Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Would You Pay $125 For A Comics Anthology?

There's a lot of hubbub lately over the latest volume of Kramer's Ergot, an "indie" comics anthology. The reason? It's $125 for 96 pages.

To be fair, the book itself is enormous in size, 16 x 21 inches. You've got all the cool cats contributing to it: Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Daniel Clowes, Jaime Hernandez, etc. But it's still one-hundred and twenty-five bucks. Or $78.75 pre-ordered on Amazon.

Personally, I have no problem with the price on this book. I mean, I'll never buy it. Well, maybe for $50.00 with a torn cover five years from now at The Strand.

There's so much drama over the pricing of Kramer's Ergot 7, and I'm trying to figure it all out. Is Buenaventura Press being elitist by charging so much, preventing the world from partaking in the latest comics from the masters of the medium?

Look, the people who really, really want this book will find a way to get it. And people like me, who'd like to read it but have no interest in plunking down $125, will probably find a way to eventually read/buy it. And if I never get to read it -- I'll live.

Personally, I think this is a play for the market outside the direct market. For the person with the money to spend who's looking for the "creme de la creme" of what the comic book community has to offer -- this is the book. This, Watchmen, and Brubaker's Captain America. All in really expensive, sprawling, gorgeous volumes.

Believe me, the best thing that could happen for the indie comics community is to open up to these new customers and venues. This is the answer for the genius comic creator at MoCCA art Fest or SPX who painstakingly hand-prints their book on DIY papyrus. Get in with this market, this market that would no doubt purchase copies of Kramer's Ergot 7. How do you think the designer vinyl toy market stays afloat? 'Cause there are people who are willing to pay far more than $125 for a 30-inch rabbit with a pattern printed on it.

Which is not to say that Kramer's Ergot doesn't offer something more deep than a plastic rabbit. But I'm looking at this primarily from the position of, "is this a smart business move?"

Now, where the Direct Market might take a hit, on this book and just about any OGN or TPB offered by the comic companies, is in these steep discounts. But that's a topic for another day.


  1. The Dunny's are priced pretty damn high for the average toy fan. The driving notion behind urban toy pricing is that it's a fine art piece, not just a mere toy. As fine art pieces, they are priced in a range that gives people who normally couldn't afford fine art that's usually priced in the thousands to tens of thousands access to art pieces.

    This comics anthology certainly seems like it's hunting for that market, people who love art but can't afford gallery pieces. In that context, this is very affordable.

    Now for us low brow comic collectors, this is probably a bit out of our price range. I'd be very surprised to see this on the shelf of my local shop. But to those who manage to pick it up, man, that's an amazing art piece right there.

  2. "How do you think the designer vinyl toy market stays afloat?"

    I still don't believe it does.

  3. Better value than Absolute Black Dossier

  4. Anonymous12:15 PM


    I remember when everyone was in high dudgeon when John Adams, by David McCullough was released with a $39.99 list price. Now, 10 years later, it's in paperback for $20. People always shout and holler whenever a publisher ups its list price, but we don't know what their print run was, or what color process they used and how much it cost. Some publishers refuse to print overseas, which can either mean their margin is reduced to zero or they up the price. I honestly think you're right. If you expect to buy something...anything...the second it comes out, you should expect to pay through the nose. You want to pay less? Wait till it's remaindered or available used.

    One of the main reasons Simon & Schuster gave for the pricing at the time was that so many retail outlets were discounting their books that they needed to give it a high list price in order to make up the difference. Obviously, this isn't the case with the average comic book store, but it is with online outlets and some direct mail groups.

  5. I think this is the business model built around the idea of a "true fan", which I read about on boingboing. Instead of going for a mass market with mass printings and hoping to break even by appealing t a tonne of people, instead you create a beautiful and relatively rare artifact only for those people with a real passion and urge to not just collect, but curate (or at least, that's what I think the idea was).

    You save money on printing, you save money on marketing, and you can probably produce a better ... thing.

  6. I debate with myself about whether or not to buy the 16.99 Marvel Essentials.

    So the answer would be emphatically, no.

  7. This is a pretty similar format/price point to the Picturebox books reprinting old McKay/King Sunday strips.

    Those appeal to a certain type of person who wants a big gorgeous book. I don't think it's going to attract that many people outside of that niche. I don't think Buenaventura was planning on it attracting people outside of that niche.

    It's a pretty neat opportunity for a bunch of artists to work in a format that was common for newspaper cartoonists in the early part of the 20th century, but hasn't been available for more than half a century.

    Personally, I'm really excited about it, but I see why other people don't care. I'm also curious to hear how many people who are "upset" about this price point ever bothered to buy the previous Kramer's anthologies.

  8. A: I would pay $200 dollars for the entire, colour, well-bound 4th World Saga. How does this stack up to that?

    Also, I hate pretentious indie comics. SNUB!

  9. "Would You Pay $125 For A Comics Anthology?"

    Well, um, no.

    But then, I don't have to. I'm a reviewer for an alternative weekly paper, so I can usually finagle review copies for free. I considered covering this book in my annual GNs article, then decided against it. The non-comics reading public of my town would never dream of dropping $125 on a comic book. Since I'm writing for a general audience and not fanboys, in this case it's a moot point. So I can't in good conscience review the book.

    The publisher doesn't owe us anything. They can charge any price they damn well want. Of course, perhaps my above little story is a demonstration of how they're shooting themselves in the foot. Anyone in Eugene, Oregon who MAY have been influenced by a positive review, won't be... based solely, in this case, on price point.

  10. I just think of the amount of other books I could buy for that 125.00 and this answers the question...


  11. I love all the creators involved in this but no, I wouldn't pay $125 for this book. I probably wouldn't buy it even if it were cheaper, despite that proclaimed love. Unless it were around 25 bucks.

    I have paid the equivalent in Japanese yen for a couple of EC archives. But I got 500 pages of Jack Kirby/Stan Lee Fantastic Four for about $60. I probably paid about $30 each for a couple of volumes of Jaime Hernandez' Locas reprints after buying the big giant one for about $110 (because I'd given it away for free a few months after buying it to a good friend of mine) and I consider that a bargain.

    I don't really feel it necessary to buy everything they do, for one. If it doesn't interest me, I just don't spend the money. Now, if I hear it's the Greatest Thing Ever, I might be tempted. Otherwise I'll stick to the same creators' other work, which is in ample supply at more reasonable prices.

    On the other hand, I don't see the point in complaining about this price. They priced it this way assuming the market will bear it. Some things are just pricey. I mean it'd be great if BMWs and Ferrari's were budget priced and easily affordable, too. I wish spaceflights were cheap and not just for billionaires and Lance Bass.

    But they aren't. Some things are just damned expensive and that's life. And this book is $125. If someone wants it but isn't willing to pay that amount then they don't want it badly enough. So the price shouldn't be an issue.

  12. Also I want a vinyl toy for the first time ever! Those Dark Crystal ones.