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Newsstand Flaws Become Apparent – 2 Comics for the Price of One

Following Graphic.ly‘s announcement of hopping on the Newsstand wave with the release of iOS5 for Apple products we released an article calling into question the new digital news stand.  The function available for Apple products brings subscription services to users.  The general process has the user purchasing the app, which gives you the latest issue, then each month the user is charged, regardless if a new issue is released.

Questions were raised by me as to what happens if a publisher were to skip a month, but also how this is possibly a bum deal for publishers if they were to double ship in a month.  It’s now apparent, publishers can really get screwed by unscrupulous users whether or not they double ship.  There’s a flaw in the process that allows you to get two issues (or more) for the price of one.  Here’s how:

  1. Purchase the app a bit before a new issue is released – The apps usually run $1.99 to $2.99
  2. The app purchase gives you the latest issue (the month’s before)
  3. The release day comes and you get the latest issue
  4. Cancel the subscription before you’re charged again.
  5. Profit…. er….

Really I should of thought of this before, but while working through how Marvel double shipping comics in 2012 would function in this sort of environment.  The answer is, if Marvel had Newsstand subscriptions you’d get not two issues for the price of one, but three.  For those saying I’m wrong in this, it’s been done already and verified.

Have fun folks and don’t say we never gave you anything….

Graphic.ly, iOS 5 and Newsstand Could Be a Raw Deal For Comic Book Fans and Publishers

This week saw the latest update to the Apple operating system dubbed iOS 5.  The latest software update brought numerous software improvements and new features like the magazine subscription feature called NewsstandGraphic.ly, one of the numerous digital comic services out there was quickly to hop onto the latest technology.

Graphicly is proud to announce that many of its leading digital comics titles, including The Walking Dead, Invincible and Irredeemable are now available on Newsstand, a key feature of the newly released iOS 5. By working with leading publishers, including Image Comics and BOOM! Studios, Graphicly is making it even easier to subscribe to some of the best comic books on the market.

Utilizing Newsstand in iOS5, Graphicly is able to deliver comics directly to readers without the need for downloading additional applications and searching for titles. Now readers can easily browse for and subscribe to their favorite titles in the Newsstand, and have new issues delivered to their devices immediately. New titles will be released the same day as print and delivered seamlessly to users. This is a bold new way for readers to discover and enjoy stories, making it easier than ever to never miss an issue.

“The leading publishers and creators understand that developing a relationship with their fans is the most important thing,” said Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphicly. “Newsstand ensures that relationship continues and grows each time a comic is released.”

The titles launched on the Apple Newsstand, powered by Graphicly, and available immediately include such hit comic books as:
• The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard from Image Comics
• Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen, from Image Comics
• Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause from BOOM! Studios
• Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley from Image Comics
• Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma from Image Comics
• Near Death by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini from Image Comics

Graphicly has partnered with the top publishers to ensure individual comics are released for purchase on a regular schedule.

It’s that last part that gave me pause.  Let me highlight it:

Graphicly has partnered with the top publishers to ensure individual comics are released for purchase on a regular schedule.

That’s a rather odd item to throw into a press release and why is it important?  Here’s how the service works.

  1. Purchase the App – this is new.  While old comic book programs were free and PDFs on iBooks is free, the apps right now.  As you can see, currently that’s $2.99 out of your pocket JUST FOR THE APP.  Though Irredeemable from BOOM! Studios is listed as $1.99 for the APP.
  2. There’s a $1.99 a month charge (yay cheaper than print) and back issues are available without $1.99 and just with the initial $2.99 purchase.  But there’s mention of $8.99 for bundles.  That’s a bit confusing right there.  So, what’s included in a bundle?  Not quite sure but it sounds rather odd.
  3. Each month, you will be charged another $1.99 for the newest issue and you must cancel the subscription at least 24 hours before the end of the current period.

So here’s where I see this all going bad with the current production habits of comic book publishers and how comic book digital readers may get screwed.

  • A publisher misses a month – remember that quote about them working the make sure issues come out on time?  That $1.99 monthly auto-charge is why.  They miss a month, tough shit, as a reader, you’re charged.  Now, they can fix this by always being a month behind to “bank” an issue.  But, if 11 issues come out in a year, you’re still missing out on one and there goes your $1.99. – Loser – Customer
  • Currently there is no way to “own your purchases” – remember, most digital comics are licensed.  You want to use that new HP tablet, no porting the purchased comics for you! – Loser – Customer
  • A publisher double ships – there’s now no incentive for a publisher to release two comics a month.  They’d lose out because all you’ve purchased as a customer is the $1.99 a month. – Loser – Publisher
  • Special $1 issues – A publisher decides to sell a comics for $1, congrats you just bought it for $1.99. – Loser – Customer
  • A steal at $1.99 – Comics today are a bit more than $1.99, remember DC holds the line at $2.99.  So will all of these be cheaper? – Loser – Publisher, Winner – Customer
  • A series is cancelled – Do I still have to pay $1.99 a month to access my comics?
  • Yet more apps to manage – More apps = more space. Each time an app service is made for a specific company or series, I die a little inside – Loser – Everyone

The terms of service for Graphic.ly even muddles the idea of subscriptions further.  From their website:

Certain Products may be available for download on a subscription basis. A subscription includes all currently available (if any) and future issues of a Product (“Subscription”). Not all Products may be available by Subscription. We will charge you the full price of a Subscription when you subscribe. Such Subscription is non-refundable; except that, if a publisher delivers fewer issues for a Subscription than specified through the Service at the time of your payment transaction), we will credit to your Account an amount equal to the pro-rated price of the Subscription.

So, do I get the back issues with the App purchase?  Seems like a bad deal for publishers.  And what’s with the mention of $8.99 and $9.99 bundles in the description of the App?  Though the terms for BOOM!’s entry for Irredeemable is different, with no mention of back issue bundles.  Looking around a the various Apps available, some mention the amount and others don’t.

While I applaud the overall move and quick implementation of the new technology, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered.  We’ll be following up with Graphic.ly at New York Comic Con this weekend to hopefully get answers.

Almost American