The Digital Comics Price Fight panel was billed as a battle between Chip Mosher, vice president of marketing and business development for Comixology, and Mark Waid, self-proclaimed digital maven and troublemaker, over the proper price point for digital comics.
In reality, however, Mosher and Waid had a decent amount of common ground. While Waid steadfastly maintains that the industry should have a 99-cent price point for all digital comics, Mosher basically said he is not against that but as a practical matter the companies set their own prices and the industry is still in an experimental state where companies are trying to see what works best.
Waid’s position is that for a casual reader or potential new reader, $2.99 or $3.99 is too imposing of a price point. Rather, Waid maintains that a standard price point of 99 cents is necessary for market penetration. Waid would like to see the 99-cent price point become an industry standard, but he does not believe it is realistic to expect that Marvel or DC will adopt that standard. Instead, he acknowledged that Marvel and DC can weather the fact that a higher price point will limit their market penetration. For all other companies, however, Waid believes they don’t stand a chance of competing with Superman and Spider-Man at a $2.99 or $3.99 price point.
Mosher disputed that, pointing out repeatedly that Comixology is consistently ranking as the top grossing iPad app on Apple’s App Store on new comic book Wednesdays, beating out even Angry Birds. Mosher further pointed out that when digital comics first appeared, they were 99 cents. Mosher pointed out that prices were raised from .99 to 1.99 in the Fall before the iPad was released. According to Mosher, Robert Kirkman was responsible for the abandonment of the 99-cent price point. Kirkman requested that the price on his comics be increased to $1.99 because he a) thought his comics were worth more and b) wanted the ability to do sales at 99 cents, since at 99 cents you could not do a sale, as that is the floor price on iOS in app purchasing. What happened was that sales on Kirkman’s comics massively increased once the price was raised. So Mosher, who was at Boom! at the time, increased the prices for digital copies of Boom! titles to $1.99 and he noted a similar increase in sales at the higher price.
Waid would like to see companies adapt their material to fit the 99-cent price point (i.e., by lowering the page count if necessary to make the comics sufficiently profitable), rather than setting different price points based on the material.
Waid also gave further details about his own venture that was announced earlier at the Con:
1) In May 2012, Waid will be launching a creator-owned digital site with Peter Krause and others.
2) In April 2012, markwaid.com will be relaunching as a process blog. Waid will talk about every facet of digital comics. The site will include blogs and podcasts. Waid hopes the site will become the premiere site for fans, creators and aspiring creators.
3) Yesterday Waid posted a free downloadable PDF file of a story he wrote called “Luthor,” which is a short zombie story that showcases what he thinks digital comics should look like.