Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Regarding That Amazon Glitch Thing and The Pricing Of Modern Comics

By now, if you’re in any way a comic book geek or collector you’ve heard about this weekend’s ginormous Amazon sale/glitch that saw Marvel omnibus editions normally retailing for upwards of fifty US dollars or more being sold off at prices of around eight to fifteen dollars a pop. I, like many people, went absolutely apeshit and bought close to TWO HUNDRED dollars worth of hardcovers I otherwise would never have had the means to obtain. I was overjoyed, thinking that somehow this was a liquidation on Diamond’s part that somehow trickled down to the consumer level in a way that had never before been witnessed.

A few hours after placing my order, the news broke that it was in fact a glitch and that the prices were reverting to their regular high double-digit levels. A collective holding of breath ensued from everyone who bought a discounted book that day, myself included. Reports have come out of people getting notices of cancelation for their orders. As of this writing, I have not recieved one. If you talk to some folks, Amazon plans to honor the orders up to a point. If you ordered fifteen copies of the Captain America omnibus, you’re probably not going to get those books. Those orders will either be cancelled or have their numbers reduced to a single copy. There are rumors running about that Diamond has given a few people their walking papers over this incident, which leads me to believe that they’re going to be eating some cash on this deal and hoping to stem the damage by placing direct blame on someone.

No matter how this little drama unfolds, we learn a crucial lesson about the marketplace. Fans want cheaper books. I know this isn’t a huge surprise, considering how irritated the fanboys get whenever a price increase hits the cover page of their favorite book. But from a larger standpoint, this incident echoes what I’ve been saying for a LONG time about how the trade market is getting it backwards nowadays.

I would say that around 50% of the trade paperbacks that come out onto the market cost MORE than the original issues. Now, when I first started buying trades it was because I could save anywhere from 5-10 dollars overall on a title by purchasing the collection as opposed to the issues. That was the incentive to buy trades, wasn’t it? But now you’ll see a book that in issue would have run you 12-15 bucks showing up in collected form running 20-24 bucks. Where is the logic here? People won’t buy the book in issue format because they think that’s too expensive and you expect us to pay MORE when it hits collection?

It’s all part of why we’re not seeing much industry growth nowadays. The powers that be have made reading comics cost prohibitive. There are companies like Top Cow, who have refused to jump to 3.99 and put out some of the most reasonably priced trade collections in the industry, but they don’t have enough of a market share to really make an impact. Imagine of Marvel started making more trades set at $9.99 a copy. To a consumer, when they see a trade that’s under ten bucks, they might be tempted to pick it up based on value alone. A trade collection of 4-6 issues for ten bucks, while two issues of a main line title run 4 bucks a pop; the consumer would get more for his money. I have seen this principle first hand while working in the store. The average consumer cannot turn a blind eye to a good value, as evidenced by this Amazon glitch. This glitch put multiple comic collections into the TOP SELLING AMAZON ITEMS list.

The lesson is simple. Price to sell, people. Give us quality at value and we will buy.

***UPDATE***

As of 03-09-2010 at 12:15 PM my initial order has dropped down to five of the items I’d ordered. Volumes 1-4 of Punisher MAX, The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus, and Volumes 1-3 of New X-Men collection have been removed. The Captain America, Criminal, Ultimates, and Wolverine Omnibuses are still on the invoice, as well as vol. 5 of Punisher MAX. Will they be shipped? Not yet sure.

***UPDATE # 2***

As of 03-12-2010 my entire order was canceled. Sadly, this whole thing was too good to be true. However, I did get a free $25.00 credit from Amazon out of it, so it’s not a total loss. In fact, I pretty much count this as a win. I would have loved to have gotten what I ordered, but from the moment it was announced as a glitch, I could see that I would most likely not be getting those books. Maybe I will find them discounted to an affordable degree at a convention or some other locale. Maybe.

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