Posted by Don MacPherson on March 30th, 2013
The era of the $3.99 standard-sized comic book is upon us, and there’s no sign of it going anywhere. In some cases, it’s an understandable development. When smaller publishers — such as Oni Press or IDW Publishing — ask a higher price for its wares, I can see why it’s needed. They don’t post the numbers larger publishers such as DC and Marvel do, and to ensure the viability of a project and remuneration for the creative talent, it’s easy to get behind such a scenario.
But when it’s Marvel and DC, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Actually, sometimes, it can feel more like a suppository than a pill. However, when it comes to Marvel’s more expensive, 20-page titles, there’s a way to eliminate the discomfort and even bring your out-of-pocket expense down below the typical $2.99 price many comics customers would prefer.
Marvel includes in its $3.99 (and up, sometimes) comics a “free” digital download code, or, as it’s advertising on the covers of such comics these days, a “bonus digital edition.” Inside such a comic, one can find a code, covered by a glossy little piece of paper.
Now, I’m not interested in downloading these “free” digital comics. I prefer my comics reading material to be tangible, and I typically find reading comics on a computer screen to be a less-than-satisfying experience. So I’m left with these codes, meant to be value-added items that turn out to be rather useless to me.
But not to others.
I discovered a few months ago some folks sell these codes on eBay. The same is done by some people when it comes to digital copies of DVDs/Blu-Rays, so a similar development in the world of comics was a foreseeable development.
The eBay practice isn’t something that seems to be curbed in any way, so I don’t know if it qualifies as a “grey market” for comics or not. There’s nothing overtly listed in the details outlined by Marvel that precludes the resale of the codes. The only real conditions mentioned on the page featuring the code are the following: “Digital copy requires purchase of a physical comic. Download code valid for one use only.” There’s no mention that the person who bought the comic is the only one who can use it, nor does Marvel state the code isn’t for resale.
I rarely list my codes on eBay anymore because I’ve developed a short list of regular customers who are happy to send me some money via Paypal for the codes. I typically get around $1.99 per code, but one has to bear in mind Paypal takes its cut every time. Nevertheless, that makes my net cost for a Marvel comic priced at $3.99 US to about $2.36. And when one factors in the discount I get from my comics retailer, I shell out less than $2 for a $3.99 Marvel (plus applicable taxes).
Is the resale of these codes good for the marketplace? It depends on your stance. Take wholly illegal, copyright-infringing downloads of comics through torrent sites. While many are vehemently opposed to them, several industry insiders have relayed that illegal downloads of comics are, in the long run, good for the marketplace, and they lead to many online consumers of such files to seek out the printed products through conventional, profitable means. If one subscribes to that thinking, then these potentially “grey-market” digital comics would logically be of benefit to comics publishers and retailers as well.
Interestingly, I’ve never been able to find corresponding eBay listings for download codes of DC titles. DC offers combo packs of its $3.99 titles at $4.99 US, which include the physical copy of the comic and a digital one. I’ve never really looked at those combo packs or the codes, but given the apparent absence of any such codes on eBay, I assume the procedure for downloading DC’s titles makes resale of the digital copies difficult.
Or maybe nobody’s bothered because of the extra buck tacked onto the $3.99 price tag. Maybe some investigation/experimentation is in order…
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