Sunday, November 18, 2007

Marvel Pulls the GIT Plug

After five years, Marvel Comics has decided to not renew the licensing agreement with GIT Corp. GIT was the company that would produce CD-ROM and DVD-ROM collections of Marvel comics, providing full cover to cover scans of books (all pages, ads, letter columns, etc.) which are readable with Adobe Reader (a universal PC document reader) at a super affordable price.

Marvel has decided to instead to get into providing digital comics for reading off of their website. For a monthly fee (or annual one), a person can subscribe to the service, log on to the Marvel site and use their cumbersome viewer to look at the books. The books on Marvel's site only have the story pages and covers - no ads, no letter columns. And the kicker: you don't get to actually download the file on your PC. Nope, you can only view it online.

Now, what I love about the GIT collections is that I can read them anywhere. I don't have to have an internet connection. I just need the disk and my PC. That means I can read them on a plane. I can read them on vacation where I might not have an online connection. It doesn't matter.

Marvel, in my opinion, is cutting of their noses despite their faces. They see the money being made by iTunes and other folks and want a piece of the download pie. But, they are not in the same pie. The end user does not get to keep anything when they use the Marvel service. If you quit after a year, then you have nothing to show for it. Nothing.

GIT also provided full runs on titles. Marvel is putting up books piecemeal to their site - about 20 books a week. And they appear to be random. Parts of mini series but not all. Jumping around on main titles. Basically the reader is now at the whim of whatever Marvel wants to put up.

It sucks that GIT could not get out their Thor and Daredevil sets before the license got pulled. They were on the slate for 2008. However, GIT is not down or out of the game. Their president said they were closing the deal on doing their product magic with the Archie line of comics. I'll be happy to get those types of collections in the DVD-ROM format if they are affordable. I'm betting they will be.

So, the loser here is Marvel. Now they get less of my money than they did before. I don't get any current books from Marvel, only reprints in Essentials. I may stop that, just to vote with my wallet. If what I've read in the past 48 hours on message boards, I'm not the only one.


Michael O. said...

Come on, Marvel! Can you not see the signs? Let's step back and look at the bigger picture again. Right now, anyone on Usenet with a decent pipe (or anyone who downloads Bittorrent)can simply download every issue--and I mean EVERY issue--of Spider-Man...right now. Those issues will be in easy-to-use .cbr format, making them very non-clunky. And fans can do all this, fast and easy, for free. And they can keep those files for future reading.

Any of us CAN do this. We don't WANT to do this. We want to pay for our comics. We want to pay YOU for our comics. And we're more than willing to...if you'll let us.

These DVD sets were a great idea. I still prefer .cbr to .pdf, but those are still more than workable, and are portable, and are BUYable. Love my Avengers set (and love the old ads and lettercols!). But now you're taking that away, and offering us this online-only option with a pain-in-the-arse (if it's going to be like the one you're using now) interface that completely distracts you from the reading experience? Think it through! You fight fire with fire! Okay, you usually fight it with water, but that's not as dramatic a phrase.

I remember the MP3 conundrum. I remember companies coming up with all kinds of options. No, you must pay us money and then stream the song only! Didn't work. It wasn't a workable alternative. FINALLY, iTunes came along and solved the problem for all of us. They come up with a file format that only worked in their players, and they sold us whole songs and full CDs. Yes, some people did (and still do) gripe about the DRM stuff, and want to be able to use their MP3s in different players. Okay, it's not perfect, but it's a good compromise. I have an iPod, and iTunes, so I don't care. If I want to listen to music in my van, I can just burn the iTunes files to a music CD and play them that way. I'm good with it. And I'm happy that I'm giving the artists my money for their creation (and, yes, the companies who made sure the world found out about that artist in the first place, so it's all fair and good). Awesome portable music files at a fair price.

This web-based alternative of yours will drive people away. And will drive more people to steal comics the more they grow to resent you for it and stop carrying if you like it or not.

There's got to be some way to come up with a Marvel-only file format (an .mcbr file or something) that only works with special Marvel Reader software. Like iTunes, you make the software itself a selling point--a snazzy and user-friendly piece of work that lets you organize all your files in cool ways (cover art like the iTunes album art, lots of "playlist" choices and neat ways to search the files by keyword (like by character...I want to read everything that has Misty Knight in it! Show me those!). Make the software so cool that people just HAVE to have it, and you'll find they don't mind paying a buck or whatever for a comic to read on it. And dig this--you could even come up with big package deal prices for whole runs of a series and sell those on DVD, for people without great connections who don't want to wait for the fat download, and you can get comic stores involved this way so they still have something to sell to those folks who aren't dedicated to paper comics. It's a good idea, and it will put you right at the cutting edge of the new digital comic movement, and people will THANK you, not resent (or steal from) you.

Live in the now, Marvel! Don't kid yourselves. Digital comics are starting toward taking over. To quote Master Skywalker, you can either profit from this, or be destroyed.

Martin Maenza said...

Mike, here here. Oh, and GIT says if you want their products so far that you should get them before supplies run out. Marvel will not let them press any more copies. I am so glad I got everything to date - from Spidey to FF/Silver Surfer to the Avengers to X-Men to Cap to Hulk to Ghost Rider to Iron Man.

Michael O. said...

Of course, I just realized if you put the files on a DVD, guys will just copy those DVDs for their buddies. Unless you find a way to do that iTunes thing were a comic is only licensed for up to 3 computers or something. I'm still working it all out.