off, who signed off? (For a retailer, there would be a big difference between someone in the digital department signing off on the 99¢ sale on new tpbs and someone in sales, like David Gabriel, signing off on it.)
- Since Amazon is still discounting off digital list price on their website, as it Google Play and BN.com, is it reasonable to assume the 99¢ sale could resume at any time or can Marvel give a compelling reason why it won’t?
The way the Comixology side of the 99¢ halted so abruptly, there’s reason to think Marvel had a hand in stopping it, but there’s no public evidence whether it was a contractual obligation being exercised. There could be different contracts for each website. Again, we may suspect things, but we really don’t know and Marvel is a big enough client, Amazon/Comixology could have been agreed to give the 99¢ sale a rest without it being contractually obligated.
If this is something that will periodically happen — and it went on for over a month — then retailers need to account for that in their planning. It’s a business issue.
On the consumer side of things, a few things have come to light, mostly regarding pricing. First off, it hasn’t been publicly discussed much that Marvel’s digital list price is now lower than it’s print list price on digital trade paperbacks and collected editions. This is a fairly normal thing for prose eBooks, but the list price for single issue comics does not deviate from print. At least not until at least the next issue comes out. So this is a change from the norm.
More interesting is that Comixology has not been discounting the digital tpbs off list price, but Amazon has been.
Consider this week’s releases:
Thor by Walter Simonson Vol. 3
Print list price: $29.99
Spider-Gwen, Vol. 5: Gwenom
Print list price $17.99
Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey
Print list price: $17.99
You get the picture from that. There definitely is a two-tier pricing format with what would be $17.99 print tpbs. As you can see, Spider-Gwen goes out at a $10.99 list and Phoenix as $8.99. A pattern you’ll see repeated across the wider release list.
Of course, over on Amazon, that $4.50 price for Phoenix Resurrection makes for some unintentional comedy when you compare it this week’s release of Avengers #689 for $4.99 wherever you buy it.
Comixology and Amazon disagree on the Phoenix Resurrection page count. It’s either 136 or 142 pages. Avengers #689 is 34/35 pages, depending on which site’s page count you like. But essentially, you can get 136 pages of comics cheaper than you can get 34 pages of comics.
Digital pricing is a very rigid thing with the single issues and a very fluid thing with the collected editions. One suspects the collected editions wouldn’t be so fluid if the contracts didn’t allow it.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics