There’s a problem with books today. That problem is that people simply don’t read them. Bookstores a plenty are going out of business and publishers are having a tough time staying afloat (unless they’ve gone digital, but even then things are tough). So what’s a company like Marvel to do when people stop buying comic books? One option is to join the digital crowd by offering the public some form of digital fun when purchasing a comic book.
Last week, Marvel announced that some select Marvel comic books would come with Augmented Reality features. This was an interesting and rather large announcement from one of the biggest names in the comic book world. While the AR comics haven’t been released yet, Marvel did display some of the AR features at the recent SXSW conference.
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Iron Man…?
The demonstration that a Marvel rep gave at the SXSW conference was based upon the Iron Man comics. When reading a special AR-equipped Iron Man comic, readers can then download and use a Marvel AR app (iOS) that will display certain characters. In this case, the displayed character was Iron Man. Essentially, Iron Man just floated around the front of the comic page and did some clever movements. Even though you might not be enticed to purchase a Marvel comic based upon moving characters alone (no word yet on purchase price, by the way), there are some other AR features that might be worth the purchase price.
Marvel also lets readers take a trip into the mind of comic book artists. Through the use of the AR app, readers can hear commentary from artists and learn how a comic book was drawn. Some comics even feature the original black and white drawings, so that readers can see the whole process. This feature alone is interesting and intriguing, and it just might be enough to gain public interest and keep Marvel comics afloat.
Wait, What About Digital Sales?
If you’re wondering why Marvel is so worried about selling print comics, there’s a good reason: print sales only count for roughly 10% of overall comic book sales. In the grand scheme of things, ten percent is not a lot and it’s not enough to bank on digital comic book sales completely. In addition, Marvel has always supported small comic book shops and these shops are now in danger of becoming extinct. In short, Marvel has to find a way to sell more print comics, even if that means giving away AR feature for free and not raising the price of the average comic book drastically.
Right now, Marvel is in good company with many other book publishers who just aren’t making a good deal of money from digital books. While digital books are becoming more and more popular, the profits from a digital book aren’t enough to keep companies like Marvel afloat – here’s hoping that Marvel’s new AR plan works, it would be a shame to lose such a large part of comic book history.