Comic books are experiencing a surge in popularity, thanks in part to the massive presence of superhero movies and their shared universes. This surge is good news for the popular medium – which has experienced a great deal of growing pangs due to the shift from print to digital as a prominent format. While the electronic market is expanding, many comic publishers are seeking to bolster their print sales as well. To keep fans heading to newsstands, book stores, and comic shops, many companies already offer bonuses for picking up a paper copy.
Today, the House of Ideas announced major updates and upgrades to their Digital Code Program. Beginning February 1, Marvel will include codes redeemable for Bonus Digital Comics in select print books, giving super-fans access to at least two, if not more, free online titles via the Marvel app (available for iPad, iPhone, and most Android devices). Marvel Publishing’s SVP of Sales, David Gabriel, discussed their revamped program:
"Our intent in evolving our digital code program is to offer our fans more value per dollar spent. Replacing the free digital copy, our BONUS DIGITAL COMICS will offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected editions and, in turn, invite additional and repeat traffic into our trusted retailers.”
Marvel also says they’ll announce and change their free titles every week in order to keep their books fresh and readers up-to-date. Certain titles, though, such as their all-ages books, won't include free comics codes. Fans looking for tips on accessing their points or which titles offer bonus digital books can head to Marvel’s website for more info. Readers in search of quality comic shops can also use the comic book locator to dig up area retailers. Marvel’s Sales Director, Jim Nausedas, detailed how the program works:
“One of the free BONUS DIGITAL COMICS offered in February will be Civil War II #0 in time to promote the CIVIL WAR II collection on sale that month. Then, each week, new BONUS DIGITAL COMICS codes, available only in your local comic shop, will offer fans additional pathways into the Marvel Universe, promote Marvel’s monthly trades, and create repeat retailer customers and Marvel readers for life.”
Admittedly, comics have faced an uphill battle from their low point in the mid-'90s, when the market's bubble burst and many companies were pushed to the edge of oblivion. Were it not for longtime readers and attracting new interest in the 2000s and beyond, the industry might not have recovered. The market has also experienced serious growth, as sales in 2015 hit $1 billion for the first time in over a decade. As the publishing world continues to adapt to the Information Age, with print, digital, and cloud-based information vying for dominance, Marvel and its colleagues are doing their best to roll with the changes.
Offering free bonus titles could placate many readers who balk at the steep price of print books. The inflation-ballooned prices may drive some traditional readers away and intimidate new readers, but Marvel is hoping these digital extras will combat the trend. Bonus titles will also give readers an incentive to stop by their local shops, interact with people, and introduce fans and neophytes to new avenues of comic book excitement. Clearly, Marvel is hoping its efforts pay off with big sales and lots of new super-fans.