The following is in direct response to the recent announcement that starting in February 2017, Marvel print comics will no longer include a voucher for their digital versions but will instead be redeemable for a limited number of old comics which may or may not be related to the comic purchased. If there’s a TL;DR, it’s this: I drive an hour each way every week to buy Marvel books, and only Marvel books, from a retailer. They are about to end that with this decision.
I don’t really know why I am putting the effort into this given that it’s a comment that will likely go entirely unread, nevermind unanswered, by anyone at the company, tagged† or otherwise. But here I go.
I currently drive 55 minutes each week to pick up my print comics. Print, because I switched over to mostly reading digital comics over a year ago. But I kept buying Marvel comics in print, because the bonus code allowed me to still have all of my comics digitally in one place, and because paying $4 for mere *access* to a digital comic — without even the backups that, say, Image provides — seemed indefensible; (I didn’t buy DC comics almost at all until they dropped to $3 with Rebirth). I always pointed out to people that Marvel actually had the best price in the business, because if you wanted a print AND digital version of an Image or DC or any other comic, you had to buy it twice, and $4 is cheaper than $6 or $8.
On February 1st, the day this ‘new and exciting’ system is slated to begin, I intended to drive 55 minutes to that comic shop to pick up 8 new Marvel books. Before tax, that’s $32, and I’d have 8 books in print and digitally. You are now telling me that for my $32, I’ll get the 8 print books, and I’ll get a digital copy of Civil War II #0 — which I won’t actually get, because I already bought that book eight months ago (and, not for nothing, you added it to Marvel Unlimited two months ago). I won’t get 8 digital comics I used to get, so I’ll have lost $32 dollars and gained nothing*. There is no universe, Ultimate or otherwise, in which I would have experienced a bonus, an upgrade, or “the best value in comics.” I would be paying $8 more for Marvel books than for the exact same number of popular DC books, and no longer have the value of the digital copy as justification.
Which is why, if I’m understanding this move to “honor retailers” correctly, I want you to understand that the decision has singlehandedly cancelled my entire pull list and reason for driving 55 minutes to a comic shop. You will have cost at least one retailer *all* of its business from at least one customer in this move that, truly, does not seem to benefit either your customers or the retailers.
(I also think it’s especially unfair that you are announcing this mere weeks before you make the change, seeing as FOC for comics shipping next month has passed, meaning that many shops and customers have already ordered books which will now offer less value than what we expected when you solicited them.)
I am really hoping that “replaced” was simply poor word choice in your press release, and that this really is a “bonus” to give even more value to your customers. The alternative is one of the most insidious devaluations of a product marketed as a benefit that I have ever seen, which is extremely disappointing because I’ve been really excited about so many of your books and hate that I’ll be in a position where it’s very hard to justify continuing to buy the majority of them week to week.
I have already written to my LCS to explain why, unless Marvel reverses course on this decision, I will be cancelling my entire pull. I am hoping that other retailers are already indicating their displeasure and that perhaps you will decide that this move — which seems almost absolutely to have been made to curtail code resales and to drive up MU and digital subscriptions, not to benefit fans and retailers — was simply a nearsighted misstep and you don’t do away with the digital copies after all.
You have claimed to be the best value in the industry, and the digital bonus code has kept that true. Removing digital duplicates from your books means you charge more than your competitors for the same (or, given ad volume, often a lower) amount of content. It also means that you are charging more for digital books than almost anyone in the industry, without providing the DRM-free, always-accessible backup copies that many publishers (and other entire media industries) provide for that price.
I know I’m just one person in a sea of voices on the Internet. I also know that the almost overwhelmingly negative response I’ve seen on social media outlets to this announcement is not remotely representative of Marvel’s actual consumer base. It is possible that my perspective of this is skewed by personal interest and that in the grand scheme of things this will ultimately benefit more readers and retailers than it harms. I just really don’t believe that to be the case, and I am hoping that enough other individual voices out there agree with me that you hear us and respond in kind.
Meantime, I unfortunately have a pull list in need of funeral arrangements.
†I have tagged the writer of the press release and Marvel’s social media manager, on the off chance that either is in a position where the response to the posting of the release to social media is in their department.
*I recognize that Civil War II #0 is one of three comics that will be available during that week. However, it seems fairly likely that any other offerings will similarly already have been purchased. If they weren’t, I likely did not buy them for a reason.