Much like the current eBook trend, there’s also a trend toward offering digital versions of comic books. On the heels of Marvel’s similar service, DC Comics has opened a new digital comics store via digital comics service Comixology (who also run similar stores for most of the other major comic companies—Dark Horse, Archie, etc.):
Yesterday I tried out one of the free titles on the service, an amusing comic strip called “The Night Owls,” a black-and-white comic about a trio of paranormalist investigators in 1920s New York City. One of the first things I noticed was that it’s still being branded under DC’s Zuda webcomic label, which DC recently shuttered.
That brings me to my second observation, the limited range of content available. There’s only several dozen titles available, mostly very recent (but not the newest) issues available, mixed with a hodgepodge of older issues. The mainstream DC superheroes are the main ones represented, of course, with some Vertigo and Wildstorm titles thrown in also. Of course, Wildstorm’s also been recently shut down. “Tiny Titans” is offered, but not much else that’s kid-friendly (i.e. not a current DCU-set title). The article notes DC’s intentionally avoiding offering digital and print versions at the same time, considering the online service as “additive,” which reads “half-hearted at best” to me.
Most comics are being offered for $2 each (a handful for 99 cents), and can be read either via an iOS app (Android support is being considered) or online at Comixology’s site with a Flash-enabled browser. Since it’s in a proprietary format, the comics can’t be read by any other means. $2 is a bit pricey for a comic that cost $3 or $4 as a print version. There’s also the proprietary/DRM aspects as well—you can’t loan the comic to anyone, and your collection’s reliant on Comixology staying in business/keeping up its reader software.
While there’s plenty of advantages to digital comics over physical versions (no physical storage space needed, the potential for being easier to buy or find than physical comic shops, the vast range of choices possible, etc.), at this stage I’m not sure DC’s online store is what I’d call “ready for primetime.”
Taking some cues from the digital music industry regarding ease of use, pricing, selection, and avoiding DRM would be advisable, especially given that downloading .cbr/.cbz formatted comics files from some unauthorized website/Usenet/etc. would be easier, more convenient, versatile and cheaper than what I’ve seen of DC (or other digital comics) services.