I’m glad we could end up with one place to organize our digital comics, even if [you can’t sync your Dark Horse collection to Comixology just yet](https://twitter.com/DarkHorseComics/status/613020680964210688).
This one is particularly interesting:
> According to Chip Mosher after the panel, comiXology didn’t lose anyone after the move to Amazon. I had heard a rumor of a 1-2 publishers maybe bailing, a rumor Mosher shot down pretty quickly.
Good to hear. I think Comixology is doing a good job as a leader in digital comics.
I guess the rumors were true. Now, let’s see which publishers actually enable this features. Hopefully, there is some pressure on DC and Marvel to do it.
This would be awesome, but I am not holding my breath.
There has been [a](http://daringfireball.net/linked/2014/04/26/comixology) [lot](http://verynicewebsite.net/2014/04/comixology-removes-in-app-purchases/) of [outrage](http://www.marco.org/2014/04/28/gerry-conway-comixology) about [Comixology’s decision to remove in-app purchasing](http://comixology.tumblr.com/post/83931330905/important-changes) from its primary comic reader app.
Some of the responses, such as [this one from Gerry Conway](http://comicbook.com/blog/2014/04/27/gerry-conway-the-comixology-outrage/), have been well thought out:
> This is a very big deal, because it strikes to the heart of what made Comixology’s app a near-perfect venue for discovering and falling in love with new comics, a venue creators and publishers have been searching for since the collapse of mainstream newsstand distribution in the late 1970s-early ’80s: it destroys the casual reader’s easy access to an impulse purchase. And that’s a terrible development for the future of comics.
But none of the responses seem to take into account the realities of the digital comics market. Before people get too up in arms about Amazon’s and Comixology’s actions, I encourage people to take a look back at [Jim Zubkavich’s breakdown of digital comics profit](http://www.jimzub.com/okay-but-what-about-digital-comics/). Jim points out just how much that 90[^foot] cents off the top of a $3 issue really impacts how much money is distributed to creators. *(SPOILER: Not paying Apple its cut means that the creators could be getting up to 40% more profit per book sale.)*
I full understand that it is slightly more inconvenient to have to buy comics from the website, but when looking at the numbers, I have a hard time naming Amazon and Comixology as the only villains in this scenario.
[^foot]: As a friend of mine pointed out, it seems ridiculous that Apple is taking a 30% cut on this type of in-app, content-only sale. I have a hard time believing they are playing any more of a role than a standard payment processor in these transactions, and a payment processor would only end up taking somewhere between 2-5%.
Chip Mosher, comiXology's VP of marketing:
There are many advantages to shopping at comiXology.com. Because of the content restrictions our mobile partners have, shopping on the web provides even greater selection of comic books and graphic novels. iOS customers will now be able to save money with comiXology’s exclusive web-only bundles, take advantage of subscription features and enjoy eGift cards. We also made our website more tablet/mobile friendly on all devices to make the purchasing process that much easier. And in Safari on iOS, customers can easily save a shortcut to our webstore with the “Add to Home Screen” feature.
Wow. Having to come up with garbage like that must be a really fun job.
You’ll still be able to read comics you’ve purchased through in-app purchasing in this new version, but you will need to sync purchases with the new app via the Restore function. And if you want, you can continue to read your existing comics through the old app; you just won’t be able to purchase new comics with it.
This is kind of a bummer. Doing everything through the iOS app was just so much easier.
Count me amongst those who think this is related to comixology being bought by Amazon.
It looks like the exclusive with Amazon has come to an end. I’m glad to see these back in Comixology.
This is cool. I wish my local store would set one up. That way, I could still support them while buying some of my comics digitally.
ComiXology Debuts Subscriptions & Bundles
This was the best digital comics news of the week…until [Image announced a DRM-free digital comics store](https://johnkiv.us/2013/07/02/image-comics-launches-a-new-website-with-drm-free-digital-comics/).
In case you need more free comics after Marvel’s promotion last week.
1. Hats off to Marvel for giving away so many issues. I hope it gets people reading some comics they have been meaning to check out.
2. The load being put on Comixology’s servers seems to be an indication that there is a demand for digital comics content. The publishers should try to capitalize on this demand by lowering prices on some of the most popular series that people download during the free period. Use the free downloads a way to gauge interest in various books and then run targeted sales at those books. It seems like a no-brainer, but I doubt that Marvel will do it.
Not a huge percent off sale, but it does apply to all of Marvel’s 2012 books. It’s in place until Thursday and only available on Comixology’s website.
This could be huge. Hopefully all the titles are half as good as Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin’s [Bandette](http://www.monkeybraincomics.com/titles/bandette/) (which is amazing.)
See also *The Beat’s* [initial coverage of the Monkey Brain aunch](http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/07/02/new-monkeybrain-digital-imrpint-launches-with-five-titles/).
The Evolution of Digital Comics
DC Comic’s decision to go [day and digital](http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/47479-dc-reboots-its-comics-universe-goes-day-and-date-for-print-digital-release.html) as part of their new 52 relaunch[^relaunch] has sparked a lot of discussion about digital comics and the future of the comics industry. Brian Hibbs might not have fired the first shot, but his [Tilting at Windmills column](http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=34091) brought a lot of attention to the issue. Mr. Hibbs discusses how DC offered to provide traditional comic retailers the chance to sell digital comics through their own branded store fronts. Mr. Hibbs objected, however, to the terms imposed by DC’s digital partner [*comiXology*](http://www.comixology.com). Mr. Hibbs largest objection arises from *comiXology’s* control of customer information combined with their rights to use individual store’s branding information. Ultimately, Mr. Hibbs feels that this deal would result in retailers being relegated to easily ejected middlemen:
> “It is my wholly individual and independent belief that the contract we’ve been offered doesn’t even come close to the minimum standards that might be considered acceptable to the average retailer”
Mr. Hibbs also addresses the theory that digital comics are a way for the comics industry to tap into a larger audience
> “I, for one, don’t really think there’s the incredibly massive audience out there that would be buying comics, oh, if only they didn’t have to leave their house to get them. ”
With the DC relaunch now in full swing, some interesting trends are starting to developer. First, was a [story on Comics Beat about comics apps on iPad](http://www.comicsbeat.com/2011/09/09/comics-make-money-on-the-ipad/). It pointed out that 3 of the top 5 grossing apps on the iPad were comics apps.[^apps] Definitely not a bad way to start of the new digital era. Of course, there is still some doubt as to the digital sales numbers in comparison with the traditional print numbers. For instance [IDW publishing recently claimed that only 3% of their sales were digital](http://www.comicsbeat.com/2011/09/08/digital-sales-figures-a-comparison/).
What can companies do to add to their digital sales for volume? [Michael Gaudini](http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/diniverse/news/?a=45883) recently called for a re-imagining of the comics industry from the bottom up. Things would start with moving away from the traditional 22 page story and moving to a format that took advantage of the new digital medium. In a recent panel I attended at HeroesCon, Darwyn Cooke talked about a project he was working on that would do just that. For example, if you’re reading the main story and you have interest in a particular supporting character, you could tap on that character to get biography information, side stories, some additional sketches, etc… Mr. Gaudini also suggested new models for purchasing the comics. Instead of what has become the industry standard “$ 1.99 per issue” model, comics could be sold on a subscription basis or in larger bundles.[^bundles] The most controversial part of Mr. Gaudini’s proposal is that he seems to think that the digital market should look for new creators who would work at lower wages than established comics creators do. I disagree with this suggestion. I find it hard to believe that the current crop of creators would have to take a price cut to succeed in the digital world.
Dustin Harbin, a comic creator and former employee of the *Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find* comic store in Charlotte, NC, worte [an excellent piece about digital comics and comic creators](http://www.dharbin.com/blog/fifteen-thoughts-on-digital-comics/). Mr. Harbin stressed that one of the more important things that must be addressed in any digital comic model is creators getting paid for the digital versions of their work. As someone who has studied contract law and copyright law, I have seen contracts that allow for digital replication of a work without compensation for the original creator. The comics industry must not attempt to go down that road.
The real strength of Mr. Harbin’s piece comes in his discussion of the print market versus the digital comics market. He addresses the common complaint that digital comics feel too expensive:
>A big part of the reason that the digital iteration is so expensive is that the comics industry is terrified of devaluing the print iteration.
>Retailers have convinced themselves that they have “rights” in the market somehow, that their place in “the industry” is so important that everyone had better tiptoe around them or by-god there will be trouble.
This analysis seems spot on. There appears to be a fear within the comics industry that an alienation of comics retailers will result in a collapse of the entire industry. It is for this reason that they protect retailers with prices on digital comics that match the prices on print comics. Additionally, it is why DC Comics is releasing their new issues at 2PM on release day instead of midnight.[^twopm] In a [post on Google+](https://plus.google.com/107136426838396790957/posts/Jbc3JPeWDnw), Mr. Harbin explains how a comic shop should view their value outside of any time or cost advantage they might have with their product:
>What comics shops are good at is the EXPERIENCE of comics — not just browsing, looking through old comics or back issues, seeing what’s new week to week, but FINDING comics, discovering new work, being around other people interested in comics, actively engaging with a hobby or artform or just an afternoon distraction. The best comics shops seek to amplify this experience, create more unique value for their clienteles, and make themselves a destination, as opposed to simply another place to buy a thing
Existing comic shops can also take advantage of the current flaws in the digital comic purchasing model. Mr. Harbin explains it succinctly:
> Digital comics apps like Comixology essentially sell a license to read a comic. It’s not a matter of DRM–you never own the comic. You just pay for the privilege to read it on your device.
At the moment, *comiXology* is far and away the leader in the digital comics market, so their model provides the most influence. Additionally, as DC Comics online partner, their lead will inevitably continue to grow. As people get accustomed to purchasing their comics in this manner, the idea of *owning* the book might become less of a concern. Other companies, however, are experimenting with other purchasing alternatives. [IDW comics recently began selling comics through the iBookstore](http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=34294). They are utilizing the ePub’s new “fixed width” format to deliver collections. I purchased *Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures* as a trial of the service. The interface was a little strange. It did not have the zoom page-to-page or panel-panel-to-panel transition of the *comiXology* app. Instead, you were forced to to do a lot of manual zooming. On the hand, the book looks fantastic. Additionally, the entire book cost $5. This is $15 off the current price for the book at Amazon of $20.
[My Digital Comics](http://www.mydigitalcomics.com/default.aspx
) offers another alternative to the *comiXology* licensing model. They sell un-DRMed CBR files[^cbr] of the book at $1.99 a piece. When I first heard of this service, I thought the lack of DRM would mean it would be mostly small press publishers. I was surprised to see that both BOOM! Studios and Image Comics have a number of their top tiles in the store.[^toptitles]
Slave Labor Graphics has made what is probably the most radical move with regard to digital comics. [They announced they were going digital only with their single issues. ](http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/09/19/slave-labor-graphics-quits-floppies-for-digital/) After the individual issues have been published in digital form, they will then be available as a printed collection. What is particularly interesting about Slave Labor Graphics’ digital effort is that they are going to offer un-DRMed PDF, ePub, and CBR files, as well as offer the comics through the various *comiXology*-like digital applications. I think this model has real potential for the future. People who prefer the convenience of the *comiXology* application can buy it there, while people who prefer to a more ownership-like model can purchase their digital files in PDF, ePub or CBR form.
Publishers producing their own un-DRMed files could also help solve some the problems Mr. Hibbs had with the existing DC Comics storefronts. Retailers could create their own web store fronts and populate them with the digital files they receive from publishers. The retailers could then have the control over the customer lists that they apparently do not have with the current *comiXology* store fronts. Unfortunately, the major comics publishers do not seem willing to make un-DRMed files available to retailers or consumers. My guess is they feel this will result in widespread piracy. Hopefully they can get over this fear before the comic retailers end up going the way of the local music stores.
Comics will go digital. It is inevitable. The question is will the publishers do it in such a way that current comics retailers will be allowed to tag along.
[^relaunch]: DC Comics has tried to shy away from the term “relaunch” with respect to their new 52. Their reluctance to use the term may stem from a fear of alienating long term readers. Despite that, I am going to use the term “relaunch” here for the sake of simplicity.
[^apps]: The apps were all apps powered by *comiXology*, DC’s digital partner. They included Comics by *comiXology* (DC’s digital release partner), the Marvel comics app, and the DC Comics app. Obviously the Marvel app does not directly relate to the DC relaunch, however, one wonders whether there was a “halo effect” from people going onto the iPad to buy DC comics.
[^bundles]: For example, *comiXology* recently offered all 25 issues of the Warren Ellis series Planetary for $24.99. I had some interest in the series, and that bundled format was enough to get me to purchase the entire run. I am not talking about the [collections that Marvel Comics is offering](http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-digital-collections-110919.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+newsaramacomics+%28Newsarama.com+comics%29). These collections do not come with the type of discount that I think is necessary for a grouping of existing digital comics. In fact, I think they’re kind of a joke.
[^twopm]: Alex Zaiben recently wrote [an excellent editorial about the 2PM DC Comics release](http://geek-news.mtv.com/2011/09/15/op-ed-digital-comics-must-be-released-at-midnight-or-we-will-revolt/?xrs=share_twitter) and how ridiculous it is.
[^cbr]: A CBR file is simply a renamed RAR archive file. It simply contains a series of images, ordered by page number, of all the pages in the comic. It a popular format in the area of digital comics preservation and piracy.
[^toptitles]: BOOM! Studios titles include: *Codebreakers*, *Do Androids Dream of Eletric Sheep*, *Incorruptible*, *Irredeemable*, and *Starbon*. Image tiles include: *27*, *Cowboy Ninja Viking*, *Green Wake*, and *Morning Glories*.