Following on what seems to have been a successful run with the Ultimate line, starting in June, Marvel will include a digital download code with ALL its books selling for $3.99.

Marvel’s moving ahead in this regard is interesting, since DC’s John Rood has indicated that redemption of their combo packs has been “astonishingly low.” In contrast, David Gabriel says Marvel’s program has been a big success.

“We’re committed to bringing fans the best value in comics. By including codes for free digital copies in all our $3.99 super hero comics, we’re doing just that” said David Gabriel, SVP of Sales, Marvel Entertainment in a statement. “We’ve seen a tremendous response to the digital codes in Avenging Spider-Man, our Season One graphic novels and the Ultimate Comics line. The positive reactions from both retailers and fans make it clear that including these codes with our books drives customers into comic stores on a repeated basis.”
“At Marvel, we’re always looking for ways to bring the worlds of print and digital media together to deliver the best comics experience for our fans,” said Peter Phillips, SVP & GM, Marvel Digital Media. “With this next step, fans will soon be able to buy their comics from their favorite retailers but also enjoy them on their mobile devices and tablets, all at no extra charge. Welcome to the Revolution.”

In addition to the Ultimates, Marvel’s initial rollout also made codes available for its Season One Marvel introductory graphic novels.

Without knowing the numbers, this is 1) a cheap way to include added value on the wallet-busting $3.99 price and 2) really moving towards the model for most movies and books where a digital copy is included with print.

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  1. I was very excited about the idea of the codes. Until I realized that they *won’t* mean that I can read the digital copy immediately upon release and still have to wait for my comics to arrive in my Dutch store and then go to said store and buy them first. Because I’m highly intelligent and think about these things. Eventually.

    Also, why just the 3.99 books? If it’s a hit, why not go line-wide?

  2. i’d rather they just make some of their popular titles available to purchase digitally. I dropped Daredevil, because i’m just not going to go out of my way to buy one print book anymore. You’re leaving money on the table guys.

  3. Why would DC care about digital codes when the New 52 has been same day digital since September? The idea is to build a viable customer base that is paying for their downloads.

    John Rood has stated that the combo packs are being bought by speculators and completists who are not redeeming the codes. Not sure how you build a market out of that segment.

  4. I have never understood why they expect anyone to buy the ‘combo packs’. Okay, there’s a bit of extra money to be made from speculators, but why is it ‘astonishing’ that people don’t want to pay an extra dollar for the privilege of downloading the same comic legally (as opposed to the free download that anyone can get if they want)?

  5. @Zoomy:

    I don’t think that DC’s “astonishingly low” comment is in reference to the sales of the combo pack. I think the observation about the Combo Packs is that DC is seeing a small number of redemptions relative to the number sold. In other words, it’s “astonishing” that there are substantial numbers of consumers who purchase the combo pack but don’t follow up with the free online redemption.

  6. Yeah, I phrased that really badly, I didn’t mean it that way at all. I meant something along the lines of ‘why is it astonishing that the only people who buy the thing are collectors/speculators rather than people who want the download?’

    Or just ignore me, I’m not really making any sense. :)

  7. There’s a whole “consumer training” program at work here. It may be too late, but I think it’s the idea. Get the physical customer used to doing LEGAL downloads – even if they don’t pay for them.

    That’s an important part of the process if we’re eventually going to transition to all or largely digital floppies (who knows if we ever will, but still). Even if that never happens, digital sales can add to the bottom line, so training the end-user where to go to buy them is important.

    The music biz failed at this and while the comics biz isn’t really faring a lot better, doing this is smart. The DC additional SKU combo model makes little sense to me and Rood’s comments bear out that the buyer isn’t using the DL in most cases – but the Marvel model, with a free DL is more likely to get redeemed and therefore serves a purpose.

  8. I think it’s apparent that this is just an attempt to “sort out” the digital universe and find a method that works. I think it’s also apparent that they realize that many of the smaller books may eventually have to go purely digital (perhaps with just a POD option for the die hard collectors?) in order to be financially viable. Hopefully in a year or two they can find a price model that will work.

  9. I’m all for this.

    My only fear is that Marvel will use it as a reason to justify increasing the price of some of their $2.99 books. I could see Marvel putting up the price of their best selling $2.99 books (e.g. Fantastic Four, FF, or Daredevil) by adding a “free” code.

  10. What exactly is the point of the combo packs?

    I mean, think about this from the print customer’s standpoint: buy comic, read in about 6 minutes, put down. If that reader wasn’t buying it for digital reading (and rereading), then what good does the code do them? Novelty of reading that same product on a computer/tablet screen? Spurring them to try out digital delivery for the first time (which could end up cannibalizing print customers for digital sales)?

    Also, from a usability standpoint, think about the extra steps you’ve added to the process: find site, (create login), log in, redeem code, download book, enjoy. By the time you’ve done that, the print reader’s already done with the comic.

    Just bring the damn price points down, and you’d be shocked how many more people will find a way to afford your 6-minutes-of-enjoyment-at-a-time product. But thinking a download code is going to make a $4 print copy more attractive is pie in the sky to say the least.

  11. I could see it if you bought the hardcopy and then received a free digital credit to read the cloud copy of ANOTHER current Marvel title of your choice.
    That makes sense.

  12. Just wonderful… more of those ugly “Purchase Includes FREE Digital Copy Offer” boxes marring the covers. But at least Marvel isn’t polybagging these any longer (they’re using a peel off sticker inside to “protect” the code).

    And is anyone using these codes to download a digital version of a print copy they just purchased?

  13. This is being done to get the print reader to eventually switch over to the digital version. Once Marvel/DC get enough digital readers you can bet the print versions will go the way of the dial up,vhs and electric cars. Don`t get me wrong. I do like print,but from a cost efficient standpoint Marvel and DC will make much more profit in the long run fron digital. Think about it,as there are millions of Kindles and Ipads out there compared to about 1700 LCS.
    The potential new readership for Marvel and DC is mind bogggling.In 5 years digital comics will be the norm just like HDTV is now. Times are a changing!
    respectfully Stam

  14. @Stam

    with DC saying that of the 400,000 sales of Justice League #1, less than 10% were digital. (and are less than 10% across the line) I think it will take a few more than 5 years for digital comics to become the norm.

    with Marvel rolling this out across their $3.99 stratosphere, I’d presume their uptake has been quite low. I can’t see them wanting to roll it out so far without seeing how many 50c’s they’d have to give back to retailers.

  15. @ Paul Nolan
    5 years ago people scoffed at me on the dvdtalk message boards when I said hdtv and blu-ray would be the norm over dvd and standard cable.
    Who is right now?
    5 years was my conservative pick. I would really expect this in 3 years or less.This will happen fast like the Soviet Union`s demise right after the Berlin`s Wall collapse.From past experiences with consumers once the genie has been let out of the bottle there is no going back.
    respectfully Stam.

  16. @Stam
    Blu-Ray certainly isn’t the norm (has about 1/10 of the shelf space of DVD’s in UK Shops).
    and I’d certainly argue more people watch SD TV. I certainly PVR SD as the Upscaling does well enough with being able to conserve shelf space.

    I honestly can’t see how <10,000 regular readers of Justice league 'online' can expand to a viable business in that space of time.

  17. @Paul Nolan
    Hi Paul
    I think you will be amazed at the speed which the Digital comics system will take over and transformed into the major way of selling comics, I think you will also be surprised at how fast the lcs way of selling comic will have disintegrated here in the USA.
    Respectfully Stam