Trade policy

If there is any logic underlying the prices of e-comic books, more specifically Marvel collected editions (or trades), it’s beyond my understanding.

I mean, as a semi arbitrary example, consider the Ms Marvel series. The electronic versions of most of the books are priced at $3.99 when they first come out, at both and Comixology. After about six months or so they drop to $1.99, and typically six issues are collected in a trade whose list price is $10.99, so just slightly cheaper than the six individual books.

Things vary a little from one series to another, and in particular the size and the prices of the trades vary from about $9 up to $16 or more. But it goes something like that.

Once in a while, of course, there’s a sale. 40% or 50% off at Comixology isn’t too uncommon.

Now, you also can buy e-comics from Amazon. And this is where things get weird. And pictorial, because for Amazon, I can get graphs. Here’s the price of Ms Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why on Amazon since March 31, 2015, a couple weeks after it came out:

(The graph is generated by the eReader IQ Injector browser extension. I use eReader IQ to get notifications of price drops, both for e-comics and for prose Kindle books at Amazon.) Now, I don’t know what it was originally priced at at Marvel and Comixology, but I’m going to guess it was $15.99. It was the same for a short while at Amazon, and then it bumped downward to $8.59 and stayed there a while, pushed back up to $10.81, back down to $7.48, and up again to $9.99. Just before that, and in the middle of the $9.99 period, there were a couple brief sales when it was going for $3.99.

Then a little over a year ago it dropped down to $5.50. By this time the Marvel and Comixology price had gone to $10.99, so the Amazon price was 50% off. The same was true across the whole Marvel trades line, so far as I can tell, and it stayed at 50% off for more than a year. Except during a few brief sales when it and loads of other Marvel trades were slashed to really low prices, as little as $2.20 in the case of Generation Why.

What’s weird is that the Amazon editions are essentially the same thing as the Comixology editions, and that’s because Amazon now owns Comixology. And in fact if you buy trades from Amazon they’ll turn up in your Comixology library and you can read them with the Comixology software, which is good because it’s better for comics than the Kindle reader is. And yet generally the Marvel books cost twice as much at Comixology than at Amazon this past year, and during the sales the Amazon prices went as low as about 20% of the Comixology prices.

(It says “sold by Marvel Entertainment US” on the Amazon listings, so maybe Amazon had nothing to do with setting those prices whereas they or their subsidiary sets them on Comixology. They weren’t 50% off at, though.)

Now, why these books were selling for 80% off, I don’t know. I could see if they sold the first volume or two at that price as a loss leader to get people to buy the others, but in these sales basically all the Marvel trades were going dirt cheap. Anyway, they were doing this every few months, just often enough that, cheapskate that I am, I was holding out for such sales at which point I’d buy everything I’d accumulated to my wish list. Then back to waiting mode.

What I found even harder to figure out was that earlier this year, for a month or six weeks or so, at Comixlogy and Amazon they were selling Marvel trades for $0.99 each during the week of their introduction. After which they’d go up to list price on Comixology and half that on Amazon. My bemusement didn’t stop me from taking advantage of these sales, of course, for the brief period of time they were occurring.

And even after that, when it was starting to look like I’d not see $0.99 prices any more but I’d still hardly ever pay above $3.50 for a Marvel trade again… the price of Generation Why at Amazon went shooting up earlier this month to $10.99, matching Comixology, and all the other Marvel trades did likewise.

The half price era is seemingly over. Well, aside from occasional sales; Comixology had a 50% off Marvel sale just a couple weeks ago. But that probably is now the occasional exception where it used to be the standard pricing at Amazon.

You’re not going to see me paying $11 for Generation Why, mainly because I already own it, but I don’t expect to pay $11 for future trades either. I’ll be holding out for the sales, as before. Except that this time I’ll be holding out for the prices I used to be holding out from.

Until Marvel and/or Amazon and/or Comixology changes their system in some bogglingly irrational way yet again, that is.



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