Video Marketing

Opinion: Are Comic Books Too Expensive?

SaraJane Askildsen 09.10.2013

Comic books cost $5. Is that a problem?

A recent LinkedIn discussion asked: Are Comic Books Too Expensive? This caught my eye because I had just been discussing this with one of our artists, so I dug a little deeper to the real forum – Comic Vine – to find the answer.

It’s been suggested that the high price of comic books today (relative to prices in the 80s or 90s when the industry was booming) is one of the reasons that the industry hasn’t performed as well in recent years. Fans are constantly griping about what a trip to their local comics shop does to their wallet.

Contributors brought up good points by comparing the entertainment value of comics to what you can get in other forms of entertainment for the same price.

Think about it, you go to the store, buy 10 comics and probably end up dropping $40. Each comic you’ll probably read in about 15 minutes, so that makes about 2.5 hours of entertainment. For the same price, you could:

  • See 3-4 movies in the theatre
  • Purchase 2 movies
  • Buy a video game
  • Purchase 3 paperback novels

Any of these options will equate to more entertainment hours then 10 comic books.

So, is that it? Comics are too expensive nowadays and that’s why sales are down?>

I actually disagree.

The average cost of a comic book in Dec 2012 was $3.47.

The average cost of a comic book in Dec 1995 was $2.58 (when adjusting for inflation this comes out to be $3.89 in 2012).

That means, comics actually cost less today than they did in ’95.

To be fair, the median price of a comic book in 1986 was $1.25 (the equivalent of $2.58 in 2012) so comics were cheaper in the 80s, but not by all that much.

So, why are sales down?

It’s not revolutionary to suggest that the problem occurred when comic book distribution switched from newsstands to specialty stores. There are lots of obvious reasons why that would negatively impact sales (i.e. less visibility, inability to capture younger readers, etc.), but I do think that people have underestimated how the shift has effected the way we view the price of the books themselves.

comic books3

Let’s say you make a special trip to the comics shop.

I’m guessing it’s a bit farther away than you would have to go to buy milk, bread, or even a Starbucks latte. Now you’re in the shop. Are you really going to buy one comic? Probably not, you need to make the trip worth it, so you buy a few. Long story short, you leave the store having probably spent upwards of $20 then you think to yourself, “Gosh, I could have gone to the movies.”

Now let’s say you’re walking by a newsstand. You see something interesting and pick it up for around $3.50. Are you really going to be second-guessing that purchase later in the day?

Probably not.

Then let’s say you do this every couple of days. You end up spending the same amount of money, but you didn’t think about it.

That’s because in the newsstand, a comic book is an impulse buy, but in a comic shop, it’s a planned purchase. You think about your planned purchases. You don’t think about your impulse buys.

Though I agree that there are many other reasons why comic books sales have decreased over the last 20 years—too many titles resulting in an saturated market, increasing amounts of adult content and more competition from other entertainment mediums, just to name a few—we shouldn’t overlook the impact of this shift in consumer consciousness.

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